St. Vincent and the Grenadines

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St. Vincent and the Grenadines


Compiled from the December 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

St. Vincent and the Grenadines



Area: 340 sq. km. (130 sq. mi.); slightly less than twice the size of Washington, DC. The Grenadines include 32 islands, the largest of which are Bequia, Mustique, Can-ouan, and Union. Some of the smaller islands are privately owned.

Cities: Capital—Kingstown.

Terrain: Volcanic and mountainous, with the highest peak, Soufriere, rising to 1,219 meters (4,000 ft.).

Climate: Tropical.


Nationality: Noun and adjective—Vincentian.

Population: (2005) 119,100.

Annual growth rate: (1998) 0.5%.

Ethnic groups: African descent (66%), mixed (19%), West Indian (6%), Carib Indian (2%), other (7%).

Religions: Anglican (47%), Methodist (28%), Roman Catholic (13%), other Protestant denominations, Seventh-day Adventist, and Hindu.

Languages: English (official); some French Patois spoken.

Education: (2004) Adult literacy—88.1%.

Health: (2006) Infant mortality rate—14/1,000. Life expectancy—men 72 years; women 75.8 years.

Work force: (2004) 55,431.

Unemployment: (2004) 12%.


Type: Parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth.

Independence: October 27, 1979.

Constitution: October 27, 1979.

Government branches: Executive—governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II, head of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative—unicameral legislature with 15-member elected House of Assembly and six-member appointed Senate. Judicial—district courts, Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (High Court and Court of Appeals), final appeal to the Privy Council in London.

Political subdivisions: Six parishes.

Political parties: Unity Labour Party (ULP, incumbent), New Democratic Party (NDP).

Suffrage: Universal at 18.


GDP: (2005) $428.1 million.

GDP growth: (2005) 4.9%.

Per capita GDP: (2005) $3,594.

Inflation: (2005) 4.6%.

Natural resources: Timber.

Agriculture: Mostly bananas.

Industry: Plastic products, food processing, cement, furniture, clothing, starch, and detergents.

Trade: (2005) Exports—$40 million (merchandise) and $155 million (commercial services). Major markets—European Union (27.2%), Barbados (12.7%), Trinidad and Tobago (12.3%), Saint Lucia (10.9%), and the United States (9.2%). Imports—$240 million (merchandise) and $74 million (commercial services). Major suppliers—United States (33.3%), Trinidad and Tobago (23.6%), European Union (15.1%), Japan (4.2%), and Barbados (3.9%). Exchange rate: EC$2.70 = U.S. $1.


Most Vincentians are the descendants of African slaves brought to the island to work on plantations. There also are a few white descendants of English colonists, as well as some East Indians, Carib Indians, and a sizable minority of mixed race. The country's official language is English, but a French patois may be heard on some of the Grenadine Islands.


Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th century. African slaves—whether shipwrecked or escaped from St. Lucia and Grenada and seeking refuge in St. Vincent—intermarried with the Caribs and became known as “black Caribs.” Beginning in 1719, French settlers

cultivated coffee, tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugar on plantations worked by African slaves. In 1763, St. Vincent was ceded to Britain. Restored to French rule in 1779, St. Vincent was regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles in 1783. Conflict between the British and the black Caribs continued until 1796, when General Abercrombie crushed a revolt fomented by the French radical Victor Hugues. More than 5,000 black Caribs were eventually deported to Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. Slavery was abolished in 1834; the resulting labor shortages on the plantations attracted Portuguese immigrants in the 1840s and east Indians in the 1860s. Conditions remained harsh for both former slaves and immigrant agricultural workers, as depressed world sugar prices kept the economy stagnant until the turn of the century. From 1763 until independence, St. Vincent passed through various stages of colonial status under the British. A representative assembly was authorized in 1776, Crown Colony government installed in 1877, a legislative council created in 1925, and universal adult suffrage granted in 1951.

During this period, the British made several unsuccessful attempts to affiliate St. Vincent with other Windward Islands in order to govern the region through a unified administration. The most notable was the West Indies Federation, which collapsed in 1962. St. Vincent was granted associate statehood status in 1969, giving it complete control over its internal affairs. Following a referendum in 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence.

Natural disasters have plagued the country throughout the 20th century. In 1902, the La Soufriere volcano erupted, killing 2,000 people. Much farmland was damaged, and the economy deteriorated. In April 1979, La Soufriere erupted again. Although no one was killed, thousands had to be evacuated, and there was extensive agricultural damage. In 1980 and 1987, hurricanes devastated banana and coconut plantations; 1998 and 1999 also saw very active hurricane seasons, with hurricane Lenny in 1999 causing extensive damage to the west coast of the island.


St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations. 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 the government rests with the prime minister and the cabinet.

The parliament is a unicameral body, consisting of 15 elected members and six 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 five 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 a Court of Appeals, is known in St. Vincent as the St. Vincent and the Grenadines supreme court. The court of last resort is the judicial committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council in London.

There is no local government in St. Vincent, and all six parishes are administered by the central government.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Governor General: Frederick Nathaniel BALLANTYNE, Sir

Prime Minister: Ralph E. GONSALVES

Dep. Prime Minister: Louis STRAKER

Min. of Agriculture, Forestry, & Fisheries: Montgomery DANIEL

Min. of Education: Girlyn MIGUEL

Min. of Finance: Ralph E. GONSALVES

Min. of Foreign Affairs, Commerce, & Trade: Louis STRAKER

Min. of Grenadine Affairs & Legal Affairs: Ralph E. GONSALVES

Min. of Health & the Environment: Douglas SLATER

Min. of Housing, Informal Human Settlements, Physical Planning, & Lands & Surveys: Julian FRANCIS

Min. of Information: Ralph E.GONSALVES

Min. of Labor: Ralph E. GONSALVES

Min. of National Mobilization, Social Development, NGO Relations, Family, Gender Affairs, & Persons with Disabilites: Michael BROWNE

Min. of Planning & Economic Development: Ralph E. GONSALVES

Min. of Rural Transformation, Information, Public Service, & Ecclesiastical Affairs: Selmon WATERS

Min. of Telecommunications, Science, Technology, & Industry: Jerrol THOMPSON

Min. of Tourism, Youth, & Sports: Glen BEACHE

Min. of Transportation & Works: Clayton BURGIN

Min. of Urban Development, Labor, Culture, & Electoral Matters: Rene BAPTISTE

Attorney General: Judith JONES-MORGAN

Ambassador to the US: Ellsworth JOHN

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Margaret Hughes FERRARI

St. Vincent and the Grenadines maintains an embassy at 3216 New Mexico Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20016 (tel. 202-364-6730). St. Vincent also has a consul resident in New York.


The People's Political Party (PPP), founded in 1952 by Ebenezer Joshua, was the first major political party in St. Vincent. The PPP had its roots in the labor movement and was in the forefront of national policy prior to independence, winning elections from 1957 through 1966. With the development of a more conservative black middle class, however, the party began to lose support steadily, until it collapsed after a rout in the 1979 elections. The party dissolved itself in 1984.

Founded in 1955, the St. Vincent Labour Party (SVLP), under R. Milton Cato, gained the support of the middle class. With a conservative law-and-order message and a pro-Western foreign policy, the SVLP dominated politics from the mid-1960s until the mid-1980s. Following victories in the 1967 and 1974 elections, the SVLP led the island to independence, winning the first post-independence election in 1979. Expecting an easy victory for the SVLP in 1984, Cato called early elections. The results were surprising: with a record 89% voter turnout, James F. Mitchell's New Democratic Party (NDP) won nine seats in the House of Assembly.

Bolstered by a resurgent economy in the mid-1980s, Mitchell led his party to an unprecedented sweep of all 15 House of Assembly seats in the 1989 elections. The opposition emerged from the election weakened and fragmented but was able to win three seats during the February 1994 elections under a “unity” coalition. In 1998, Prime Minister Mitchell and the NDP were returned to power for an unprecedented fourth term but only with a slim margin of 8 seats to 7 seats for the Unity Labour Party (ULP). The NDP was able to accomplish a return to power while receiving a lesser share of the popular vote, approximately 45% to the ULP's 55%. In March 2001, the ULP, led by Ralph Gonsalves, assumed power after winning 12 of the 15 seats in Parliament.

In the December 2005 parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Gonsalves and the ULP retained their 12-3 majority over the NDP.


Banana production employs upwards of 60% of the work force and accounts for 50% of merchandise exports in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Such reliance on one crop makes the economy vulnerable to fluctuations in banana prices and the erosion of European Union trade preferences. To combat these vulnerabilities, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is focused on diversifying its economy away from reliance on bananas.

Although less prominent than in other Eastern Caribbean countries, tourism has grown to become a very important part of the economy, and the chief earner of foreign exchange. The Grenadines have become a favorite of high-end tourism and the focus of new development in the country. In 1996, new cruise ship and ferry berths came on line, sharply increasing the number of passenger arrivals. In 2004, total visitor arrivals numbered 160,000.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines' currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$), a regional currency shared among members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues the EC$, manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries. The ECCB has kept the EC$ pegged at EC$2.7=U.S. $1.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative that grants duty-free entry into the United States for many goods. St. Vincent and the Grenadines also belongs to the predominantly English-speaking Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).


St. Vincent and the Grenadines maintains close ties to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and is a member of regional political and economic organizations such as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and CARI-COM. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is also a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).


The United States and St. Vincent have solid bilateral relations. Both governments are concerned with eradicating local marijuana cultivation and combating the transshipment of narcotics. In 1995, the United States and St. Vincent signed a Maritime Law Enforcement Agreement. In 1996, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed an Extradition Treaty with the United States. In 1997, the two countries signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

The United States supports the Government of St. Vincent and the Gren-dines' efforts to expand its economic base and to provide a higher standard of living for its citizens. U.S. assistance is channeled primarily through multilateral agencies such as the World Bank. The United States has 27 Peace Corps volunteers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, working in business development, education, and health. The U.S. military also provides assistance through construction and humanitarian civic action projects.

A relatively small number of Americans—fewer than 1,000—reside on the islands.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

BRIDGETOWN (E) Wildey Business Park, Wildey, St. Michael BB 14006, APO/FPO APO AA 34055, 246-436-4950, Fax 246-429-5246, Workweek: Mon-Fri: 8.00-4.30, Website:

DCM OMS:Hillaire Campbell
AMB OMS:Honora L. Myers
ECO:Anthony Eterno
FM:Frank Mashuda
HRO:Peggy Laurance (Residence In Ft Lauderdale)
MGT:Philip A. Dubois
AMB:Mary M. Ourisman
CG:Clyde I. Howard
DCM:O.P. Garza (Tdy)
PAO:John C. Roberts
GSO:Paul A. Kalinowski
RSO:Robert W. Starnes
AFSA:Arend Zwartjes
AID:James Goggin
CLO:Kimberly Ent/Shannon Baguio
DAO:Ltc. Edgar Hernandez (Res.Caracas)
DEA:Charles Graham
EEO:Ricardo Cabrera
FAA:Dawn Flanagan (Res.Washington)
FMO:Karin Sullivan
ICASS:Chair Cdr. P. Kofi Aboagye
IMO:Ricardo Cabrera
IRS:Cheryl Kast
ISO:Norman G B Ellasos
ISSO:Ricardo Cabrera
LAB:John C. Aller
LEGATT:Samuel Bryant, Jr..
MLO LCDR:Cdr.P. Kofi Aboagye
NAS:John C. Roberts
POL:Ian Campbell
State ICASS:Cdr. P. Kofi Aboagye

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade
Trade Information Center

14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 1-800-USA-TRADE

American Action

1818 N Street, NW,
Suite 310 Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075


Consular Information Sheet

April 2, 2007

Country Description: St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an English-speaking developing Caribbean island nation. Tourism facilities are widely available.

Entry Requirements: For information concerning entry requirements, travelers can contact the Embassy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 3216 New Mexico Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016, telephone (202) 364-6730, or the consulate in New York.

U.S. Citizens traveling by air to and from St. Vincent and the Grenadines must present a valid passport when entering or re-entering the United States. Sea travelers must have a valid U.S. passport (or other original proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a certified U.S. birth certificate with a government-issued photo ID) and an onward ticket. U.S. citizens should take special care to secure these documents while traveling, as it can be time-consuming and difficult to acquire new proof of citizenship to facilitate return travel should the original documents be lost or stolen. Travelers must pay a departure tax when leaving the country.

Safety and Security: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Petty street crime occurs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. From time to time, property has been stolen from yachts anchored in the Grenadines. Valuables left unattended on beaches are vulnerable to theft. Persons interested in nature walks or hikes in the northern areas of St. Vincent should arrange in advance with a local tour operator for a guide; these areas are isolated, and police presence is limited.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities are limited. There is a hospital in the capital, Kingstown, but serious medical problems may require evacuation to another island or the United States. There is no hyperbaric chamber; divers requiring treatment for decompression illness must be evacuated from the island. The closest hyperbaric chamber is located in Barbados. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and the hospital often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's internet site at For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at Further health information for travelers is available at

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning St. Vincent and the Grenadines is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Vehicles travel on the left side of the road. Roads are narrow, and generally poorly paved, with steep inclines throughout the islands. Taxis and buses are relatively safe, but buses are often overcrowded. Vans are generally overcrowded and frequently travel at high rates of speed. Night driving is discouraged in mountainous areas because the roads are not well marked; there are few, if any, guardrails, and roads are steep and winding.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines' Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of St. Vincent and the Grenadines' air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet website at

Special Circumstances: All Caribbean countries can be affected by hurricanes. The hurricane season normally runs from June to the end of November, but there have been hurricanes in December in recent years. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados is responsible for consular issues on the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including American Citizens Services. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their citizenship documents with them at all times so that if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating St. Vincent and the Grenadines' laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown is located in the Wildey Business Park in suburban Wildey, south and east of downtown Bridgetown. The main number is (246) 431-0225; after hours, the Embassy duty officer can be reached by calling (246) 436-4950. The website for Embassy Bridgetown is Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, except Barbados and U.S. holidays.

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