The World Factbook (1990)/British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands
(dependent territory of the UK)

 See regional map III


Total area: 150 km²; land area: 150 km²

Comparative area: about 0.8 times the size of Washington, DC

Coastline: 80 km

Maritime claims:

Continental shelf: 200 meters or to depth of exploitation
Exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Territorial sea: 3 nm

Climate: subtropical; humid; temperatures moderated by trade winds

Terrain: coral islands relatively flat; volcanic islands steep, hilly

Natural resources: negligible

Land use: 20% arable land; 7% permanent crops; 33% meadows and pastures; 7% forest and woodland; 33% other

Environment: subject to hurricanes and tropical storms from July to October

Note: strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico


Population: 12,258 (July 1990), growth rate 1.1% (1990)

Birth rate: 20 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 5 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: -3 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 14 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 71 years male, 77 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 2.2 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—British Virgin Islander(s); adjective—British Virgin Islander

Ethnic divisions: over 90% black, remainder of white and Asian origin

Religion: majority Methodist; others include Anglican, Church of God, Seventh-Day Adventist, Baptist, and Roman Catholic

Language: English (official)

Literacy: 98%

Labor force: 4,911 (1980)

Organized labor: NA


Long-form name: none

Type: dependent territory of the UK

Capital: Road Town

Administrative divisions: none (dependent territory of the UK)

Independence: none (dependent territory of the UK)

Constitution: 1 June 1977

Legal system: English law

National holiday: Territory Day, I July

Executive branch: British monarch, governor, chief minister, Executive Council (cabinet)

Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Council

Judicial branch: Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court

Leaders: Chief of State—Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor John Mark Ambrose HERDMAN (since NA 1986);

Head of Government—Chief Minister H. Lavity STOUTT (since NA 1986)

Political parties and leaders: United Party (UP), Conrad Maduro; Virgin Islands Party (VIP), H. Lavity Stoutt; Independent People's Movement (IPM), Cyril B. Romney

Suffrage: universal at age 18

Elections: Legislative Council—last held 30 September 1986 (next to be held by September 1991); results percent of vote by party NA; seats—(9 total) UP 2, VIP 5, IPM 2

Communists: probably none

Member of: Commonwealth

Diplomatic representation: none (dependent territory of the UK)

Flag: blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the Virgin Islander coat of arms centered in the outer half of the flag; the coat of arms depicts a woman flanked on either side by a vertical column of six oil lamps above a scroll bearing the Latin word VIGILATE (Be Watchful)


Overview: The economy is highly dependent on the tourist industry, which generates about 21% of the national income. In 1985 the government offered offshore registration to companies wishing to incorporate in the islands, and, in consequence, incorporation fees generated about $2 million in 1987. Livestock raising is the most significant agricultural activity. The islands' crops, limited by poor soils, are unable to meet food requirements.

GDP: $106.7 million, per capita $8,900; real growth rate 2.5% (1987)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.7% (January 1987)

Unemployment rate: NA%

Budget: revenues $26.2 million; expenditures $25.4 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1988 est.)

Exports: $2.3 million (f.o.b., 1985); commodities—rum, fresh fish, gravel, sand, fruits, animals; partners—Virgin Islands (US), Puerto Rico, US

Imports: $72.0 million (c.i.f., 1985); commodities—building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery; partners—Virgin Islands (US), Puerto Rico, US

External debt: $4.5 million (1985)

Industrial production: growth rate -4.0% (1985)

Electricity: 13,500 kW capacity; 59 million kWh produced, 4,870 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore financial center

Agriculture: livestock (including poultry), fish, fruit, vegetables

Aid: NA

Currency: US currency is used

Exchange rates: US currency is used

Fiscal year: 1 April-31 March


Highways: 106 km motorable roads (1983)

Ports: Road Town

Airports: 3 total, 3 usable; 2 with permanent-surface runways less than 1,220m

Telecommunications: 3,000 telephones; worldwide external telephone service; submarine cable communication links to Bermuda; stations—1 AM, no FM, 1 TV

Defense Forces

Note: defense is the responsibility of the UK