St. Kitts and Nevis

Basic Information

Full Name: The Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis
Area: 166 sq km; 104 sq miles
Population: 42,000, with 35,000 on St Kitts and 7,000 on Nevis
Capital City: Basseterre (15 000)
People: More than 90% of the population are of African descent. The rest is predominantly of European, or mixed European and African, descent.
Languages: English
Religion(s): Principally Anglican, with Roman Catholic and Evangelical Protestant minorities
Currency: Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$)
Major political parties: St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) People's Action Movement (PAM) Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) Nevis Reformation Party (NRP)
Government: St Kitts and Nevis is a federation. Its Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II is represented in St Kitts and Nevis by a Governor-General, who acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party of the House, and the Cabinet conducts affairs of state. St Kitts and Nevis has a unicameral legislature: the House of Assembly comprises eleven elected members and three appointees. Nevis has its own five-seat island administration and is guaranteed representation in the House of Assembly.
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II represented by Governor-General Cuthbert Montraville Sebastian.
Prime Minister/Premier: Dr The Hon Denzil Douglas
Foreign Minister: Dr The Hon Timothy Harris
Membership of international groupings/organisations: ACP, C, Caricom, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, OAS, OECS, OPANAL, OPCW (signatory), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WTrO

Geography

The twin islands of St Kitts-Nevis are located in the northern part of the Leeward Islands, 19 degrees north of the equator, and separated by a channel two miles wide. St Kitts is 23 miles long, encompassing an area of 68 square miles; Nevis covers 36 square miles. Most beaches on the islands are of black volcanic sand and the climate is tropical. St Kitts-Nevis lies within the hurricane belt.

History

At the time of European discovery, the islands of St Kitts and Nevis were inhabited by Carib Indians. Christopher Columbus landed on the larger island in 1493 on his second voyage and named it after St Christopher, his patron saint. Columbus also discovered Nevis on his second voyage, reportedly calling it Nevis because of its resemblance to a snow-capped mountain (in Spanish, nuesta senora de las nieves or our lady of the snows).

European colonisation did not begin until 1623-24, when first English, then French colonists arrived on St Christopher's island, whose name the English shortened to St Kitt's island. As the first English colony in the Caribbean, St Kitts served as a base for further colonisation in the region. St Kitts was held jointly by the English and French from 1628-1713. During the 17th century, intermittent warfare between French and English settlers ravaged its economy. Meanwhile Nevis, settled by English settlers in 1628, grew prosperous under English rule. St Kitts's was ceded to Great Britain by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Both St Kitts and Nevis were seized by the French in 1782. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 definitively awarded both islands to Britain. They were part of the colony of the Leeward Islands from 1871-1956, and of the West Indies Federation from 1958-62. In 1967, together with Anguilla, they became a self-governing state in association with Great Britain. Anguilla seceded later that year and remains a British dependency. The federation of St Kitts and Nevis attained full independence on September 19, 1983.

Politics

Following a snap election in October 2004 the St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) led by Dr Denzil Douglas were reelected by a majority of 7-1 over the People’s Action Movement (PAM). The SKNLP has held office since 1995 and won all eight seats in the March 2000 general election. There was no change on Nevis where the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) retained 2 seats and the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) 1 seat. Nevis has its own five seat island legislature and is guaranteed representation in the fourteen member strong House of Assembly in Basseterre; the House of Assembly has eleven elected members and three appointees. Both legislatures are uni-cameral.

Nevis Secession

The Premier of Nevis, Mr Vance Amory, has been pursuing the constitutional process of taking Nevis out of the Federation with St Kitts since June 1996. A Secession Bill, which had been rejected in 1996, was given a second reading in October 1997 with support from the Nevis opposition. The White Paper on secession for Nevis was tabled on 13 November 1997 and a referendum took place on 10 August 1998. Although 62% voted in favour of secession (38% against) this did not meet the 66.6% required by the constitution to allow secession to proceed. In 2003 Amory started the Constitutional process leading to a further referendum.

Economy

St Kitts and Nevis have a small highly open economy. Historically sugar was an important export. In recent years there has been considerable diversification into tourism, financial services and light manufacturing. Although the two islands have been subjected to external shocks, including a number of destructive hurricanes, economic performance has been marked by sustained and almost uninterrupted growth. Following the widespread damage caused by hurricanes in 1998-99, real GDP rose sharply in 2000 and the first three quarters of 2001, due to an increase in domestic demand that stemmed from spending on post-hurricane repair and reconstruction. After 11 September 2001, the number of stay-over tourists fell sharply and activity in tourism-dependent sectors was virtually halted. As a result, real GDP growth slowed to 2.3 per cent for 2001 as a whole. Growth in 2002 was 0.8 per cent and tourist figures revived in 2003. GDP is estimated to have increased by 2.4% in 2004.

The sugar industry operated at a loss in recent years and following an announcement in the 2005 budget production ceased after the 2005 crop. There are plans to reorientate production to the provision of other agricultural goods and services. The resulting job losses within the industry is worrying the government. Much will depend on the performance of the tourist sector. International experts have expressed concern about the sizeable budget deficit and the levels of public debt, estimated at 100% of GDP.

Basic Economic Facts

GDP:(2003 estimate) US$370 million
GDP per head:(2003 estimate) US$6,617
Annual Growth:(IMF 2004 est) 2.4%
Inflation:Consumer Prices (IMF 2004 est) 1.5%
Major Industries:Tourism, Sugar, light manufacturing
Major trading partners (Export):US 68.5%, UK 22.3%, Caricom countries 5.5% (1995 est.)
Major trading partners (Import):US 42.4%, Caricom countries 17.2%, UK 11.3% (1995 est.)

International Relations

St Kitts and Nevis' Relations with Neighbours

St Kitts and Nevis enjoys close relations with its neighbours. It is an active member of the OECS and shares a common currency and common judiciary with the other six full members and two associate members of the Organisation. St Kitts and Nevis is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which is in the process of establishing a single market and economy. It co-ordinates its foreign policy with the member states of CARICOM.

St Kitts and Nevis' Relations with the International Community

St Kitts and Nevis greatly values its membership of the Commonwealth and of the United Nations Organisation. Within the Commonwealth, St Kitts and Nevis advances the agenda of Small States in the international community.

St Kitts and Nevis' Relations with the UK

St Kitts relations are good.

UK Development Assistance

DfID works in the Caribbean region as a whole in the areas of public sector reform, economic and fiscal management, education and HIV/AIDS. Regional initiatives include technical assistance to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB); technical assistance to the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM); support to the CARICOM Secretariat with implementation of the regional strategic framework on HIV/AIDS; support to the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) and to the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD).

Trade and Investment with the UK

UK exports are mainly machinery, also foodstuffs, beverages, chemicals and manufactured goods. UK imports are almost entirely sugar (Note: Sugar production ceased after the 2005 crop). Recent trade figures are:

  2004 (m)
UK Exports 9.65
UK Imports 1.49

A trade mission from the Caribbean Britain Business Council (CBBC), comprising fourteen companies, visited St Kitts between 11 and 14 May 2002. Eight of those companies went on to spend 15 May on Nevis. It was the first UK Trade Mission for several years and was well received by the business community and members of the Chambers Of Commerce and Industry on both islands.

Cultural Relations with the UK

The British Council in Kingston/Jamaica covers the whole of the Caribbean.

Recent Inward Visits

Dr Timothy Harris, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Education represented St Kitts and Nevis at the UK/Caribbean Forum in London in May 2004.

Recent Outward Visits

A UK Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Delegation visited St Kitts in June 2004.

Health

Life Expectancy: 70 years
Infant Mortality Rate: 21 deaths/1,000 live births The population enjoys almost 100% immunisation coverage, access to safe water and good sanitation. The Government has placed special emphasis on primary health care services, particularly those targeted toward the prevention of illness and the promotion of healthy lifestyle habits.

Hiv/Aids

The incidence of HIV/AIDS infection in the Caribbean is second only to that of sub-Saharan Africa. The Government of St Kitts and Nevis announced in January 2004 that World Bank HIV/AIDS projects would be implemented.

A UK-CARICOM Forum on Reducing Stigma and Discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDs in the Caribbean was held in St Kitts in November 2004. The Forum was attended by stakeholders from throughout the region. Participants included the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr Peter Piot; the Director of the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development, Sir George Alleyne; Mr Edwin Carrington, CARICOM Secretary-General and DfID Minister Gareth Thomas MP. The aim of the Forum was to accelerate the process of reducing HIV/AIDs-related stigma and discrimination through persons identified as 'Champions for Change'.

Did You Know?

People on St Kitts are called Kittitians, while on Nevis they are called Nevisians.

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