Saint Vincent And The Grenadines - Tips

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
June 2007

Background Note: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The flag of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is three vertical bands of blue
(hoist side), gold (double width), and green; the gold band bears three green
diamonds arranged in a V pattern.


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.
Cities: Capital--Kingstown.
Terrain: Volcanic and mountainous, with the highest peak, Soufriere, rising
to 1,219 meters (4,000 ft.).
Climate: Tropical.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Vincentian.
Population (2005): 119,100.
Annual growth rate (1998): 0.5%.
Ethnic groups: African descent (66%), mixed (19%), West Indian (6%), Carib
Indian (2%), other (7%).
Religions: Anglican (47%), Methodist (28%), Roman Catholic (13%), other
Protestant denominations, Seventh-day Adventist, and Hindu.
Language: English (official); some French Patois spoken.
Education (2004): Adult literacy--88.1%.
Health (2006): Infant mortality rate--14/1,000. Life expectancy--men 72
years; women 75.8 years.
Workforce (2004): 55,431.
Unemployment (2004): 12%.

Type: Parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the
Independence: October 27, 1979.
Constitution: October 27, 1979.
Branches: Executive--governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II, head
of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet.
Legislative--unicameral 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 Labour Party (ULP, incumbent), New Democratic Party
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

GDP (2005): $428.1 million.
GDP growth (2005): 4.9%.
Per capita GDP (2005): $3,594.
Inflation (2005): 4.6%.
Natural resources: Timber.
Agriculture: Mostly bananas.
Industry: Plastic products, food processing, cement, furniture, clothing,
starch, and detergents.
Trade (2005): Exports--$40 million (merchandise) and $155 million (commercial
services). Major markets--European Union (27.2%), Barbados (12.7%), Trinidad
and Tobago (12.3%), Saint Lucia (10.9%), and the United States (9.2%).
Imports--$240 million (merchandise) and $74 million (commercial services).
Major suppliers--United States (33.3%), Trinidad and Tobago (23.6%), European
Union (15.1%), Japan (4.2%), and Barbados (3.9%).
Official exchange rate: EC$2.70 = U.S. $1.

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.

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 1951.

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 century. In
1902, the 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 the island.

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, consisting of 15 elected members and six
appointed senators. 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 five 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 central government.

Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir Frederick Ballantyne
Prime Minister--Ralph E. Gonsalves
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Commerce, and Trade--Sir Louis Straker
Ambassador to the United States and the OAS--Ellsworth I. A. John
Ambassador to the UN--Margaret Hughes Ferrari

St. Vincent and the Grenadines maintains an embassy at 3216 New Mexico Ave.,
NW, Washington, DC 20016 (tel. 202-364-6730). 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 lose
support steadily, until it collapsed after a rout in the 1979 elections. The
party dissolved itself in 1984.

Founded in 1955, the St. Vincent Labour Party (SVLP), 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 SVLP dominated politics from
the mid-1960s until the mid-1980s. Following victories in the 1967 and 1974
elections, the SVLP led the island to independence, winning the first
post-independence election in 1979. Expecting an easy victory for the SVLP 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.

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

In the December 2005 parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Gonsalves and
the ULP retained their 12-3 majority over the NDP.

Banana production employs upwards of 60% of the work force and accounts for
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 bananas.

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 high-end
tourism and the focus of new 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 160,000.

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 has kept the EC$ pegged at
EC$2.7=U.S. $1.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin
Initiative that grants duty-free entry into the United States 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 United States,
Canada, and the United Kingdom, and is a member of regional political and
economic organizations such as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
(OECS) and CARICOM. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is also a member of the
United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of American
States (OAS), and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).

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. In 1995, the United States 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 27 Peace
Corps volunteers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, working in business
development, education, and health. The U.S. military also provides
assistance through construction and humanitarian civic action projects.

A relatively small number of Americans--fewer than 1,000--reside on the

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Mary M. Ourisman
Deputy Chief of Mission--Mary Ellen T. Gilroy
Political/Economic Counselor--Martina Strong (Acting)
Consul General--Clyde Howard Jr.
Regional Labor Attaché--Martina Strong
Economic-Commercial Affairs--Anthony Eterno
Public Affairs Officer--Julie O'Reagan
Peace Corps Director--Kate Raftery

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.

The U.S. Embassy in Barbados is located in the Wildey Business Park, Wildey,
St. Michael (tel: 246-436-4950; fax: 246-429-5246).

Other Contact Information
U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 1-800-USA-TRADE

Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans
traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on entry and exit requirements, currency
regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political
disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at, where the current Worldwide Caution,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs
Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, are also available at For
additional information on international travel, see

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens who traveling or residing
abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP
(877-394-8747) and a web site at give the
most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities,
and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank. ***********************************************************
See for all Background notes
To change your subscription, go to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


to Leave a Comment or