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Virgin Islands


During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.
Geography Virgin Islands
Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico
Geographic coordinates:
18 20 N, 64 50 W
Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 352 sq km
water: 3 sq km
land: 349 sq km
Area - comparative:
twice the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
0 km
188 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
subtropical, tempered by easterly trade winds, relatively low humidity, little seasonal temperature variation; rainy season May to November
mostly hilly to rugged and mountainous with little level land
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Crown Mountain 474 m
Natural resources:
sun, sand, sea, surf
Land use:
arable land: 15%
permanent crops: 6%
other: 79% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
NA sq km
Natural hazards:
several hurricanes in recent years; frequent and severe droughts and floods; occasional earthquakes
Environment - current issues:
lack of natural freshwater resources
Geography - note:
important location along the Anegada Passage - a key shipping lane for the Panama Canal; Saint Thomas has one of the best natural deepwater harbors in the Caribbean
People Virgin Islands
108,775 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 23.8% (male 13,116; female 12,770)
15-64 years: 66% (male 33,944; female 37,870)
65 years and over: 10.2% (male 4,855; female 6,220) (2004 est.)
Median age:
total: 35.9 years
male: 35.1 years
female: 36.7 years (2004 est.)
Population growth rate:
-0.05% (2004 est.)
Birth rate:
14.49 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Death rate:
6.1 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Net migration rate:
-8.94 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.9 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 0.91 male(s)/female (2004 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 8.21 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 7.04 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
male: 9.31 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.75 years
male: 74.91 years
female: 82.82 years (2004 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.21 children born/woman (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
noun: Virgin Islander(s)
adjective: Virgin Islander
Ethnic groups:
black 78%, white 10%, other 12%
note: West Indian 81% (49% born in the Virgin Islands and 32% born elsewhere in the West Indies), US mainland 13%, Puerto Rican 4%, other 2%
Baptist 42%, Roman Catholic 34%, Episcopalian 17%, other 7%
English (official), Spanish, Creole
definition: NA
total population: NA%
male: NA%
female: NA%
Government Virgin Islands
Country name:
conventional long form: United States Virgin Islands
conventional short form: Virgin Islands
former: Danish West Indies
Dependency status:
organized, unincorporated territory of the US with policy relations between the Virgin Islands and the US under the jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department of the Interior
Government type:
Charlotte Amalie
Administrative divisions:
none (territory of the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are three islands at the second order; Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas
National holiday:
Transfer Day (from Denmark to the US), 27 March (1917)
Revised Organic Act of 22 July 1954
Legal system:
based on US laws
18 years of age; universal; note - island residents are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections
Executive branch:
chief of state: President George W. BUSH of the US (since 20 January 2001)
election results: Dr. Charles Wesley TURNBULL reelected governor; percent of vote - Dr. Charles Wesley TURNBULL (Democrat) 50.5%, John de JONGH 24.4%
elections: US president and vice president elected on the same ticket for four-year terms; governor and lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms; election last held 5 November 2002 (next to be held NA November 2006)
head of government: Governor Dr. Charles Wesley TURNBULL (since 5 January 1999)
cabinet: NA
Legislative branch:
unicameral Senate (15 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
elections: last held 6 November 2002 (next to be held 2 November 2004)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Democratic Party 10, ICM 2, independent 3
note: the Virgin Islands elects one non-voting representative to the US House of Representatives; election last held 6 November 2002 (next to be held 2 November 2004); results - Donna M. CHRISTIAN-CHRISTENSON (Democrat) reelected
Judicial branch:
US District Court of the Virgin Islands (under Third Circuit jurisdiction); Territorial Court (judges appointed by the governor for 10-year terms)
Political parties and leaders:
Democratic Party [Arturo WATLINGTON]; Independent Citizens' Movement or ICM [Usie RICHARDS]; Republican Party [Gary SPRAUVE]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Interpol (subbureau), IOC
Diplomatic representation in the US:
none (territory of the US)
Diplomatic representation from the US:
none (territory of the US)
Flag description:
white, with a modified US coat of arms in the center between the large blue initials V and I; the coat of arms shows a yellow eagle holding an olive branch in one talon and three arrows in the other with a superimposed shield of vertical red and white stripes below a blue panel
Economy Virgin Islands
Economy - overview:
Tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for 80% of GDP and employment. The islands normally host 2 million visitors a year. The manufacturing sector consists of petroleum refining, textiles, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and watch assembly. The agricultural sector is small, with most food being imported. International business and financial services are a small but growing component of the economy. One of the world's largest petroleum refineries is at Saint Croix. The islands are subject to substantial damage from storms. The government is working to improve fiscal discipline, to support construction projects in the private sector, to expand tourist facilities, to reduce crime, and to protect the environment.
purchasing power parity - $2.4 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $19,000 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1%
industry: 19%
services: 80% (2003 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2% (1992)
Labor force:
49,000 (2002 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 1%, industry 19%, services 80% (2003 est.)
Unemployment rate:
8.7% (2002 est.)
revenues: $364.4 million
expenditures: $364.4 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1990 est.)
tourism, petroleum refining, watch assembly, rum distilling, construction, pharmaceuticals, textiles, electronics
Industrial production growth rate:
Electricity - production:
1.03 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
957.9 million kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
66,000 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
Oil - imports:
Agriculture - products:
fruit, vegetables, sorghum; Senepol cattle
$NA (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
refined petroleum products
Exports - partners:
US, Puerto Rico
$NA (2002 est.)
Imports - commodities:
crude oil, foodstuffs, consumer goods, building materials
Imports - partners:
US, Puerto Rico
Debt - external:
$NA (2002 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
US dollar (USD)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
the US dollar is used
Fiscal year:
1 October - 30 September
Communications Virgin Islands
Telephones - main lines in use:
69,400 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
41,000 (2002)
Telephone system:
general assessment: NA
domestic: modern, uses fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay
international: country code - 1-340; submarine cable and satellite communications; satellite earth stations - NA
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 5, FM 11, shortwave 0 (2002)
107,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
2 (2002)
68,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
50 (2000)
Internet users:
30,000 (2002)
Transportation Virgin Islands
0 km
total: 856 km
paved: NA km
note: the only US possession where driving on the left side of the road is practiced (2000)
unpaved: NA km
Ports and harbors:
Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, Cruz Bay, Port Alucroix
Merchant marine:
2 (2003 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 (2003 est.)
Military Virgin Islands
Military - note:
defense is the responsibility of the US
Transnational Issues Virgin Islands
Disputes - international: