Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Area: 340 sq. km. (130 sq. mi.); slightly less
than twice the size of Washington, DC. The
Grenadines include 32 islands, the largest of
which are Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, and Union.
Some of the smaller islands are privately owned.
Terrain: Volcanic and mountainous, with the
highest peak, Soufriere, rising to 1,219 meters
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Vincentian.
Population (2002 est.): 115,000.
Annual growth rate (1998): 0.1%.
Ethnic groups: African descent (66%), mixed
(19%), West Indian (6%), Carib Indian (2%).
Religions: Anglican (47%), Methodist (28%),
Roman Catholic (13%), other Protestant
denominations, Seventh-day Adventist, Hindu.
Language: English (official); some French Patois
Education: Literacy--98%. Years
compulsory--up to age 15.
Health (1998): Infant mortality rate--22.2/1,000.
Life expectancy--females 72 yrs.;
Work force: About 40,000. Agriculture--60%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy; independent
sovereign state within the Commonwealth.
Independence: October 27, 1979.
Constitution: October 27, 1979.
Branches: Executive--governor general
(representing Queen Elizabeth II, head of
state), prime minister (head of government),
legislature with 15-member elected house of
assembly and six-member appointed senate.
Judicial--district courts, Eastern Caribbean
Supreme Court (high court and court of appeals),
final appeal to the Privy Council in London.
Subdivisions: Six parishes.
Political parties: Unity Labor Party (ULP,
incumbent; holds 12 of 15 seats in parliament),
New Democratic Party (NDP).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2004): $409 million.
GDP real growth (2004): 5.4%.
Per capita GDP (2004): $3,857.
Agriculture: 10% of GDP (mostly bananas).
Natural resources: Timber.
Industry: Plastic products, food processing,
cement, furniture, clothing, starch, and
Trade: Exports (2004)--$34 million
(bananas, eddoes and dasheen, arrowroot starch).
Major markets--U.K. 34%, Barbados 13%,
St. Lucia 11%, Trinidad 10%. Imports
(2004)--$200 million (foodstuffs, machinery and
equipment, chemicals and fertilizers). Major
suppliers--U.S., CARICOM, U.K., Japan.
Most Vincentians are the descendants of African
slaves brought to the island to work on
plantations. There also are a few white
descendants of English colonists, as well as
some East Indians, Carib Indians, and a sizable
minority of mixed race. The country's official
language is English, but a French patois may be
heard on some of the Grenadine Islands. St.
Vincent has a high rate of emigration along with
high unemployment and under-employment.
Carib Indians aggressively prevented
European settlement on St. Vincent until the
18th century. African slaves--whether
shipwrecked or escaped from St. Lucia and
Grenada and seeking refuge in St.
Vincent--intermarried with the Caribs and became
known as "black Caribs." Beginning in 1719,
French settlers cultivated coffee, tobacco,
indigo, cotton, and sugar on plantations worked
by African slaves. In 1763, St. Vincent was
ceded to Britain. Restored to French rule in
1779, St. Vincent was regained by the British
under the Treaty of Versailles in 1783. Conflict
between the British and the black Caribs
continued until 1796, when General Abercrombie
crushed a revolt fomented by the French radical
Victor Hugues. More than 5,000 black Caribs were
eventually deported to Roatan, an island off the
coast of Honduras.
Slavery was abolished in 1834; the resulting
labor shortages on the plantations attracted
Portuguese immigrants in the 1840s and east
Indians in the 1860s. Conditions remained harsh
for both former slaves and immigrant
agricultural workers, as depressed world sugar
prices kept the economy stagnant until the turn
of the century.
From 1763 until independence, St. Vincent
passed through various stages of colonial status
under the British. A representative assembly was
authorized in 1776, Crown Colony government
installed in 1877, a legislative council created
in 1925, and universal adult suffrage granted in
During this period, the British made several
unsuccessful attempts to affiliate St. Vincent
with other Windward Islands in order to govern
the region through a unified administration. The
most notable was the West Indies Federation,
which collapsed in 1962. St. Vincent was granted
associate statehood status in 1969, giving it
complete control over its internal affairs.
Following a referendum in 1979, St. Vincent and
the Grenadines became the last of the Windward
Islands to gain independence. Natural disasters
have plagued the country throughout the 20th
In 1902, La Soufriere volcano erupted,
killing 2,000 people. Much farmland was damaged,
and the economy deteriorated. In April 1979, La
Soufriere erupted again. Although no one was
killed, thousands had to be evacuated, and there
was extensive agricultural damage. In 1980 and
1987, hurricanes devastated banana and coconut
plantations; 1998 and 1999 also saw very active
hurricane seasons, with hurricane Lenny in 1999
causing extensive damage to the west coast of
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a
parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth
of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II is head of state
and is represented on the island by a governor
general, an office with mostly ceremonial
functions. Control of the government rests with
the prime minister and the cabinet.
The parliament is a unicameral body with a
15-member elected house of assembly and a
six-member appointed senate. The governor
general appoints senators, four on the advice of
the prime minister and two on the advice of the
leader of the opposition. The parliamentary term
of office is 5 years, although the prime
minister may call elections at any time.
As in other English-speaking Caribbean
countries, the judiciary in St. Vincent is
rooted in British common law. There are 11
courts in three magisterial districts. The
Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, comprising a
high court and a court of appeals, is known in
St. Vincent as the St. Vincent and the
Grenadines supreme court. The court of last
resort is the judicial committee of Her
Majesty's Privy Council in London.
There is no local government in St. Vincent,
and all six parishes are administered by the
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir Frederick Ballantyne
Prime Minister--Ralph E. Gonsalves
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism--Michael
Ambassador to the U.S. and the OAS--Ellsworth
Ambassador to the UN--Margaret Ferrari
St. Vincent and the Grenadines maintains an
embassy at 3216 New Mexico Ave., NW, Washington,
DC 20016 (tel. 202-462-7806). St. Vincent also
has a consul resident in New York.
The People's Political Party (PPP), founded
in 1952 by Ebenezer Joshua, was the first major
political party in St. Vincent. The PPP had its
roots in the labor movement and was in the
forefront of national policy prior to
independence, winning elections from 1957
through 1966. With the development of a more
conservative black middle class, however, the
party began to steadily lose support, until it
collapsed after a rout in the 1979 elections.
The party dissolved itself in 1984.
Founded in 1955, the St. Vincent Labor Party
(SYLP), under R. Milton Cato, gained the support
of the middle class. With a conservative
law-and-order message and a pro-Western foreign
policy, the SYLP dominated politics from the
mid-1960s until the mid-1980s. Following
victories in the 1967 and 1974 elections, the
SYLP led the island to independence, winning the
first post-independence election in 1979.
Expecting an easy victory for the SYLP in 1984,
Cato called early elections. The results were
surprising: with a record 89% voter turnout,
James F. Mitchell's New Democratic Party (NDP)
won nine seats in the house of assembly.
Since the 1984 election, politics in St.
Vincent have been dominated by the NDP.
Bolstered by a resurgent economy in the
mid-1980s, Mitchell led his party to an
unprecedented sweep of all 15 house of assembly
seats in the 1989 elections. The opposition
emerged from the election weakened and
fragmented but was able to win three seats
during the February 1994 elections under a
"unity" coalition. In 1998, Prime Minister
Mitchell and the NDP were returned to power for
an unprecedented fourth term but only with a
slim margin of 8 seats to 7 seats for the Unity
Labour Party (ULP). The NDP was able to
accomplish a return to power while receiving a
lesser share of the popular vote, approximately
45% to the ULP's 55%. In March 2001, the ULP,
led by Ralph Gonsalves, assumed power after
winning 12 of the 15 seats in Parliament.
In the December 2005 parliamentary elections,
Prime Minister Gonsalves and the ULP retained
their 12-3 majority over the NDP.
Bananas account for upwards of 60% of the
work force and 50% of merchandise exports in St.
Vincent and the Grenadines. Such reliance on one
crop makes the economy vulnerable to
fluctuations in banana prices and the erosion of
European Union trade preferences. To combat
these vulnerabilities, the Government of St.
Vincent and the Grenadines is focused on
diversifying its economy away from reliance on
Although less prominent than in other Eastern
Caribbean countries, tourism has grown to become
a very important part of the economy, and the
chief earner of foreign exchange. The Grenadines
have become a favorite of the high-end yachting
crowd and the focus of new tourism development
in the country. In 1996, new cruise ship and
ferry berths came on line, sharply increasing
the number of passenger arrivals. In 2004, total
visitor arrivals numbered at 160,000. A
relatively small number of Americans--under
1,000--reside on the islands.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines' currency is
the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$), a regional
currency shared among members of the Eastern
Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern
Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues the EC$,
manages monetary policy, and regulates and
supervises commercial banking activities in its
member countries. The ECCB's primary monetary
policy goal is to maintain the long-standing
currency peg of US$1=EC$2.7.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a
beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin
Initiative that grants duty-free entry into the
U.S. for many goods. St. Vincent and the
Grenadines also belongs to the predominantly
English-speaking Caribbean Community and Common
Market (CARICOM) and the CARICOM Single Market
and Economy (CSME).
St. Vincent and the Grenadines maintains
close ties to the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.,
and cooperates with regional political and
economic organizations such as the Organization
of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and CARICOM.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of
the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations,
the Organization of American States, and the
Association of Caribbean States (ACS).
As a member of CARICOM, St. Vincent and the
Grenadines strongly backed efforts by the United
States to implement UN Security Council
Resolution 940, designed to facilitate the
departure of Haiti's de facto authorities from
power. The country agreed to contribute
personnel to the multinational force, which
restored the democratically elected government
of Haiti in October 1994.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines maintains
close relations with Cuba, which provides a
number of scholarship and other exchange
programs for Vincentians, particularly in the
field of health care.
U.S. -ST. VINCENT RELATIONS
The United States and St. Vincent have solid
bilateral relations. Both governments are
concerned with eradicating local marijuana
cultivation and combating the transshipment of
narcotics. The St. Vincentian Government has
generally been cooperative and responsive to
U.S. offers of assistance. In 1995, the U.S. and
St. Vincent signed a maritime law enforcement
agreement. In 1996, the Government of St.
Vincent and the Grenadines signed an extradition
treaty with the United States. In 1997, the two
countries signed a mutual legal assistance
The United States supports the Government of
St. Vincent and the Grenadines' efforts to
expand its economic base and to provide a higher
standard of living for its citizens. U.S.
assistance is channeled primarily through
multilateral agencies such as the World Bank.
The United States has about 31
Corps volunteers in St. Vincent working
in education and health. The U.S. military also
provides assistance through exercise-related
construction and humanitarian civic action
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Mary Ellen T. Gilroy
Political/Economic Counselor--Sheila Peters
Consul General--Clyde Howard Jr.
Regional Labor Attaché--Alfred Anzaldua
Economic-Commercial Affairs--John Ashworth
Public Affairs Officer--Julie O'Reagan
Peace Corps Director--Terry Armstrong
The United States maintains no official
presence in St. Vincent. The ambassador and
embassy officers are resident in Barbados and
frequently travel to St. Vincent.
U.S. Embassy in Barbados is located in
the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Building,
Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel: 246-436-4950;