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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Facts

Status: British Overseas Territory
Area: 153 sq km (59 sq miles)
Population: 28,000 (2008 estimate)
Capital: Road Town, Tortola
Languages: English
Religion: Christian
Currency: US Dollar
Major political parties: National Democratic Party (NDP), Virgin Islands Party (VIP).
Governor: His Excellency Boyd McCleary CMG
Premier: Dr The Honourable D Orlando Smith OBE

Drugs

Problems associated with serious organised crime and drug trafficking are the most serious threat to stability in the BVI. The territory is a major transit route for traffickers because of its numerous small uninhabited islands and close proximity to the USVI and Puerto Rico, which serve as gateways to the US mainland. Drugs also move through the BVI to the UK and continental Europe. The BVI has achieved considerable success in drug interdiction with substantial seizures over the past three years of cocaine and drug related cash.

The BVI has a full Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the US and enjoys close co-operation with US and UK law enforcement agencies.

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP per capita: $30,282 (2010 estimate)
Annual Growth: 3.05% (2011 estimate)
Inflation: 4.1% (2011 estimate)
Major Industries: tourism, international financial services
Major trading partners: US Virgin Islands, and the USA
Exchange rate: UK£1 = US$1.56 (February 2012)

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HISTORY

Discovered by Columbus in 1493, the islands came into British possession in 1666 when planters took control from the original Dutch settlers. The islands were annexed by the British in 1672. In 1872 they were incorporated into the British colony of the Leeward Islands. These islands were administered under a federal system until 1956 when the Federation was dissolved. The Governor of the Leeward Islands continued to run BVI until 1960 when an appointed Administrator (later a Governor) assumed direct responsibility.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Relations with Neighbours

The British Virgin Islands enjoy a close relationship with the other Caribbean Overseas Territories. Whilst the influence of neighbouring USVI is strong (US education and satellite TV), the BVI continues to value its association with the UK, which is regarded as an important aspect of the country's personality, making it distinct from the USVI.

Relations with the International Community

HMG is responsible for BVI's external relations. The BVI is an associate member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Relations with the UK

HMG is responsible for BVI's external relations, defence and internal security. The principal point of contact is Overseas Territories Department (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), and the Governor’s Office, Road Town, Tortola.

UK Office of the BVI

Mr Kedrick Malone, Director
The Government of the British Virgin Islands
15 Upper Grosvenor Street
London
W1K 7PJ
Tel: 020 7355 9570/2
Fax: 020 7355 9575

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GEOGRAPHY

The British Virgin Islands are adjacent to the US Virgin Islands (USVI) and 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. The BVI comprises over 40 islands, islets and cays (some little more than rocks) with a total land area of only 59 sq miles scattered over some 1,330 sq miles of sea. Sixteen of the islands are inhabited, the largest being Tortola (21 sq miles), Anegada (15 sq miles), Virgin Gorda (8 sq miles) and Jost van Dyke (3.4 sq miles). Lush vegetation, sandy beaches, numerous yachting marinas and fine coral reefs make the islands a natural tourist destination.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and Investment with the UK

UK exports to the BVI: £30.3 million (2010)
BVI exports to the UK: £68.6 million (2010)
The British Trade Office in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is no longer responsible for trade promotion in the BVI.

UK Development Assistance

The FCO, through its Overseas Territories Programme Fund (OTPF), supports projects that contribute to the maintenance of stability and security as well as the promotion of accountable government. The main focus of OTPF expenditure in the British Virgin Islands is devoted to enhancing the capabilities of the Law Enforcement Agencies, including the prison service and the police.

The British Virgin Islands benefits from DFID-funded regional OT projects and emergency aid in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

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POLITICS

Constitutional Status

The present Constitution came into force on 15 June 2007. The BVI is a British Overseas Territory with a large measure of internal self-government. The Governor has direct responsibility for external affairs, defence and internal security (including the Police), the Public Service and the administration of the courts. The Constitution provides for a ministerial system of government. The Governor is the head of the government, and Premier, a locally elected politician, is appointed by the Governor. The position of Premier replaced that of Chief Minister under the new constitution.

The House of Assembly comprises 13 elected members plus the Attorney General and the Speaker. Nine members are elected to represent one district each, and the remaining 4 by territory-wide vote. The Premier and the 4 other Ministers must be elected members of the House of Assembly.

Recent Political Developments

Elections were held on 7 November 2011. The National Democratic Party (NDP) won 5 District seats and 4 At-Large seats, defeating the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) which had been in power since 2007. Dr The Honourable D Orlando Smith OBE was appointed Premier.

Elections

Elections are held at least every four years. The next election will take place in 2015.

Government

Governor's Office

Governor: His Excellency Boyd McCleary CMG
Head of the Governor's Office: Sîan Evans
Staff Officer: Emma Dean
Executive Assistant: Hara Wan
Government House
PO Box 702
Road Town
Tortola
British Virgin Islands
Tel: 00 1 284 494 2345/2370
Fax: 00 1 284 494 5790
00 1 284 468 4490

Office of the Deputy Governor

Deputy Governor: Inez Archibald
Government Administration Building
Road Town
Tortola
Tel: 00 1 284 468 0346
Fax: 00 1 284 494 6481

Government Ministers

Premier and Minister of Finance and Tourism: Dr The Honourable D Orlando Smith OBE
Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour: Dr The Honourable Kedrick Pickering
Minister for Health and Social Development: Honourable Ronnie Skelton
Minister for Education and Culture: Honourable Myron Walwyn
Minister for Communication and Works: Honourable Mark Vanterpool
Attorney General: Dr Christopher Malcolm

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Overseas Territories are expected to comply with their obligations under the international human rights instruments which have been extended to them. The following major human rights conventions have been extended to the British Virgin Islands:

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

-- International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights (ICESCR)

-- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT)

-- UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

-- UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

-- UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

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Last Updated: February 2012

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