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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Facts

Area: 261 sq km; 104 sq miles
Population: 50,314 (July 2011 est)
Capital City: Basseterre
People: More than 90% of the population are of African descent. The rest is predominantly of European, or mixed European and African, descent.
Languages: English
Religion(s): Principally Anglican, with Roman Catholic and Evangelical Protestant minorities
Currency: Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$), which is pegged at EC$ 2.70 to US$1.00
Major Political Parties: St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP); People's Action Movement (PAM); Concerned Citizens' Movement (CCM); Nevis Reformation Party (NRP).
Government: St Kitts and Nevis is a federation. Its Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, is represented in St Kitts and Nevis by a Governor-General, who acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. . St Kitts and Nevis has a unicameral parliament: the 14 member House of Assembly comprises 11 elected members and three nominated members (two nominated on the advice of the Prime Minister and one on the advice of the leader of the opposition). Nevis has its own five seat island administration and is guaranteed representation in the House of Assembly.
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General HE Sir Cuthbert Montraville Sebastian GCMG OBE.
Prime Minister/Premier: Dr The Hon Denzil Douglas
Foreign Minister: Hon Sam Condor
Membership of international groupings/organisations: ACP, C, CARICOM, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, OAS, OECS, OPANAL, OPCW (signatory), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WTO.

Did You Know?

People on St Kitts are called Kittitians; while on Nevis they are called Nevisians.

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HEALTH

Life Expectancy: 74years (2011 est World Factbook)
Infant Mortality Rate: 18/1,000 (WHO: 2007)
The population enjoys almost 100% immunisation coverage, access to safe water and good sanitation. The Government has placed special emphasis on primary health care services, particularly those targeted toward the prevention of illness and the promotion of healthy lifestyle habits.

HIV/AIDS

The incidence of HIV/AIDS infection in the Caribbean is second only to that of sub-Saharan Africa. The main mode of HIV transmission in the Caribbean is unprotected heterosexual intercourse. The Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis takes the lead on HIV/AIDS and other health issues in the regional grouping, CARICOM.

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP (official exchange rate): US$531 million (2010 est World Factbook)
Annual Growth: -1.4% (2010 est World Factbook)
Inflation: 3.6% (2008)
Major industries: Tourism, light manufacturing, agricultural.
Major trading partners: United States, CARICOM countries
Export partners: US 65.7%, Azerbaijan 7.5%, Canada 6% (2008)
Import partners:US 46.8%, Trinidad & Tobago 14.8%, UK 4.1% (2008)
St Kitts and Nevis has a small highly open economy. Historically sugar was an important export. In recent years there has been considerable diversification into tourism, financial services and light manufacturing.

Tourism is a major source of foreign exchange earnings. The global recession had a severe impact on tourism arrivals and spending in 2009.

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HISTORY

At the time of European discovery, the islands of St Kitts and Nevis were inhabited by Carib Indians. Christopher Columbus landed on the larger island in 1493 on his second voyage and named it after St Christopher, his patron saint. Columbus also discovered Nevis on his second voyage, reportedly calling it Nevis because of its resemblance to a snow-capped mountain (in Spanish, Nuesta Senora de las Nieves, or our lady of the snows).

European colonisation did not begin until 1623-24, when first English, then French, colonists arrived on St Christopher's island, whose name the English shortened to St Kitts island. As the first English colony in the Caribbean, St Kitts served as a base for further colonisation in the region. St Kitts was held jointly by the English and French from 1628-1713. During the 17th century, intermittent warfare between French and English settlers ravaged its economy. Meanwhile Nevis, settled by English settlers in 1628, grew prosperous under English rule. St Kitts was ceded to Great Britain by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Both St Kitts and Nevis were seized by the French in 1782. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 definitively awarded both islands to Britain. They were part of the colony of the Leeward Islands from 1871-1956, and of the West Indies Federation from 1958-62. In 1967, together with Anguilla, they became a self-governing state in association with Great Britain. Anguilla seceded later that year and remains a British dependency. The Federation of St Kitts and Nevis attained full independence on 19 September 1983.

BBC News Country Timeline: St Kitts and Nevis (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/americas/newsid_1203000/1203069.stm)

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Relations with Neighbours

St Kitts and Nevis enjoys close relations with its neighbours. It is an active member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and shares a common currency and common judiciary with the other six full members and two associate members of the organisation. St Kitts and Nevis is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which is in the process of establishing a single market and economy. The CARICOM Single Market and Economy intends to provide more opportunities to produce and sell goods and services and also attract investment. It co-ordinates its foreign policy with the member states of CARICOM.

Relations with the International Community

St Kitts and Nevis greatly values its membership of the Commonwealth and of the United Nations. Within the Commonwealth, St Kitts and Nevis advances the agenda of Small States in the international community.

Relations with the UK

Relations between St Kitts and Nevis and the UK are good; there is regular engagement at a high level through the British High Commission in Barbados. Deputy Prime Minster, Sam Condor, and UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, co-chaired the UK-Caribbean Ministerial Forum in Grenada in January 2012.

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GEOGRAPHY

The twin islands of St Kitts-Nevis are located in the northern part of the Leeward Islands, 19 degrees north of the equator, and separated by a channel two miles wide. St Kitts is 23 miles long, encompassing an area of 68 sq miles; Nevis covers 36 sq miles. Most beaches on the islands are of black volcanic sand and the climate is tropical. St Kitts-Nevis lies within the hurricane belt.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and Investment with the UK

UK exports are mainly machinery, also foodstuffs, beverages, chemicals and manufactured goods.

UK Development Assistance

The Department for International Development (DFID) has a substantial regional programme in the Caribbean with three strategic priorities; security and governance; wealth creation; and helping vulnerable coastal communities from the impact of climate change. St Kitts and Nevis will benefit from this new regional programme which hopes to create thousands of new jobs and enable over two hundred thousand people to better cope with the effects of climate change and natural disasters.

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POLITICS

The St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) has held office since 1995. Following the general election of 25 January 2010, the SKNLP now holds six of the 11 elected seats in the St Kitts House of Assembly; the opposition comprises the People's Action Movement, with two seats, the Concerned Citizens Movement, with two seats and the National Reformation Party, with one seat.

Nevis

Elections to the Nevis Island Assembly were held in July 2006. The National Reformation Party won three seats and the Concerned Citizens’ Movement two.. The Premier of Nevis is Joseph Parry. The former Premier, Vance Amory, pursued the constitutional process of taking Nevis out of the Federation with St Kitts from June 1996. But he failed to win the majority required in a referendum which was held in 1998. It was a prominent issue until the election of Mr Parry in July 2006

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Last Updated: February 2012

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