St. Vincent

St. Vincent

Basic Information

Area: 389 sq km; 150 sq miles
Population: 116,394 (July 2002 estimate)
Capital City: Kingstown
People: Most Vincentians are the descendants of African slaves brought to the island to work on plantations. There are also a few white descendants of English colonists, as well as some East Indians, Carib Indians, and a sizeable minority of mixed race. St Vincent has a high rate of emigration. With extremely high unemployment and underemployment, population growth remains a major problem.
Languages: English
Religion(s): Anglican 47%, Methodist 28%, Roman Catholic 13%, Seventh Day Adventist, Hindu, other Protestant 12%
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar (XCD)
Major political parties: New Democratic Party (NDP); People's Progressive Movement (PPM); United Labour Party (ULP)
Government: St Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations. HRH 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 government rests with the Prime Minister and the cabinet. The parliament is a unicameral body (House of Assembly with 21 seats, out of which 15 are elected representatives and 6 are 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 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 an Appeal Court. The court of last resort is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London..
Head of State: HRH Queen Elizabeth II represented by Governor-General, Frederick N. Ballantyne
Prime Minister/Premier: The Hon Dr Ralph Gonsalves
Foreign Minister: The Hon Mike Browne.
Membership in international groupings/organisations: The Commonweath, CARICOM, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), ACP,United Nations (UN), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UNESCO, Organisation of American States (OAS), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), IMF, WHO,WTO

Geography

St Vincent and the Grenadines is a multi-island nation consisting of the main island St Vincent, which covers about 85% of the country's territory, and of 32 smaller islands and cays, the Grenadines. St Vincent is a high volcanic island. It is the northernmost point a the volcanic ridge that runs from Grenada in the south up through the Grenadine islands. St Vincent is hilly and its rich volcanic soil is very productive. The Grenadines, flat, mainly bare coral reefs, lie like stepping-stones between St Vincent and Grenada. Fewer than a dozen of these islands are populated. The largest are Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau, Mustique and Union Island. These are hilly, but relatively low-lying. All islands have beautiful white-sand beaches.

History

St Vincent was originally settled around 5,000 BC by the Ciboney people, then by the Arawaks and subsequently by the warlike Caribs. The island was sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1498 who named it St Vincent. The Caribs of St Vincent, living in the densely forested mountainous interior, were able to resist European settlement for longer than any other island in the Caribbean.

In 1675 a Dutch ship carrying African slaves was shipwrecked to the south of the island. The slaves reached land and intermarried with the local population producing a mixed-race Black Carib community. A rebellion by the Black Caribs in 1795/96 succeeded in gaining control of most of the island, but was eventually suppressed. Most of the Black Caribs were deported in 1797 to the island of Roatan, off the coast of Honduras. Their descendants now form the Garifuna community of Belize. Smaller groups of Black Caribs remain in St Vincent and are concentrated in the north-east of the island.

Granted by Charles I to the Earl of Carlisle in 1627, the islands were disputed between Britain and France but were finally ceded to Britain in 1783. The islands had a plantation economy based on slave labour and producing sugar, cotton, coffee and cocoa. As in the rest of the British Caribbean, slavery was abolished in 1834. The islands have been subject to natural disasters caused by hurricanes and volcanic eruptions. The eruption of La Soufriere in 1902 devastated the north of St Vincent and killed 2,000 people. Internal self-government was granted in 1969 and St Vincent and the Grenadines attained independence within the Commonwealth in 1979.

Politics

In the General Election on 28 March 2001, the opposition Unity Labour Party (ULP) defeated the New Democratic Party (NDP) by 12 seats to 3, ending almost 17 years of continuous NDP rule. Observers from the OAS, Caricom, the Commonwealth Secretariat and Caribbean Rights were all present to monitor the elections. The new Prime Minister is Ralph Gonsalves. Dr Ralph Gonsalves is an energetic grass-roots politician and has surrounded himself with a good ministerial team. The appointment of a public servant as Attorney General has been particularly welcomed. Initial policy moves of the new Government included cancelling the Honorary Citizenship Programme, a move which will lead to an estimated budgetary shortfall of around 12 million EC dollars. Licences already issued were revoked. He is also keen to sign the OAS Convention Against Corruption, although he has stated that his principal concern is to establish a White Collar Crime Unit within the local police force. Against a background of economic adversity, the PM Gonsalves remains committed to implementing an ambitious programme of policy reforms based on good governance and poverty alleviation. Education, job creation and poverty alleviation remain the Government's highest priorities. Gonsalves claims that his Government has created over 3500 new jobs, and he has implemented a series of measures aimed at reducing poverty. These include the establishment of a Poverty Alleviation Fund, an increase in the Basic Needs Trust Fund, a comprehensive Social Recovery Programme and the development of a Poverty Reduction Strategy under the auspices of the new National Economic and Social Development Council. He also has a number of ambitious capital projects under consideration, including a new airport and a cross-country road, but is hampered by lack of finance.

Economy

Since coming to power, the government has implemented a series of structural reforms intended to promote private sector growth and promotion of agricultural diversification and small businesses. In September 2002 Tropical Storm Lili hit St Vincent and the Grenadines causing damage to the banana crops. Banana exports declined in 2003. Production for 2004 is estimated at 26,250 tonnes, marginally up on the 2003 figure.

In the 2004 budget the Government announced plans to develop the tourist sector, particularly in the island of Canouan. Tourism showed positive growth in 2004, up by 14% to September. The 2005 budget included measures to increase subsidies to the banana industry to help farmers meet the costs of higher prices for agricultural inputs. A National Tourism authority will be established in 2005 and there will be increased regional and international marketing. Greater emphasis will be placed on developing the fishing industry. Unemployment is high (22% estimated in 1999).

St Vincent and the Grenadines was removed from the FATF list of non-co-operative countries in June 2003

Basic Economic Facts

GDP (2003 est.):US$ 371 million
GDP per head (2003 est.):US$ 3,323.11
GDP Annual Real Growth :(2004 IMF est) 2.8%
Inflation: Consumer prices (2004 IMF est) 2.0%
Export Partners:Caricom countries 49%, UK 16%, US 10% (1995)
Import Partners:US 36%, Caricom countries 28%, UK 13% (1995)

International Relations

St Vincent and the Grenadines' Relations with Neighbours

Prime Minister Gonsalves has stressed that Caribbean political integration will be a priority for his Government. He has strengthened links between the OECS and Barbados, and with other members of Caricom. Gonsalves portrays himself as a leading figure in Caribbean politics through his wide range of contacts and political experience. Gonsalves holds the portfolio for bananas in CARICOM and travels widely in connection with this role.

St Vincent and the Grenadines' Relations with the International Community

St Vincent and the Grenadines has open and good relations with the international community. It meets its international obligations but is often constrained by lack of resources. It is a reliable partner at the UNGA and has ratified most international conventions.

Saint Vincent and the Granadines' Relations with the UK

Relations between the UK and St Vincent and the Grenadines are good. There are strong historic links between the two countries. Most internal institutions are based on the UK model and there are no proposals to change this. The British Army has carried out two recruitment exercises in St Vincent and the Grenadines since 2001, in total recruiting just under 500 young Vincentians. These exercises have met with universal approval in St Vincent and the Grenadines and its government is keen that they should continue on a regular basis.

UK Development Assistance

The UK has offered significant support for prison reform in St Vincent and the Grenadines. An official from HM Prison Service has undertaken two visits to St Vincent in 2002 to make recommendations on how to improve prison conditions. His report made a series of practical and low cost recommendations on how to improve conditions and management of the Prison Service. The UK has offered various small grants to help implement the report. A Training for Trainers course was also run in 2003 by officials from HM Prison Service.

DFID are moving away from discrete stand-along bilateral projects and work closely with large organisations such as the Caribbean Development Bank and the European Commission.

DFID has a number of regional and sub-regional initiatives which Saint Vincent benefits from. These include technical assistance to the Caribbean Development Bank, technical assistance to the CARICOM Regional Negotiating Machinery; support to CARICOM with implementation of the regional strategic framework on HIV/AIDS; support to the Caribbean Regional Assistance Centre (CARTAC) and the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD).

In September 2002, the UK government cancelled St Vincent and the Grenadines' aid debt repayments to the UK amounting to 2.68 million.

Trade and Investment with the UK

Principal UK exports are machinery, telecommunications equipment, manufactured goods, fertilisers and foodstuffs. The principal import is bananas.

Bilateral trade figures:

  2004 (m)
UK Exports 8.51
UK Imports 12.12

Cultural Relations with the UK

A visit by a local Under 18 rugby team was funded to participate in the Army National Schools sevens at Rosslyn Park in March 2002.

Recent Inward Visits

The Attorney-General of St Vincent and the Grenadines paid an official visit to London from 16 to 19 September 2002, to attend the Adam Smith Institute Workshop on Transparency, Accountability and Honest Government and to meet Government officials. Dr Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines had talks with Baroness Amos, Leader of the House of Lords, during a private visit to London in February 04. Sir Vincent Beache, Minister for National Security of St Vincent and the Grenadines, attended the UK/Caribbean Forum in London in May 04.

Recent Outward Visits

Baroness Amos visited St Vincent and the Grenadines in March 2002. She met the Prime Minister, Cabinet members and senior government officials. A Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Delegation visited St Vincent in October 2003. The Duke of York made an official visit to St Vincent in February 2004 to mark the fact that the 25th anniversary of independence takes place in 2004.

A Royal Navy frigate, the West Indies Guardship, visits once a year for Independence Day celebrations.

Health

Life expectancy (2001 est.): 72,56 years (women: 74,34 years, men: 70,83 years)
Infant mortality (2001 est.): 11,61 per 1000 live births.

Hiv/Aids

The incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean region is second only to sub-Sahara Africa.

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; Dr 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'.

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