British virgin islands
The Virgin Islands comprises over 60 islands, islets and cays situated in the north-eastern arc of the Caribbean archipelago covering a geographical area of 152 sq km.
The Territory is located about 97 km east of Puerto Rico.
The main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke are home to most of the Territory’s 29,000 people.
The capital, Road Town, is located on the main island of Tortola.
The population is predominantly of African descent. The remainder are of European, American and Asian extraction.
Approximately half the population are immigrants from other Caribbean islands.
The majority of the population is Christian. English is the main language and Spanish is the second most widely used language.
Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, the islands came into British possession in 1666 when planters took control from the original Dutch settlers, and have been a British colony since 1672.
The Constitution provides for a Cabinet comprising the Premier, four other Ministers and one ex-officio member, the Attorney General. Cabinet is responsible for the formulation and implementation of policy, though the Governor has responsibility for external affairs, defence, internal security, aspects of the public service and the administration of the courts.
The House of Assembly comprises 13 elected members, nine representing individual districts and four elected by a territory-wide vote.
The Attorney General, an appointed official, is also an ex-officio member of the House of Assembly. Elections are held at least every four years.
The main pillars of the economy are financial services and tourism.
The financial services sector has grown rapidly in the last decades and now generates about 60% of total government revenue.
The Territory specialises in international business companies and has a dominant share of around 45% of the global market for this product.
By the end of 2011 there were in excess of 450,000 registrations. Tourism accounts for 30% of GDP.
The Territory is known for its numerous white sand beaches as well as being one of the world’s greatest sailing destinations.
Agriculture and manufacturing each account for less than 5% of GDP.