United Kingdom American Dependencies
BRITISH ANTARCTIC TERRITORY
BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
Bermuda is a colony consisting of some 300 coral islands (20 of them inhabited), situated in the Atlantic Ocean, 933 km (580 mi) east of Cape Hatteras (US) at 32°19′ n and 64°35′ w. Their total area is about 54 sq km (21 sq mi). The United States leases a 5.8-sq-km (2.2-sq-mi) area of land reclaimed from the sea for military purposes. The largest island, Bermuda (sometimes called Main) Island, is about 23 km (14 mi) long and has an average width of 1.6 km (1 mi). The islands are mostly flat and rocky, with luxuriant semitropical vegetation. Because Bermuda lies in the Gulf Stream, the climate is generally mild and humid, with a mean annual temperature of 21°c (70°f) and average rainfall of 147 cm (48 in). The resident civilian population in mid-2005 was 65,365 of which about 55% was black and 34% white (mainly of English or Portuguese descent), and 11% other.
Almost all of the 450 km (281 mi) of roads are surfaced. Public transportation is largely by bus. Hamilton, the capital, has a deepwater harbor. Kindley Field, near St. George, the former capital, is Bermuda's international airport.
The oldest British colony, the islands were uninhabited when discovered in 1503 by the Spaniard Juan de Bermúdez. Bermuda was first settled by a group of British colonists under Sir George Somers, who were wrecked there while en route to Virginia in 1609. Bermuda was acquired from a chartered company by the crown in 1684. Under the 1968 constitution, the governor, representing the sovereign, is advised by a cabinet of legislators appointed at the recommendation of the prime minister. The bicameral legislature consists of an appointed Senate of 11 members and a 36-member House of Assembly (elected by universal suffrage). The Bermuda dollar of 100 cents is pegged to the US dollar, which circulates freely.
Tourism is the islands' largest employer, providing about half the total national income and two-thirds of foreign exchange. Bermuda does not impose income or corporate taxes which has led to a substantial offshore financial sector. A failed referendum on independence in late 1995 was partially attributed to concerns that independence would drive away foreign firms. Also important to the economy are goods and services supplied to the UK and US armed forces stationed in Bermuda. Light industries produce pharmaceuticals and essences, brass electrical contacts, and cut flowers for export. Per capita GDP in 2003 was $36,000, among the highest in the world. In August 1995, Hurricane Felix inflicted $2.5 million in damages to Bermuda.
The chief imports are food, textiles, furniture, motor vehicles, and fuel. The United States is Bermuda's primary supplier; the major export partner is the EU. Visible trade balances are unfavorable, although trade in invisibles, primarily tourism and international business, more than offsets the commodity trade deficit. Exports in 2004 were estimated at $1.469 billion; imports, $8.078 million. There is a free port at Ireland Island.
Medical services are private. King Edward VII Hospital receives government support. Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16. Bermuda College provides post-secondary vocational courses and an associate degree program.
In 2002 there were 56,000 main telephone lines and in 2003 there were 37,873 mobile cellular phones in use on the island. There are four commercial television stations. There were five AM and three FM radio stations in 2004. There were 34,500 Internet users in 2003. There is one daily newspaper, the Royal Gazette.
Created on 3 March 1962 from former Falkland Islands dependencies, the British Antarctic Territory (BAT) lies south of 60° s and between 20° and 80° w, and consists of the South Shetlands, 4,662 sq km (1,800 sq mi); the South Orkneys, 622 sq km (240 sq mi); and Graham Land on the Antarctic continent. The territory is governed by a UK-appointed high commissioner, who also serves as governor of the Falklands. Three British Antarctic Survey stations are inhabited year-round: Signy on the South Orkneys, Rothera on Adelaide Island, and Halley V on moving ice along the Caird coast. Their personnel varies from 50 in the winter to 150 during the summer. The territory overlaps other claims on Antarctica by Argentina and Chile.
The British Virgin Islands consist of some 50 Caribbean islands and islets, totaling 153 sq km (59 sq mi), at about 18°25′ n and 64°30′ w. Until 1 July 1956, they were administered as part of the Leeward Islands. The mid-2005 population was estimated at 22,643, with 83% of African descent, and the remainder of white, Indian, Asian, or mixed descent. About 40% of the population consists of immigrants from St. Kitts and Nevis or from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Road Town (metropolitan population estimated at 19,000 in 2005) on the island of Tortola is the capital. The climate is pleasantly subtropical. At least 177 km (110 mi) of roads were paved as of 2002. There are several airstrips on the islands.
Under the constitution of 1968, as revised in 1977, the government is headed by a British-appointed administrator, who is assisted by an Executive Council and a Legislative Council of 13 members.
The economy is interdependent with that of the US Virgin Islands, which lie to the west. The US dollar is the legal currency. Livestock raising, farming, and fishing are the principal economic activities. Light industries include distilleries for alcoholic beverages, a concrete block factory, boat building, and handicrafts. Offshore financial services have also become a prominent part of the economy. Imports come predominantly from the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, or the United States, and include building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, and machinery. The over-whelmingly adverse balance of trade is offset by remittances from migrant workers and an expanding tourist industry. Tourism accounts for about 45% of the islands' annual income; in 1998 there were an estimated 350,000 visitors, mainly from the United States. The tourism industry suffered in 2002 as a result of the sluggish US economy. Principal export partners include the Virgin Islands (US), Puerto Rico, and the United States. Per capita GDP was $38,500 in 2004.
The infant mortality rate—18.05 per 1,000 live births in 2005—has been reduced from 78.9 per 1,000 live births in 1960.
Primary education is provided by the state and is compulsory from the age of 5 up to the age of 17. Scholarships are available for students to attend a university in the Caribbean, the United States, or the United Kingdom. The sole newspaper, the Island Sun, is published weekly.
The three low-lying Cayman Islands—Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac, with a total area of 262 sq km (101 sq mi)—are situated between 79°44′ and 81°27′ w and 19°15′ and 19°45′ n, about 290 km (180 mi) wnw of Jamaica, of which they were formerly a dependency. Grand Cayman, flat, rockbound, and protected by coral reefs, is about 32 km (20 mi) long and 6–11 km (4–7 mi) broad; George Town, on Grand Cayman, is the capital and chief town. The other two islands are about 145 km (90 mi) to the ne. The mid-2005 population was estimated at 44,270, about 90% of whom resided on Grand Cayman. Cayman Airways is the main air carrier; the principal international airport is on Grand Cayman.
The islands were discovered in 1503 by Columbus, who named them Las Tortugas, from the turtles with which the surrounding seas abound. They were never occupied by Spaniards and were colonized from Jamaica by the British. They were a dependency of Jamaica until 1959, but severed all constitutional links with Jamaica when the latter became independent in 1962.
The 1972 constitution empowers the crown-appointed governor to make laws with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly. The Executive Council consists of 4 members chosen by the Assembly from among its 15 elected members, and 3 Assembly members appointed to the Council by the governor. The Legislative Assembly includes 3 ex officio members, 15 elected members, and the governor. Elections, in which all adult British residents may vote, are held every four years. Local administration is in the hands of justices of the peace and vestrymen.
The Cayman Islands dollar (ci$) is linked to the US dollar at the rate of ci$1 = us$1.227 (or us$1 = ci$0.828). Customs, duties, license and company fees, and postage and stamp taxes are the principal source of government revenue. The absence of taxes on income, capital gains, real estate, and inheritances attracts overseas investors to the region; international financial services and tourism have become principal sectors of the economy. As of 1998, 40,000 companies were registered in the Caymans, including 600 bank and trust companies. Tourism has grown rapidly: in 1997, 1.2 million people visited the islands, about half of whom were from the United States. Tourism accounts for about 70% of GDP and 75% of foreign exchange earnings. Although the soil is fertile and there is some farming, the agricultural sector remains small; the catching of turtles, sharks, and sponges also provides some employment. In 1999, total exports were valued at $1.2 million, while imports amounted to $457.4 million. Remittances from Caymanian seamen serving on foreign ships contribute to the economy as well. The government-owned Cayman Turtle Farm, unique in the world, produces turtle meat for local consumption; exports have waned in recent years due to restrictions by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The islands have 2 hospitals with a total 142 beds. Education is compulsory between the ages of 4 and 16, and provided cost-free for Caymanians. The population is 98% literate.
The Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), a British crown colony in the South Atlantic, lie some 772 km (480 mi) northeast of Cape Horn, between 51° and 53° s and 57° and 62° w, and have an area of 12,173 sq km (4,700 sq mi). The two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, consist chiefly of hilly moorlands. The population (estimated at 2,967 in mid-2005) is almost exclusively of British origin. Stanley, on East Falkland, the capital and only town, has about 1,000 inhabitants. There are no railways and few surfaced roads beyond the vicinity of Stanley. Shipping service to and from the islands is slight. There is internal air service but no international service.
The Falklands were sighted in 1592 by John Davis, an English navigator. The French founded the first colony on East Falkland, in 1764, transferring it two years later to Spain, which renamed it Soledad. The British took possession of West Falkland in 1765. Both islands were eventually abandoned. In 1820, Argentina (then the United Provinces of La Plata) colonized East Falkland. British troops occupied the islands in 1832–33, but Argentina has continued to dispute Britain's claim to the Falklands. On 2 April 1982, Argentine troops invaded the islands, precipitating a conflict with the British that cost over 1,000 lives. The United Kingdom recaptured the islands on 14 June, and as of 2006, 1,177 British soldiers remained in the Falklands.
Under a new constitution which came into effect in October 1985, the colony is administered by an appointed governor, with an Executive Council of 5 members: 3 chosen by the 10-member Legislative Council, and 2 ex officio members, the chief executive and the financial secretary. The currency unit is the Falkland pound (f£), which is equal to the pound sterling.
There is no commercial agriculture. Most households in Stanley and the outlying areas grow their own vegetables. Sheep farming, the traditional industry, is directed primarily to the production of wool, hides, and skins, and the manufacture of tallow. Most commodities needed by the territory and its dependencies are imported. In 1987, the government began selling fishing licenses, which generate about $40 million per year, with squid representing about 75% of the catch. Trade is principally with the United Kingdom. Tourism is growing, with 30,000 tourists visiting the islands in 2001.
All medical services are public. The 28-bed King Edward VII Memorial Hospital is run by four physicians and a military field surgical team (one surgeon and an anesthetist). Education is free and compulsory for children from 5 to 16 years of age. Students unable to attend the schools in Stanley are taught by traveling teachers and by radio and correspondence.
Dependencies include South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, some 1,300 km (800 mi) e of the Falklands, with an area of 4,092 sq km (1,580 sq mi). Whaling and sealing are the main industries.
The Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles island chain, lie east and south of Puerto Rico and north of the Windward group. Of the four territorial units that constitute the Leeward Islands, two—Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis—are independent nations covered elsewhere in this volume. The other two—Anguilla and Montserrat—retained the status of UK dependencies as of 2006.
Anguilla, the most northerly of the Leeward chain, lies at approximately 18° n and 63° w, and has an area of 90 sq km (35 sq mi). The island is long, flat, dry, and covered with scrub; its rolling hills reach a peak elevation of 65 m (213 ft) above sea level. The average annual temperature is 27°c (81°f), with July–October being the hottest period and December–February the coolest. Rainfall averages 89 cm (35 in) a year, but there is considerable variation both from season to season and from year to year. The hurricane season, marked by occasional thunderstorms and sudden squalls, lasts from July to October.
The population was estimated at 13,254 in mid-2005. Most Anguillans are of African descent, with an admixture of European (especially Irish) ancestry. The population is overwhelmingly Christian: Anglicans (29%) and Methodists (23.9%) predominate, but there are also Seventh-Day Adventist, Baptist, Roman Catholic, and other congregations. English is the official language, spoken in a distinctive island patois. Anguilla has no official capital, but The Valley serves as an administrative center. Anguilla had about 105 km (65 mi) of roads, 65 km (41 mi) of them paved as of 2002. Road Bay is the main harbor, and there is daily ferry service between Blowing Point and the French-Dutch island of St. Martin (Sint Maarten), about 8 km (5 mi) away. Air service to and from Wallblake Airport is provided by the privately owned Air Anguilla and two other interisland airways.
Although sighted by Columbus in 1496, Anguilla was not settled by Europeans until 1650, when British colonists arrived from St. Kitts. From 1671, Anguilla was governed as part of the Leeward Islands, and between 1871 and 1956 the island formed (with St. Kitts and, from 1882, Nevis) part of the Leeward Islands Federation. All the Leeward Islands were consolidated into a single territory in 1956 and, as such, were incorporated into the Federation of the West Indies two years later. With the breakup of the West Indies Federation in 1962, St. Kitts–Nevis–Anguilla reverted to colonial status. On 17 February 1967, St. Kitts–Nevis–Anguilla acquired self-government within the newly formed West Indies Associated States. After Anguilla declared its independence of the Associated States in 1969, some 300 British paratroopers temporarily took command of the island. On 10 February 1976, the United Kingdom recognized Anguilla's status as a dependency distinct from St. Kitts and Nevis, which achieved independence in 1983.
Under the Anguilla Constitution Order of 1982, the crown is represented by a governor, who presides over an appointed Executive Council and an elected 11-member House of Assembly. The Executive Council consists of the chief minister, three other ministers selected by the governor from among the members of the House of Assembly, and the attorney general and permanent secretary for finance, who serve ex officio both on the council and in the legislature. The governor also appoints two members of the House of Assembly, the remaining seven being elected to five-year terms by universal adult suffrage. In the election of February 2005, the Anguilla United Front (a coalition of the Anguilla Democratic Party and the Anguilla National Alliance) won 4 seats, the Anguilla Strategic Alternative won 2, and the Anguilla United Movement won 1. Justice is administered by a magistrate's court, a Court of Appeal, and a High Court, whose sitting judge is provided by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court on St. Lucia.
The mainstays of the economy are luxury tourism, offshore banking, lobster fishing, and remittances from abroad. Salt is extracted by evaporation from two briny ponds, and live lobsters are exported to neighboring islands. Tourism, construction, and a developing offshore banking sector have become the most prominent economic sectors in recent years. The East Caribbean dollar (ec$) is the official currency. The GDP was estimated at $112 million in 2002, or $7,500 per capita. The economy, especially tourism, suffered damage from Hurricane Luis in 1995.
Education is provided by the state and is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 17 years. The government maintains six primary schools and one secondary school; total school enrollment exceeds 2,200. Princess Alexandra Hospital offers limited services. International telephone, telegraph, and telex services are available. Various radio stations are available, including the government-run Radio Anguilla. Caribbean Beacon Radio, NBR(New Beginning Radio), and VOC (Voice of Creation) are religious stations; Kool FM and HBR (Heartbeat Radio) offer music and news.
Dependencies of Anguilla include numerous offshore islets and cays, as well as Sombrero Island (5 sq km/2 sq mi), about 56 km (35 mi) to the northwest.
Situated at 16°45′ n and 62°10′ w, Montserrat has an area of 103 sq km (40 sq mi). The island, which lies between Nevis and Guadeloupe, about 43 km (27 mi) southeast of Antigua, has a mountainous terrain, with two peaks rising higher than 900 m (3,000 ft). Montserrat is wholly volcanic in origin, and there are seven active volcanoes. Mean temperatures range from a minimum of 23°c (73°f) to a maximum of 31°c (88°f); June–November, the hurricane season, is the warmest time of the year, and December–March is the coolest. There is no clearly defined rainy season, although rainfall tends to be more abundant during the second half of the year; the annual average is 157 cm (62 in).
In mid-2005, an estimated 9,341 people lived on the island, down from 12,853 in 1998. After the island's volcano became active in 1995, an estimated 8,000 refugees left the island. Since then, the British government has developed three contingency plans concerning the population, depending on the amount of the volcano's destruction: moving the southern population to the north; total evacuation to neighboring islands (Antigua and Barbuda and Guadeloupe); and permanent settlement elsewhere should the island become uninhabitable. When destructive pyroclastic lava flows came in mid-1997, much of Montserrat's population was evacuated to the northern tip of the island, and about half of the population left the island.
Most residents of Montserrat are of African ancestry. Anglicans, Methodists, Roman Catholics, and Pentecostals make up the great majority of the population. English, the official language, is spoken in an island patois. Montserrat has about 269 km (168 mi) of highways, about 203 km (127 mi) of which are paved. Blackburne Airport, about 15 km (9 mi) from the capital, opened to traffic in 1967 but was covered by pyroclastic material from the volcano and became impossible to use. In 2005, an airport at Gerald's opened. Montserrat Aviation Services, in cooperation with WinAir, maintains regular flights to and from Antigua, Nevis, and St. Kitts.
Christopher Columbus, who sighted the island in November 1493, gave it the name Montserrat because its rugged terrain reminded him of the site of the Abbey of Montserrat in the Spanish highlands near Barcelona. English and Irish colonists from St. Kitts settled on the island in 1632, and the first African slaves arrived 32 years later. Throughout the 18th century, the British and French warred for possession of Montserrat, which was finally confirmed as a British possession by the Treaty of Versailles (1783). By the early 19th century, Montserrat had a plantation economy, but the abolition of slavery in 1834, the elimination of the apprentice system, the declining market for sugar, and a series of natural disasters brought the downfall of the sugar estates. In the mid-19th century, Joseph Sturge of Birmingham, England, organized a company that bought up the abandoned estates, planted them with limes (a product for which Montserrat is still famous), and sold plots of land to small farmers. From 1871 to 1956, Montserrat formed part of the Federation of the Leeward Islands, and after two years as a separate colony it became part of the Federation of the West Indies (1958–62). Since the breakup of the Federation, Montserrat has been separately administered, under a constitution effective 1 January 1960.
The crown is represented by an appointed governor, who presides over an Executive Council structured like that of Anguilla. There is also a Legislative Council which, like Anguilla's, includes two appointed members. In 2001, the number of elected members of the legislature was expanded from seven to nine; the attorney general and financial secretary serve as ex-officio members. Suffrage is universal at age 18. The legislators serve terms of up to five years. In elections held in April 2001, the New People's Liberation Movement, led by John A. Osborne, won seven seats and the National Progressive Democratic Party led by Reuben T. Meade won two seats. Montserrat's judicial system consists of a magistrate's court and a Court of Summary Jurisdiction; appeals are to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court on St. Lucia.
Prior to the resumption of volcanic activity in the mid-1990s, tourism accounted for about one-fourth of the annual GDP; the island had some 17,000 visitors in 1992. Important crops include cabbages, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Exports include electronic components, plastic bags, apparel, hot peppers, live plants, and cattle. Montserrat uses the East Caribbean dollar. In 2002, GDP was us$29 million. Exports in 2001 were us$700,000; imports, chiefly of machinery and transportation equipment, foodstuffs, manufactured goods, fuels, lubricants, and related materials totaled some us$17 million.
The principal health facility was Plymouth's 65-bed Glendon Hospital, maintained by the government; it was destroyed by the volcano activity of the mid-1990s, and hospital services were relocated to St. John's in the north, which has a bed capacity of 30. Provisions for social welfare include a family planning association and an old people's welfare association. Free dental care is provided by the government for all schoolchildren, elderly persons, and expectant or nursing mothers. Education is free and compulsory up to age 14. As of 2006, radio service was provided by the public station Radio Montserrat, which broadcasts on FM, having lost its AM transmitter to volcanic activity. There is a cable TV provider. There are two weekly newspapers, the Montserrat Times and the Montserrat Reporter.
TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
Archaeological expeditions have found Arawak implements and utensils on Turks and Caicos Islands. When Juan Ponce de León arrived in 1512, Lucayan Indians had come to inhabit the islands. There is some speculation that Columbus may have made his landfall on Grand Turk or East Caicos on his first voyage of discovery in 1492. The first settlements were by Bermudians, who established solar salt pans in the 1670s. Bahamian, Bermudan, Spanish, French, and British rivalry over the prospering salt trade resulted in numerous invasions and evictions through the first half of the 18th century. In 1787, Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution established settlements and cotton and sisal plantations on several of the larger Caicos Islands. Ten years later, the islands came under the jurisdiction of the Bahamas colonial government. Slavery was abolished in 1834. In 1848, the Turks and Caicos islanders were granted a charter of separation from the Bahamas after they complained of Bahamian taxes on their salt industry.
From 1848 to 1873, the islands were largely self-governing, under the supervision of the governor of Jamaica. Following the decline of the salt industry, the islands became a Jamaican dependency until 1958, when they joined the Federation of the West Indies. When the federation dissolved and Jamaica achieved independence in 1962, Turks and Caicos became a crown colony administered by the British Colonial Office and a local council of elected and appointed members. In 1965, the governor of the Bahamas was also appointed governor of Turks and Caicos, but with the advent of Bahamian independence in 1973, a separate governor was appointed. A new constitution maintaining the status of crown colony and providing for ministerial government was introduced in September 1976. Although independence for Turks and Caicos in 1982 had been agreed upon in principle in 1979, a change in government brought a reversal in policy. The islands are still a crown colony.
The islands were shaken by scandals in the mid-1980s. In March 1985, Chief Minister Norman B. Saunders and two other ministers were arrested in Florida on drug charges and later convicted and sentenced to prison. In July 1986, a commission of inquiry found that Chief Minister Nathaniel Francis and two other ministers had been guilty of "unconstitutional behavior, political discrimination, and administrative malpractice." The governor thereupon ended ministerial government in July 1986 and, with four members of the former Executive Council, formed an Advisory Council to govern until new elections. The islands have returned to their previous form of government, and remain a dependent territory of the United Kingdom.
Situated in the Atlantic Ocean se of the Bahamas, e of Cuba, and n of Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos Islands consist of two island groups separated by the Turks Island Passage, 35 km (22 mi) across and about 2,100 m (7,000 ft) deep. The Turks group comprises two inhabited islands, Grand Turk and Salt Cay, six uninhabited cays, and numerous rocks surrounded by a roughly triangular reef bank. The Caicos group encompasses six principal islands (North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, South Caicos, West Caicos, and Providenciales), plus numerous rocky islets, all surrounded by the Caicos Bank, a triangular shoal. The total land area of the Turks and Caicos Islands is 430 sq km (166 sq mi), with extensions of about 120 km (75 mi) e–w and 80 km (50 mi) n–s. Comparatively, the area occupied by the Turks and Caicos Islands is slightly less than 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC. The Turks and Caicos Islands have a coastline length of 389 km (242 mi). The capital city, Grand Turk, is in the Turks Islands.
The Turks Islands are low and flat, and surrounded by reefs, sunken coral heads, and boilers. The land mass is limestone, well weathered with pockets of soil; the coastlines are indented with shallow creeks and mangrove swamps. The Caicos Bank is a triangular shoal about 93 km (58 mi) long on its northern side and 90 km (56 mi) long on its eastern and western sides. The highest elevation is only 50 m (163 ft) above sea level on Providenciales. On the north coast of Middle Caicos (which is also known as Grand Caicos) are limestone cave formations.
Days are sunny and dry and nights are cool and clear throughout the year. Temperatures on the islands range from a low of 16°c (61°f) to a high of 32°c (90°f), with the hottest period generally occurring between April and November. There are almost constant tradewinds from the east. Rainfall averages 53 cm (21 in) per year, and hurricanes are a frequent occurrence. Major hurricanes struck the islands in 1866, 1873, 1888, 1908, 1926, 1928, 1945, 1960, and 1985.
The ground cover is scrubby and stunted tropical vegetation, with sea oats, mangrove, casuarina, and palmetto. There is little natural wildlife other than birds and butterflies. West Caicos island is especially noted as a sanctuary for birds, and Penniston, Gibb, and Round cays are known for their extensive varieties of butterflies. Spiny lobster, conch, clams, bonefish, snapper, grouper, and turtle are plentiful.
Fresh water is a scarce commodity, and most islanders rely on private cisterns. Underground water is present on North and Middle Caicos, but surface water collected in ponds after rainfall becomes brackish. There have been some complaints of actual or potential ecological damage resulting from the expansion of tourist facilities on Providenciales. The government has identified the absence of environmental education as a potential problem for the preservation of the nation's natural heritage in the future. By 1992, the government had developed legislation that would create 12 national parks, 8 nature reserves, 5 sanctuaries, and 9 historic sites.
The population of the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2005 was estimated at 20,556. In the 1990s, most people were living on Grand Turk, South Caicos, and North Caicos islands. The birthrate in 2005 was 22.23 per 1,000 population and a death rate of 4.28.
It was estimated that 72% of the population lived in urban areas in 2000. The capital, Grand Turk, has an estimated population of 4,000. Cockburn Harbour is the major town on South Caicos.
About 90% of the population is of black African descent, the remainder being of mixed, European, or North American origin. The official and universal language of the Turks and Caicos Islands is English, interspersed with a number of local colloquialisms. Most islanders are Christian; the main denominations are Baptist (40%), Methodist (16%), Anglican (18%), and Church of God (12%). Other Protestant groups and the Roman Catholic Church are also represented.
There are about 121 km (75 mi) of roads on the islands. The main roads on Grand Turk and South Caicos are paved. Some secondary roads are surfaced with scale from the salinas (salt ponds); otherwise, the roads are merely dirt and sand tracks.
The main seaports are at Grand Turk, Cockburn Harbour on South Caicos, Providenciales, and Salt Cay. An offshore registry program with the United Kingdom enables British merchant ships to register with the Turks and Caicos Islands in order to cut crew costs while enabling the vessels to fly the Red Ensign of the United Kingdom. There are eight airports, six with paved runways, and two with small unpaved landing strips.
Tourism and lobster fishing have replaced salt raking as the main economic activity of the islands, which are very poor. Fishing and subsistence farming are the principal occupations; under-employment and unemployment are estimated at over 40%. Important sources of income include tourism and offshore financial services. The closing of the last US military base in 1983 resulted in the loss of rental payments that accounted for 10% of government revenue. Most of the retail trade on the islands consist of imported goods. Tourism has been boosted by the advent of service by American Airlines, US Airways, British Airways, Delta Airlines, and Air Canada, and new hotel, resort and casino openings. Visitors are attracted by the beautiful beaches and by opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and sport fishing. The windmills and salinas on Salt Cay and the 19th-century architecture on Grand Turk, along with horse carriages, provide a quaint setting.
Most food for domestic consumption is imported; there is some subsistence farming—mainly corn, cassava, citrus, and beans—on the Caicos Islands. Major sources of government revenue include fees from offshore financial activities and customs receipts as the Islands rely on imports for nearly all consumption and capital goods.
A modern cottage hospital (36 beds) and an outpatient and dental clinic are located on Grand Turk, and there are health clinics on all of the islands. Extensive medical services are also available on Providenciales. The infant mortality rate was 15.67 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005, down from 21.11 deaths per live births in 1999 and from 25 per 1,000 live births in 1993.