Area: 58.8 sq. km. (22.7 sq. mi.).
Cities (2000 census): Capital--Hamilton
(pop. 3,461). Other city--St. George
Terrain: Hilly islands.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Bermudian(s).
Population (2004 est.): 64,935.
Annual growth rate (2003 est.): 0.72%.
Ethnic groups: Black 61%, white and other 39%.
Religions (2000): Anglican 23%, Roman Catholic
15%, African Methodist Episcopal 11%, 7th Day
Adventist 7%, Methodist 4%, other 40% (none or
Education: Years compulsory--to age 16.
Literacy survey results are anticipated in 2006.
Health (2001 est.): Infant mortality rate--3.6
per thousand. Life expectancy--men 75
yrs., women 80 yrs.
Work force (2002): Professional and technical--20%.
Production, transport, and related--19%.
Administrative and managerial--14%. Sales--6%.
Agriculture and fishing--3%.
Type: British Overseas Territory with
Constitution: June 8, 1968; amended 1989 and
Branches: Executive--British monarch
(head of state, represented by a governor).
Legislative--Senate (upper house), House of
Assembly (lower house). Judicial--Supreme
Subdivisions: Nine parishes.
Political parties: Progressive Labor Party (PLP),
United Bermuda Party (UBP), National Liberal
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (nominal): Provisional estimates for 2003,
$3.966 billion; 20.7% ($819.3 million) from
international companies, 11.8% ($467.6 million)
from real estate and rental, 12.1% ($478.9
million) from financial intermediation, 8.7%
($345.5 million) from wholesale, retail trade,
and repair services, 5.9% ($232.1 million) from
the hotel and restaurant sector, 5.4% ($213
million) from construction, and 35.9% ($1.4
billion) from other sectors.
GDP growth rate provisional (2003): 3.9%.
Per capita nominal GDP (2003 prov.): $63,222.
Inflation rate: Annual inflation rate for 2004
was 3.6%. The inflation rate for the month of
September 2005 was 2.9%.
Natural resource: Limestone, used primarily for
produce, dairy products, flowers, honey.
Industry: Types--re/insurance finance,
tourism, structural concrete products, paints,
Trade (2003 prov.): Exports (includes
re-exports)--$52 million: semitropical
produce, light manufactures. Imports--$833
million: food, clothing, household goods,
chemicals, live animals, machinery, transport,
and miscellaneous manufactures. Major
suppliers--U.S. 79%, United Kingdom (U.K.)
2.6%, Canada 4%, Caribbean countries 5.4%
(mostly oil from Netherlands Antilles), and
Bermuda is an archipelago consisting of seven
main islands and many smaller islands and islets
lying about 1,050 kilometers (650 mi.) east of
North Carolina. The main islands--with hilly
terrain and subtropical climate--are clustered
together, connected by bridges, and are
considered to be a geographic unit, referred to
as the Island of Bermuda.
Bermuda was discovered in 1503 by a Spanish
explorer, Juan de Bermudez, who made no attempt
to land because of the treacherous reef
surrounding the uninhabited islands.
In 1609, a group of British colonists led by
Sir George Somers was shipwrecked and stranded
on the islands for 10 months. Their reports
aroused great interest about the islands in
England, and in 1612 King James extended the
Charter of the Virginia Company to include them.
Later that year, about 60 British colonists
arrived and founded the town of St. George, the
oldest continuously inhabited English-speaking
settlement in the Western Hemisphere. When
representative government was introduced to
Bermuda in 1620, it became a self-governing
Due to the islands' isolation, for many years
Bermuda remained an outpost of 17th-century
British civilization, with an economy based on
the use of the islands' endemic cedar trees for
shipbuilding and the salt trade. Hamilton, a
centrally located port founded in 1790, became
the seat of government in 1815.
Slaves from Africa were brought to Bermuda
soon after the colony was established. The slave
trade was outlawed in Bermuda in 1807, and all
slaves were freed in 1834. Today, about 55% of
Bermudians are of African descent.
The establishment of a formal constitution in
1968 bolstered internal self-government; debate
about independence ensued, although a 1995
independence referendum was defeated. The
current government re-opened the independence
debate in 2004.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Bermuda is the oldest self-governing overseas
territory in the British Commonwealth. Its 1968
constitution provides the island with formal
responsibility for internal self-government,
while the British Government retains
responsibility for external affairs, defense,
and security. The Bermudian Government is
consulted on any international negotiations
affecting the territory. Bermuda participates,
through British delegations, in the UN and some
of its specialized and related agencies.
Queen Elizabeth II is head of state and is
represented in Bermuda by a governor, whom she
appoints. Internally, Bermuda has a
parliamentary system of government.
The premier is head of government and leader
of the majority party in the House of Assembly.
The cabinet is composed of ministers selected by
the premier from among members of the House of
Assembly and the Senate.
The 36-member House is elected from 36
electoral districts (one representative from
each district) for a term not to exceed 5 years.
The Senate, or reviewing house, serves
concurrently with the House and has 11
members--five appointed by the governor in
consultation with the premier, three by the
opposition leader, and three at the governor's
The judiciary is composed of a chief justice
and associate judges appointed by the governor.
For administrative purposes, Bermuda is divided
into nine parishes, with Hamilton and St. George
considered autonomous corporations.
Bermuda's first political party, the Progressive
Labor Party (PLP), was formed in May 1963 with
predominantly black adherents. In 1965, the
two-party system was launched with the formation
of the United Bermuda Party (UBP), which had the
support of the majority of white voters and of
some black voters. A third party, the Bermuda
Democratic Party (BDP), was formed in the summer
of 1967 with a splinter group from the PLP as a
nucleus; it disbanded in 1970. It was later
replaced by the National Liberal Party (NLP),
which currently holds no parliamentary seats.
Bermuda's first election held on the basis of
universal adult suffrage and equal voting took
place on May 22, 1968; previously, the franchise
had been limited to property owners. In the 1968
election, the UBP won 30 House of Assembly
seats, while the PLP won 10 seats and the BDP
lost the 3 seats it had previously held. The UBP
continued to maintain control of the government,
although by decreasing margins in the Assembly,
until 1998 when the PLP won the general election
for the first time.
Unsatisfied aspirations, particularly among
young blacks, led to a brief civil disturbance
in December 1977, following the execution of two
men found guilty of the 1972-73 assassinations
of Governor Sir Richard Sharples and four
others. In the 1980s, the increasing prosperity
of Bermudians, combined with limited land area,
caused a housing shortage. Despite a general
strike in 1981 and economic downturn in the
early 1980s, Bermuda's social, political, and
economic institutions remained stable.
Both political parties have discussed the
possibility of complete independence. An
independence referendum called by a sharply
divided UBP in the summer of 1995 was
resoundingly defeated and resulted in the
resignation of the premier and UBP leader, Sir
John Swan. Just over 58% of the electorate voted
in the independence referendum, which had to be
postponed one day due to disruptions caused by
Hurricane Felix. Of those voting, over 73% voted
against independence, while only 25% voted in
favor. Vote results may have been distorted by
the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) call to
boycott the referendum.
Independence has been a plank in the platform
of the PLP since the party's inception in 1963.
In February 2004 Premier (and PLP party leader)
Alex Scott announced his decision to commence an
open and objective debate on the subject of
independence from the U.K. Since that time, the
government-appointed Bermuda Independence
Commission has held hearings and published its
findings, the government is holding public
meetings on the issue island-wide, and it will
present green and then white papers detailing
its policy proposals for independence. There is
considerable focus in public forums on the
mechanics of deciding independence, whether
through an independence referendum, a general
election, or some combination of the two. The
international and local business communities
appear to be taking a wait-and-see attitude.
Currently citizens of Britain's overseas
territories, including Bermuda, are entitled to
British citizenship. The British Overseas
Territories Bill, passed in February 2002,
provides automatic acquisition of British
citizenship, including automatic transmission of
citizenship to their children; the right of
abode, including the right to live and work in
the U.K. and the European Union (EU); the right
not to exercise or to formally renounce British
citizenship; and the right to use the fast track
European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA)
channel at the airport, free of U.K. immigration
controls. The U.K. Governor of Bermuda has said
that citizens of an independent Bermuda would no
longer be automatically entitled to British
citizenship and the EU benefits that accrue to
There are no conditions attached to the grant
of British citizenship to the overseas
territories, a fact of particular importance to
Bermuda where the issue of independence is being
debated. A 1999 U.K. government White Paper
states: "The new grant of British citizenship
will not be a barrier, therefore, to those
Overseas Territories choosing to become
independent of Britain. Our Overseas Territories
are British for as long as they wish to remain
British. Britain has willingly granted
independence where it has been requested; and we
will continue to do so where this is an option."
Bermuda's most recent general election was
held in July 2003, when the PLP was re-elected
to its second term. Following the election, the
more moderate Alex Scott replaced Jennifer Smith
as premier and party leader in a leadership
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II
Governor--His Excellency, Sir John Vereker, KCB
Premier--The Honorable William Alexander Scott,
Bermuda's interests in the U.S. are
represented by the United Kingdom, whose
embassy is at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20008; tel: 202-588-6500; fax:
The Bermudian Government's Department of
Tourism has offices in New York and Toronto.
Bermuda has enjoyed steady economic prosperity
since the end of World War II, although the
island experienced a mild recession in 2001-02,
paralleling the recession in the U.S. Bermuda
enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in
the world. Its economy is based primarily upon
international business and tourism. The Bermuda
Monetary Authority (BMA) estimated that those
two sectors represented 75% of the total balance
of payments current account receipts of foreign
exchange in the first three quarters of 2003.
However, the role of international business in
the economy is expanding, whereas that of
tourism is contracting.
Bermuda is an offshore financial center with
a robust financial regulatory system. The
government cooperates with the United States and
the international community to prevent money
laundering and terrorist financing and continues
to update its legislation and procedures in
conformance with international standards.
Bermuda first enacted specific money laundering
legislation in 1997, passing the Proceeds of
Crime Act (PCA) to apply money laundering
controls to financial institutions such as
banks, deposit companies, trust companies, and
investment businesses, including broker-dealers
and investment managers. Insurance companies are
covered to the extent that they are judged
susceptible to the risk of money laundering
abuse. Amendments in 2000, effective June 1,
2001, expanded the scope of the legislation to
cover the proceeds of all indictable offenses,
including tax evasion, corruption, fraud,
counterfeiting, theft, and forgery. The Bermuda
Monetary Authority Amendment (No. 3) Act 2004
clarified the authority of the BMA to respond to
requests from overseas regulators for
information about clients.
In December 2002, Parliament passed the
Bermuda Monetary Authority Amendment Act 2002,
expanding the list of BMA objectives to include
action to combat financial crime. It underpins
the BMA’s existing role in checking systems and
controls in financial institutions and paves the
way for the BMA to expand its role in
administering UN sanctions and other measures on
a delegated basis. In order to implement
provisions of relevant UN Security Council
antiterrorism resolutions, the act--among other
provisions--prescribes the manner by which the
finance minister may delegate to the BMA the
power to block accounts.
Bermuda enacted the Investment Business Act (IBA)
in 1998 to regulate the island's financial
services industry. In response to international
directives, the government passed the Investment
Business Act 2003 to further refine its terms.
The act creates a balance between government
regulation on the one hand and the competitive
needs of Bermuda's most important
industry--international business--on the other
hand. By updating its regulatory framework,
Bermuda has enhanced its reputation globally as
an international standard-bearer. In return,
international businesses registered in Bermuda
are recognized as having met or surpassed the
most stringent international criteria.
Bermuda is currently considering additional
legislation to further enhance its compliance
with international financial standards. The
Collective Investment Scheme Act will institute
a formal licensing regime for investment
schemes. It is expected to be debated in
parliament in 2006.
In March 2005, 13,729 international companies
were registered in Bermuda, many U.S.-owned.
They are an important source of foreign exchange
for the island, and spent an estimated $1.762
billion in Bermuda in 2004. The growing
importance of international business is
reflected in its increased share of GDP, up from
12.6% in 1996 to 20.7% in 2003 (provisional).
Historically important for employment and tax
revenue, Bermuda’s tourism industry is
continuing to experience difficulties, although
both the government and private sectors are
working to improve it. In 1996, Bermuda welcomed
571,700 visitors to the island. By 2004, that
figure had dropped to 477,757. Occupancy rates
for 2003 averaged 54.5%, and were higher in the
smaller hotels than at larger properties.
Visitors contributed an estimated $475 million
to the economy in 1996, but that figure declined
to $353.7 million in 2004. Although spending by
air visitors rose to $333.5 million in 2001, the
trend reversed in 2004, dropping to $300.7
million. Hurricane Fabian in September 2003
dealt another blow to the tourism industry.
Bermuda has little in the way of exports or
manufacturing; almost all manufactured goods and
foodstuffs must be imported. The value of
imports rose from $551 million in 1994 to $982
million in 2004. The U.S. is Bermuda's primary
trading partner, with $775.8 million in U.S.
imports in 2004. The U.K., Canada, and the
Caribbean countries (mainly the Netherlands
Antilles) also are important trading partners.
Exports from Bermuda, including imports into the
small free port that are subsequently
re-exported, decreased from $35 million in 1993
to $31million in 2004 (provisional).
Duty on imports is a major source of revenue
for the Government of Bermuda. In 2003-04, the
government obtained $196.9 million, or 26.7%, of
its revenue base from imports. Heavy importation
duties are reflected in retail prices. Even
though import duties are high, wages have kept
up for the most part with the cost of living,
and poverty--by U.S. standards--appears to be
practically nonexistent. Although Bermuda
imposes no income, sales, or profit taxes, it
does levy a real estate tax.
Bermuda is home to immigrants from other
countries. According to the 2000 census, 79% of
the population is Bermuda-born and 21% is
foreign-born. U.K. immigrants comprise 28% of
the immigrant population; U.S., 20% (although
the U.S. Consulate estimates that the figure is
closer to 40%); Canada, 15%; Caribbean, 12%; and
Portugal/Azores, 10%. In February 1970, Bermuda
converted from its former currency, the pound,
to a decimal currency of dollars pegged to the
FOREIGN RELATIONS AND U.S.-BERMUDIAN
The United Kingdom is formally responsible for
Bermuda’s foreign and defense policy. U.S.
policy toward the U.K. is the basis of
U.S.-Bermudian relations. In the early 20th
century, as modern transportation and
communication systems developed, Bermuda became
a popular destination for wealthy U.S., British,
and Canadian tourists. While the tariff enacted
in 1930 by the U.S. against its trading partners
ended Bermuda's once-thriving agricultural
export trade--primarily fresh vegetables to the
U.S.--it helped spur the overseas territory to
develop its tourist industry, which is second
only to international business in terms of
economic importance to the island.
During World War II, Bermuda became a
significant U.S. military site because of its
location in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1941, the
U.S. signed a lend-lease agreement with the U.K.
giving the British surplus U.S. Navy destroyers
in exchange for 99-year lease rights to
establish naval and air bases in Bermuda. The
bases consisted of 5.8 square kilometers (2.25
sq. mi.) of land largely reclaimed from the sea.
The U.S. Naval Air Station was on St. David's
Island, while the U.S. Naval Air Station Annex
was at the western end of the island in the
Both bases were closed in September 1995 (as
were British and Canadian bases), and the lands
were formally returned to the Government of
Bermuda in 2002.
The Government of Bermuda has begun to pursue
some international initiatives independent of
the U.K. in recent years. Bermuda signed a
cultural memorandum of understanding with Cuba
in 2003. The island also joined the Caribbean
Community (CARICOM) as an associate member in
2003. The U.S. Coast Guard provided search and
rescue assistance immediately following
Hurricane Fabian in September 2003 but Bermuda
declined subsequent offers of reconstruction
assistance from the U.S. and U.K., preferring to
accept assistance from its Caribbean neighbors.
An estimated 8,500 U.S. citizens live in
Bermuda, many of them employed in the
international business community. There also are
a large number of American businesses
incorporated in Bermuda, although no actual
figures are available. Despite the trend of
American businesses moving to Bermuda or other
offshore jurisdictions to escape U.S. taxes,
Bermuda maintains that the island is not a "tax
haven" and that it taxes both local and foreign
While U.S. visitors to Bermuda are critical
to the island's tourism industry, the number of
U.S. visitors to Bermuda is declining. Air
arrivals from the U.S. declined by more than 30%
between 1990 and 2000 and, in 2004, only 77% of
air arrivals originated from the U.S. compared
to 83.9% in 1990. The number of air and cruise
passengers from the U.S. totaled 464,000 in
2000. That number fell to 409,293 American
passengers in 2003. Another 2,300 Americans
sailed to the island via private yacht in 2003.
In 2004, 79% of Bermuda's imports came from
the U.S., up from 74% in 2000. Areas of
opportunity for U.S. investment are principally
in the re-insurance and financial services
industries, although the former U.S. base lands
also may present long-term investment
Principal U.S. Officials
Consul General--Gregory W. Slayton
Deputy Principal Officer--Antoinette R. Boecker
Consul--Jill M. Esposito
Vice Consul--Carla Nadeau
Consulate General is located at "Crown
Hill," 16 Middle Road, Devonshire, just outside
the City of Hamilton; tel: 441-295-1342; fax:
441-295-1592; web site: