St. Kitts and Nevis

views updated May 14 2018



Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis

CAPITAL: Basseterre

FLAG: Two thin diagonal yellow bands flanking a wide black diagonal band separate a green triangle at the hoist from a red triangle at the fly. On the black band are two white five-pointed stars.

ANTHEM: National Anthem, beginning "O land of beauty."

MONETARY UNIT: The East Caribbean dollar (ec$) of 100 cents is the national currency. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 25 cents and 1 East Caribbean dollar, and notes of 5, 10, 20, and 100 East Caribbean dollars. ec$1 = us$0.37037 (or us$1 = ec$2.7) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The imperial system is used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1st Monday in May; Bank Holiday, 1st Monday in August; Independence Day, 19 September; Prince of Wales's Birthday, 14 November; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December; Carnival, 30 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday and Whit-monday.

TIME: 8 am = noon GMT.


St. Kitts lies about 8 km (5 mi) se of the Netherlands Antilles and 72 km (45 mi) nw of Antigua, in the Leeward Islands. It is 37 km (23 mi) long and 8 km (5 mi) across at its widest point, with a total area of 261 sq km (101 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by St. Kitts and Nevis is slightly more than 1.5 times the size of Washington, DC. Nevis lies about 3.2 km (2 mi) se of St. Kitts, across a channel called the Narrows; it is 13 km (8 mi) long and 10 km (6 mi) wide, with a land area of 93 sq km (36 sq mi). Together the islands have a coastline of 135 km (84 mi).

The capital city, Basseterre, is located on St. Kitts.


St. Kitts and Nevis are of volcanic origin. In the northwest of St. Kitts is Mt. Liamuiga (also called Mt. Misery), a dormant volcano that is the island's highest peak at 1,156 m (3,792 ft); to the south and west of Mt. Liamuiga are 210-m (700-ft) cliffs that drop straight to the sea. On the southern arm of the island lies the Great Salt Pond. The island of Nevis could be considered to be one large dormant volcano. Nevis's highest elevation is the central peak of Mt. Nevis, at 985 m (3,232 ft); it is usually capped in clouds. There is a black sand beach on the northwest coast.

The islands are located on the Caribbean tectonic plate at the boundary of the North American Plate; the subduction of the Atlantic Plate beneath the Caribbean Plate was responsible for the formation of the islands and continues to cause earthquakes in the surrounding region.


Temperatures range from 26°c (79°f) to 32°c (89°f) all year long. Northeast tradewinds are constant. Rain usually falls between May and November, averaging 109 cm (43 in) a year. High humidity characterizes the summer months. Hurricane season runs from late summer to early fall.


The upper slopes of Mt. Nevis are well wooded; coconut palms, poincianas, and palmettos are profuse. Lemon trees, bougainvillea, hibiscus, and tamarind are common on both islands. Swamps and marshes on the southern peninsula of St. Kitts feature red and white mangroves. There are some black-faced vervet monkeys on Monkey Hill in St. Kitts. Coral reefs off the coast serve as a habitat for such marine life as sea turtles, barracuda, eels, and rays.


Deforestation, erosion, and water pollution are among the most significant environmental problems in St. Kitts and Nevis. Deforestation has affected the nation's wildlife population and contributed to soil erosion. The erosion of the soil produces silt, which affects the living environment for marine life on the coral reefs.

Water pollution results from uncontrolled dumping of sewage into the nation's waters. Another contributing factor is pollution from cruise ships which support the nation's tourist trade. In an effort to establish a framework for the regulation of environmental issues, the government has introduced legislation. The National Conservation and Environmental Protection Act, along with the Letter Act, are aimed at monitoring the nation's most pressing environmental concerns.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 1 type of mammal, 2 species of birds, 3 types of reptiles, 11 species of fish, and 2 species of plants. Threatened species in the country included the red-bellied racer, green turtle, leatherback turtle, and the hawksbill turtle.


The population of St. Kitts and Nevis in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 48,000, which placed it at number 186 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 8% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 28% of the population under 15 years of age. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.0%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 57,000. The overall population density was 133 per sq km (345 per sq mi), with the density on the island of St. Kitts twice that of Nevis.

The UN estimated that 33% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that the population in urban areas was declining at an annual rate of -0.42%. The capital city, Basseterre, had a population of 13,000 in that year. Charlestown is the largest urban settlement on Nevis.


There is less emigration in the current period than there was during the mid-20th century, largely because the economy enjoys almost full employment during the tourist and harvest seasons. During the off-season, some people migrate to other islands in search of work. The total number of migrants was 4,000 in 2000. In 2005, the net migration rate was -5.9 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


About 96% of the population are of black African descent. Only about 5% of the population are mulatto, 3% Indo-Pakistani, and 1.5% European.


English, sprinkled with local expressions, is the universal language.


Christianity is the dominant religion. The Anglican Church, the largest church on the island, claims about 50% of the population. About 25% are Roman Catholics. Other Christian groups are Methodists, Moravians, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses. There are small communities of Rastafarians and Baha'is. Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution. Certain Christian holidays are recognized as national holidays. The St. Kitts Christian Council is a nongovernment group that promotes interfaith understanding.


As of 2004, a light, narrow-gauge railway of 50 km (31 mi) on St. Kitts was operated by the government to transport sugarcane from fields to factory and processed sugar to the pier at Rawlins Bay. In 2002, there were 320 km (199 mi) of roads on the islands, of which 136 km (85 mi) were paved; the main roads circle each island. Basseterre and Charlestown are the principal ports. A state-run motorboat service is maintained between St. Kitts and Nevis. In 2004 there were two airports, both with paved runways. Golden Rock International Airport is a modern facility serving Basseterre; several small airlines fly to a landing strip at Newcastle, on Nevis.


Arawak Indians, followed by Caribs, were the earliest known inhabitants of the islands. Discovered by Columbus in 1493 and named St. Christopher, St. Kitts was the first of the British West Indies to be settled. Sir Thomas Warner established a settlement on St. Kitts in 1623, later leading colonial expeditions to Nevis in 1628 and Antigua in 1632. For a short while during this period there were French settlements at both ends of St. Kitts, and the French settlers cooperated with the British to repel a Spanish invasion. By the 1660s there were some 4,000 Europeans engaged in the sugar trade, based on a plantation system with slaves imported from Africa. The French gained control in 1664 but lost it to the British in 1713, under the Peace of Utrecht. The French besieged the British garrison in the Brimstone Hill fortress in 1782 and once more gained control of the island, but the Treaty of Versailles (1783) returned St. Kitts again to Britain. By the late 18th century, the thermal baths at Charlestown, Nevis, attracted thousands of international tourists. Although the slaves were emancipated in 1834, many of the ex-slaves continued to work on the sugar plantations, so the sugar-based economy did not decline as rapidly as elsewhere in the West Indies.

St. Kitts, Nevis, and Anguilla (the most northerly island of the Leeward chain) incorporated with the British Virgin Islands in 1816. The territorial unit of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla became part of the Leeward Islands Federation in 1871 and belonged to the Federation of the West Indies from 1958 to 1962. In 1967, the three islands became an associated state with full internal autonomy under a new constitution. After the Anguilla islanders rebelled in 1969, British paratroopers intervened, and Anguilla seceded in 1971, an arrangement formally recognized on 19 December 1980.

There have been regular general elections in St. Kitts and Nevis since 1971. A 1982 white paper on independence provoked stormy debate over the form of the constitution, spilling over into civil unrest in 1982 and 1983. St. Kitts and Nevis became an independent federated state within the Commonwealth on 19 September 1983. Under the arrangement, Nevis developed its own legislature and gained the power to secede from the federation. Elections in June 1984 produced a clear majority for the People's Action Movement/Nevis Reformation Party coalition.

In the 21 March 1989 elections, 11 of 14 members of the National Assembly were elected, six from the People's Action Movement Party (PAM), two from St. Kitts and Nevis Labor Party (SKNLP), two from the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP), and one from the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM). In the 29 November 1993 elections, no major party won the most seats and no coalition government emerged. The governor-general invited a minority government to form. In response, the Labour Party demonstrated, which led to serious disturbances, causing a 21-day state of emergency in December 1993.

In June 1996, Nevis premier Vance Amory announced plans for Nevis to secede from the federation as detailed in the constitution. Elections for the Nevis Island Assembly held in February 1997 returned Amory to power. The CCM retained its three seats, and the NRP held its two seats. Nevis's assembly voted unanimously for secession in 1997. However, a referendum on succession in July 1998 was unsuccessful when it failed to gain the approval of two-thirds of the electorate (61.8% in favor).

The 3 July 1995 elections gave the SKNLP seven seats; PAM kept one seat; NRP, one seat; and the CCM, two seats. Denzil L. Douglas, leader of the SKNLP, became prime minister. Elections in March 2000 resulted in SKNLP winning all eight seats in St. Kitts, returning Douglas for a second five-year term as prime minister. The CCM retained two seats in Nevis, and NRP kept one seat. The PAM won no seats.

Elections were held in October 2004. The SKNLP won 7 seats, the CCM, 2; the NRP, 1; and the PAM, 1. Douglas began a third term as prime minister. Douglas has stated that any differences between Nevis and St. Kitts should be resolved through constitutional reform, rather than by a referendum on secession.

In March 2005, the government decided to close the 300-year old sugar industry after the 2005 harvest. The sugar industry had long been ailing. However, tourism and the offshore financial industry are growing. By 2003, Nevis had approximately 17,000 off-shore businesses operating under strict secrecy laws; this made the islands attractive to drug traffickers and money launderers. St. Kitts and Nevis enacted new laws to try to crack down on the problem.


St. Kitts and Nevis is a federation of the two constituent islands. Under the constitution passed at independence in 1983, the British monarch is head of state and is represented by a governor-general, who is required to act upon the advice of the cabinet, and a deputy governor-general for Nevis.

The nation is governed under a parliamentary system, with legislative power vested in the unicameral House of Assembly, consisting of the speaker, three senators (two appointed on the advice of the prime minister and one on the advice of the leader of the opposition), and 11 elected members elected from each of 11 constituencies for up to five years. The cabinet, collectively responsible to the Assembly, consists of the prime minister (who must be able to command the support of a legislative majority), the attorney general (ex officio), and other ministers. The prime minister could call for an early election if the people request it in a voted referendum, though it has yet to happen. The Nevis Island Assembly and the Nevis Island Administration (headed by the British monarch represented by the deputy governor-general) operate similarly to the federation government.

Suffrage is universal for all citizens 18 or older.


There are four political parties that have held seats in the House of Assembly. Although the Labour Party (now the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour PartySKNLP) dominated the political scene from the 1950s until 1980, it was supplanted after independence by the People's Action Movement. The PAM won 6 seats, a clear majority, in both 1984 and 1989. The Labour Party held 2 seats in 1984 and 1989. The Nevis Reformation Party, founded in 1970, took 3 seats in 1984 and 2 seats in 1989, all of which were from constituencies on Nevis. The Concerned Citizen's Movement took 1 Nevisian seat in 1989. In 1993, the SKNLP and PAM each had 4 seats. CCM took 2 seats and the NRP took 1 seat. In 1995, the SKNLP won 7 seats, the PAM, 1 seat, and the CCM, 2 seats. In 2000, the SKNLP won all 8 seats from St. Kitts. The CCM held its 2 seats, and the NRP held its 1 seat. In 2004, the SKNLP won 7 seats, the CCM, 2; the NRP, 1; and the PAM, 1.


There are nine parishes in St. Kitts: St. George Basseterre, St. Peter Basseterre, St. Mary Cayon, Christ Church Nichola Town, St. John Capisterre, St. Paul Capisterre, St. Anne Sandy Point, St. Thomas Middle Island, and Trinity Palmetto Point. Nevis has five parishes: St. Paul Charlestown, St. John Figtree, St. George Gingerland, St. James Windward, and St. Thomas Lowland. Under the 1983 constitution, Nevis has its own legislative assembly and the right to secede under certain conditions.


The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, established on St. Lucia, administers the judicial system, which is based on English common law and statutory acts of the House of Assembly. A judge of the Court is responsible for St. Kitts and Nevis and presides over the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. Magistrates' courts deal with petty criminal and civil cases. The attorney general is the government's principal legal adviser. An appeal may be taken to the organization of Eastern Caribbean States Court of Appeal; until 2003, final appeals were taken to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. St. Kitts and Nevis was among the nations joining together to form the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to hear cases formerly taken to the Privy Council. The court was officially inaugurated in April 2005. As of 2005, however, the court's jurisdiction was limited to the CARICOM states of Barbados and Guyana. The CCJ heard its first case in August 2005.

There are no military or political courts.

The judiciary has a reputation for independence and integrity. The system provides legal assistance to indigent criminal defendants.


St. Kitts and Nevis participates in the Eastern Caribbean Regional Security System created jointly with Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1985.


St. Kitts and Nevis became a member of the United Nations on 23 September 1983; it belongs to ECLAC and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as, the FAO, the World Bank, ILO, UNSECO, UNIDO, and the WHO. The country is a member of the ACP Group, the WTO, the Commonwealth of Nations, CARICOM, the Caribbean Development Bank, G-77, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the OAS, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and OECS. The headquarters for the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank is in St. Kitts.

St. Kitts and Nevis is also a part of the Eastern Caribbean Regional Security System (RSS), the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, the country is part of the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Whaling, CITES, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Before 1987, the economy was based on agriculture, particularly on sugar, which generated over half of export revenues. The government closed down the sugar industry following the 2005 harvest after decades of losses at the state-owned sugar company. To compensate for the loss of the sugar industry, the government is embarking upon new ways to diversify the agricultural and other sectors of the economy. During the 1990s, tourism and related industries became the most important source of revenue in St. Kitts and Nevis. The country still produces sea island cotton, peanuts, vegetables, and coconuts, but the more than 400,000 visitors per year are the most important sources of jobs and earnings. The government has been making efforts to expand tourism and to improve local food production (the country imports most of its food needs). The country has had success with the development of its light manufacturing industriesmainly garments and electronics assembly, data entry, the expansion of non-sugar agricultural production and tourism. The average annual GDP between 1988 and 1998 was 4.8%. In 2004, the GDP growth rate stood at 5.1%. Inflation remains tame, at an annual average just below 2%.

Decreasing world prices hurt the sugarcane industry in the recent past, as have natural disasters like Hurricane Georges in 1998. Faced with the prospect of declining tourism after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Prime Minister Douglas offered a free one-week vacation in St. Kitts to all the firefighters and police in New York City and Washington, DC.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 St. Kitts and Nevis's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $339.0 million. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $8,800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at -1.9%. The average inflation rate in 2001 was 1.7%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 3.5% of GDP, industry 25.8%, and services 70.7%.

Approximately 33% of household consumption was spent on food, 11% on fuel, 5% on health care, and 13% on education.


In the latest years for which data was available, the labor force in 1995 was estimated at 18,172. Manufacturing employed 31% and services 69%. The unemployment rate was estimated at 4.5% in 1997.

The St. Kitts and Nevis Trades and Labor Union, established in 1940, is associated with the Labor Party and is the major workers' labor organization. The sugar industry and civil service are the largest employers, with tourism gaining importance, especially on Nevis. Unions have the right to organize and bargain collectively. The right to strike is not codified by law but is well established and respected.

The minimum working age is 12 years and this is effectively enforced. The government sets and enforces basic worker health and safety laws. The minimum wage varies by job classification and skill level of the wage earner. In 2001, it was us$67.42 per week for a full-time domestic worker and us$166.10 per week for a skilled worker. The workweek is generally set at five days with 40 hours. The law provides a two-week annual vacation.


Of the islands' total land area, about 22% is devoted to crops. The principal agricultural product of St. Kitts is sugarcane; peanuts are now the second crop. On Nevis, sea island cotton and coconuts are the major commodities. Sweet potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, and breadfruit are grown for local consumption on both islands, mostly by individual smallholders. In 2004, agricultural products accounted for about 35.2% of total imports by value and 19.6% of exports; the government has embarked on a program to substitute for food imports.

Sugar estate lands were nationalized in 1975, and the sugar factory was purchased by the government the following year. The output of raw sugar slumped between 1986 and 1989, and as a result the government entered into a management agreement with Booke and Tate of Great Britain in August 1991; a World Bankloan of us$1.9 million was utilized to provide financial stability. Sugar production in 2004 was estimated at 193,000 tons.


Pasture areas are small, covering some 5.6% of the islands. Pangola and Bermuda grasses provide the bulk of the fodder. Estimates of livestock in 2005 were sheep, 12,500; goats, 16,000; cattle, 4,800 head; and pigs, 2,000.


Fishing is a traditional occupation that has not expanded to any great extent; the catch in 2003 was 370 tons (down from 620 tons in 1990). Some exports (primarily lobsters) are made to the Netherlands Antilles and Puerto Rico; fisheries exports totaled us$267,000 in 2003.


Both islands have small stands of virgin tropical forest, with palms, poincianas, and palmettos. About 11% of the land area consists of forests. Imports of forest products nearly reached us$1.8 million in 2004.


The mining sector played a minor role in St. Kitts and Nevis. Raking of salt, the country's fourth-leading industry, was done from time to time. Local quarrying of some materials was used to supplement the construction industry. In 2001, output for sand and gravel was 215,000 metric tons (estimated), up from 50,389 metric tons in 1996; crushed stone output was 121,270 metric tons.


Total electric power generating capacity in 2002 was 20,000 kW. Electricity production in 2002 was 106 million kWh, entirely from conventional thermal sources. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 98 million kWh. St. Kitts and Nevis have no fossil fuels, and all petroleum products must be imported. Imports and consumption of refined petroleum products in 2002 averaged 710 barrels per day, the largest portion at 370 barrels per day were distillates. There were no imports of natural gas or coal in 2002.


Industry accounted for 26% of GDP in 2001. The principal manufacturing plant and largest industrial employer until 2006 was the St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corp., a government enterprise; it ground and processed sugarcane for export. The government shut down the company after the 2005 harvest due to decades of losses. A brewery on St. Kitts makes beer for local consumption, and cotton is ginned and baled on Nevis. Electronic plants produce switches, calculators, car radios, and pocket radios. Other industries are clothing and shoe manufacturing.

The manufacturing suffered a decline in 1998 due to Hurricane Georges. As a result of diversification and expansion, St. Kitts and Nevis has transformed small electronics plants into the largest electronics assembly industry in the Eastern Caribbean. Its apparel assembly industry has also become very successful in recent years.

There are four major industrial sites in St. Kitts and Nevis: C. A. Paul Southwell Industrial Park, Bourkes Industrial Estate, Canada Industrial Estate, and Prospect Industrial Estate. Porte Zante is the main seaport.


St. Kitts and Nevis is dependent on outside resources both for industrial technology and for advanced scientific and technical education. The government is currently developing postsecondary education; a technical school was in operation in 1987.


Basseterre, on St. Kitts, and Charlestown, on Nevis, are the primary commercial centers of the islands. Once based almost exclusively on sugar production and exports, the economy has shifted over the years to focus on services, particularly related to tourism. The government continues to work on investment incentive programs to encourage both domestic and foreign business investors.

General business is conducted from 8 am to 4 or 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Normal banking hours are 8 am to 2 pm, Monday through Thursday, and from 8 am to 4 pm on Fridays.


The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has expanded trade incentives in recent years. Doing business in the country is virtually tax free. However, American businesses' use of tax havens such as St. Kitts and Nevis has been called into question in recent years.

Most exports in 2004 went to the United States (57.5%), followed by Canada (9%), Portugal (8.3%), and the United Kingdom (6.7%). About two-thirds of the sugar crop until 2006 was exported to the United States. Other exports include machinery, electronics, food, and beverages.

The majority of imports in 2004 came from the Ukraine (44.7%), the United States (22.1%), Trinidad and Tobago (8.8%), and the United Kingdom (6.2%).


Earnings from tourism and overseas remittances largely offset the trade deficit. From 1988 to 1990, the current account deficit increased

United States22.195.6-73.5
United Kingdom7.315.6-8.3
Netherlands Antilles0.21.7-1.5
Antigua and Barbuda0.10.9-0.8
St. Lucia0.10.7-0.6
Trinidad and Tobago0.123.4-23.3
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account-124.0
   Balance on goods-113.2
   Balance on services10.9
   Balance on income-38.2
   Current transfers16.4
Capital Account14.6
Financial Account106.9
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Saint Kitts and Nevis8.4
   Portfolio investment assets0.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities31.5
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets0.6
   Other investment liabilities-5.6
Net Errors and Omissions12.2
Reserves and Related Items-9.7
() data not available or not significant.

from 21% of GDP to nearly 35% of GDP, but went down to about 20% in 1998. The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States negatively impacted the St. Kitts and Nevis tourism industry.

In 2005, the value of exports was estimated at us$70 million, and the value of imports at us$405 million.


St. Kitts and Nevis has a relatively simple system of public and private financial institutions, which the government wishes to expand. As a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), it has as its central monetary authority the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), headquartered in Basseterre. The Eastern Caribbean Home Mortgage Bank is also located in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The two islands had eight banks in 2000, including both foreign and domestic concerns. Barclays Bank, the Royal Bank of Canada, and the Bank of Nova Scotia represent foreign interests, whereas domestic interests include the St. Kitts and Nevis National Bank, the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis, and the Nevis Cooperative Bank. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $42.5 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $305.9 million.

Securities transactions on international exchanges are performed by the banks.


International, regional, and local insurance companies or agents offer life and property insurance. There are five insurance companies in St. Kitts and Nevis, including Barbados Mutual Life and Assurance Society, British American Insurance, Colonial Life Insurance (Trinidad), St. Kitts and Nevis Insurance, and National Caribbean Insurance.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2003 St. Kitts and Nevis's central government took in revenues of approximately $89.7 million and had expenditures of $128.2 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$38.5 million. Total external debt was $171 million.


There is no personal income tax for residents of St. Kitts and Nevis. Corporations are taxed at the rate of 38% of income, but the Fiscal Incentives Act offers generous development and tax concessions. Profit remittances are taxed at a 10% rate; there is also a land tax and a house tax. There is a capital gains tax of 20%.


St. Kitts and Nevis is bound by the common external tariff of CARICOM and requires an import license for certain durable and nondurable products. CARICOM members have reduced rates to a maximum of 20%. Tariff rates for pharmaceuticals and medicines used to treat infectious diseases are subject to a 10% tariff. Automobiles are subject to a 70% rate. There are no value-added or sales taxes.


Like most Caribbean microstates, St. Kitts and Nevis has an investment incentives program. Joint ventures and labor-incentive industries are especially welcome. Official development assistance and resource flows from commercial sources totaled us$25 million in 1997.

Foreign investment incentives include the following: a tax holiday of up to 15 years; tax rebates of up to 5 years; and exemption from customs duties on machinery deemed necessary to establish and update an enterprise.

Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) rose steadily from us$19.7 million in 1997 to a peak of us$96.2 million in 2000. In 2001, FDI inflow was us$82.9 million. Significant new investment in the tourism industry, including a 648-room Marriott hotel and convention center that opened in December 2002, as well as other planned resort projects, are designed to improve economic performance. Net FDI inflows were projected to equal 15.5% of GDP in 2005.


The government until 2006 attempted to halt the decline of the sugar industry by restructuring the sector, and encouraged agricultural diversification and the establishment of small industrial enclaves linked to the international export market. However, following the 2005 harvest, the government shut down the sugar industry after decades of losses. Four industrial estates have been developed. The tourist industry has received considerable government support. The Development and Finance Corporation is the principal development agency.

The country's plans continue to be aimed at diversifying the economy. Construction projects in the private and public sector are expected to contribute substantially to the moderate economic growth that St. Kitts and Nevis should experience in the near future. Hurricanes in 199899 caused widespread damage, but due to spending on post-hurricane reconstruction and repair, gross domestic product (GDP) growth was strong in the early and mid-2000s. The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States adversely impacted the tourism industry in the short-term. The telecommunications sector has been liberalized, and a Financial Intelligence Unit was set up in the offshore sector.


A dual social insurance and social assistance system provides coverage for old age, disability, and survivorship. Qualifying conditions for receiving an old-age pension include an age of 62 and 500 weeks of paid contributions. The government funds the system. Sickness and maternity benefits have been in place since 1996, covering all employed and self-employed persons. Work injury provisions are funded solely by employer contributions.

Although there is no overt discrimination against women, tradition prevents women from achieving higher levels of employment. The Department of Gender Affairs was created by the government to promote women's rights and provide counseling for abused women. A special police unit works closely with the Ministry to investigate domestic violence and rape cases. There is a special training program to educate police and school guidance counselors in dealing with domestic violence, sex crimes, and child abuse. Most of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have been incorporated into domestic law.

Human rights are generally well respected, although prison conditions are poor. Facilities are overcrowded, and in the past these conditions led to prison riots.


In 2004, there were an estimated 118 physicians, 498 nurses, and 18 dentists per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 3.1% of GDP.

Hygienic education is the primary concern of the Central Board of Health. The infant mortality rate was an estimated 14.49 per 1,000 people in 2005. Average life expectancy in the same year was 72.15 years. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 18.6 and 9 per 1,000 people. AIDS is present but not considered a major problem. Polio and measles appeared to be absent from these islands.


The government has placed emphasis on planned housing development in order to conserve agricultural lands. The Central Housing Authority began a program of low-cost home construction in 1977. The water supply, which comes from mountain springs and deep wells, is controlled by the Water Department. In the early 1980s, roughly four-fifths of all dwellings were detached houses, with apartments and commercial buildings making up most of the remainder. Over half of all dwellings were owner occupied and about one-third were rented privately; the remainder were occupied rent free or rented from the government. The most common construction materials for housing were wood (50%), wood and concrete combined (25%), and concrete (20%).

In 1998, Hurricane Georges damaged 85% of the housing stock. In response, the government joined with USAID and the OAS to create a Housing Sector Recovery Plan which was meant to create a plan of action for repair and upgrading of existing housing, so that these structures might be better suited to withstand future storms. The government has also supported a number of other housing development plans sponsored in part by foreign investors, including the 2002 projects of the KOMLA Group of Companies of Guadeloupe and the CLICO Group of Barbados. These projects were community plans which included shopping locations, a medical center, recreation and park areas, as well as two- and three-bedroom homes. The same year, the Minister of Housing announced plans of the St. Kitts and Nevis Labor Party Administration to build 1,000 low-income homes in 2003 with an investment of ec$45 million. The Labor Party built 1,200 homes in 2000.

The CARIFESTA Housing Programme is an ongoing project of the government for construction and funding of new housing. In 2000, 130 two- and three-bedroom homes were constructed through the program. In 2002, the CARIFESTA Revolving Fund was established to offer loans of up to ec$80,000 to individual landowners hoping to build their own homes.


Schooling is compulsory for students between the ages of 5 and 16. Primary school covers a course of seven years, followed by five years of high school and, for those who choose to attend, two years of senior high school. Charlestown Secondary School is the only school on Nevis that offers the full seven years of secondary education. On St. Kitts, students wishing to complete the final two years of secondary school attend Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College of Further Education. The academic year runs from September to July.

Most children attend some type of preschool program between the ages of three and four. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 100% of age-eligible students and nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 17:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 10:1.

The Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College of Further Education is the only state institution of higher learning. Most programs offered cover the first year of general university programs. There is also a local extension site of the University of the West Indies. There are six private institutions. The adult literacy rate has been estimated at about 97%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.2% of GDP, or 7.9% of total government expenditures.


The Charles A. Halbert Library Public Library has a central library at Basseterre and four branch locations on St. Kitts. The Nevis Public Library Service consists of the Nevis Central Public Library, the St. George's Branch Library, and three school libraries. There are mobile library services on both St. Kitts and Nevis. The National Museum is located in the Old Treasury Building at Basseterre. The Museum of Nevis History is in Charlestown, as is Nelson Museum, which preserves memorabilia of Lord Horatio Nelson.


The telephone system is operated by the government, while international cable and wireless services are operated privately. In 2002, there were 23,500 mainline phones and 5,000 mobile phones in use nationwide.

ZIZ Radio and Television is owned and operated by the government. The Voice of Nevis is an AM radio station. WinnFM is a private commercial station. Radio broadcasting began in 1961, and television broadcasting in 1972. In 2004, there were 3 AM and 3 FM radio stations and 1 television station. In 1997 there were 575 radios and 273 television sets in use per 1,000 population. In 2002, there were 10,000 Internet subscribers. In 2003, there were 53 Internet hosts.

In 2004, there were four independent weekly newspapers and one independent daily, as well as papers published by the major political parties. Sun St. Kitts/Nevis is the daily. The Labour Spokesman, founded in 1957, is published twice weekly and had a 2002 circulation of 6,000. The Democrat, which is published weekly, had a circulation of 3,500.

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the government is said to generally respect these rights. However, because the government owns the only radio and TV stations, these media are said to inadequately cover opposition rallies and other events.


The St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Commerce has its headquarters in Basseterre, and the Nevis Cotton Growers' Association has its office in Charlestown. The primary labor union is the St. Kitts Trades and Labour Union, which is associated with the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party.

National youth organizations include Boy Scouts of Saint Kitts and Nevis, New Reformation Party Youth Movement, Young Labor, Young Pamites, and YMCA/YWCA. There are a variety of sports associations, many associated with the St. Kitts and Nevis Olympic Association.

Many US charitable organizations have operations in the islands, including the 4-H Foundation, Planned Parenthood, Heifer Project International, Operation Crossroads Africa, and Project Concern. Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and Kiwanis International, are also present. There is a national chapter of the Red Cross Society.


The chief historic attraction on St. Kitts is Brimstone Hill fortress. The UNESCO World Heritage Site towers 230 m (750 ft) above the Caribbean, took 100 years to build, and is partially restored. Beautiful beaches and the Georgian architecture of Basseterre also attract tourists. Nevis has many beaches and relic plantations and a quaint atmosphere reminiscent of the 18th century. Popular spectator sports are golf, bird watching, snorkeling, and parasailing.

Visitors from the United States and Canada only need proof of citizenship to enter the island. Nationals of all other countries need a valid passport, and citizens of 96 countries do not need a visa. An onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds may be required. The government has dredged the main harbor on St. Kitts to accommodate cruise ships.

In 2002, approximately 67,531 tourists arrived on the islands. Over half of these visitors were from the United States.

The cost of traveling in St. Kitts and Nevis varies according to the season. Between December and April, estimated daily expenses are approximately us$272, and us$235 the rest of the year.


Sir Thomas Warner (d.1649) established the first colony on each island. US statesman Alexander Hamilton (17571804) was born in Charlestown.


St. Kitts and Nevis has no territories or colonies.


Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Moll, V.P. St. Kitts-Nevis. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio, 1995.

Olwig, Karen Fog. Global Culture, Island Identity: Continuity and Change in the Afro-Caribbean Community of Nevis. Philadelphia: Harwood, 1993.

St. Kitts and Nevis

views updated May 18 2018


Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis



St. Kitts and Nevis are islands in the Caribbean Sea, in the Leeward Island chain to the west of Antigua. The area of the twin-island state is 261 square kilometers (101 square miles), with St. Kitts occupying 168 square kilometers (65 square miles) and Nevis 93 square kilometers (36 square miles). The country is approximately 1.5 times the size of Washington, D.C., and has a coastline measuring 135 kilometers (84 miles). The capital and main settlement of St. Kitts, Basseterre, is on the island's southern coast, while Charleston, the main town of Nevis, lies on the west coast.


The population of St. Kitts and Nevis was estimated at 38,819 in July 2000, a fall of 0.22 percent on the previous year's figure and a decline from the mid-1998 estimate of 40,700. According to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the islands' population declined by an annual average rate of 2.4 percent between 1995 and 1998. The principal reason for the falling population is emigration , estimated at 11.85 migrants per 1,000 population in 2000. This migration is caused by labor mobility and a lack of employment and other opportunities on the islands.

Most Kittitians and Nevisians are of African descent, and there are smaller communities composed of people of mixed race and European descent. There is a small community in St. Kitts descended from immigrants of Middle Eastern origin. The population is fairly evenly distributed over age groups, with 30 percent of people aged between 1 and 14.


St. Kitts has been extremely dependent on sugar production, and, until the 1980s, sugar was the island's principal export and source of employment. Nevis, less fertile than St. Kitts, was a cotton-producing island. Both, however, have diversified their economies over the last 3 decades, although the sugar industry remains an important employer in St. Kitts. Currently the major industry in the islands is tourism, encouraged by government investment in cruise ship facilities and by private-sector investment in hotels.

In the late 1990s St. Kitts and Nevis were badly affected by recurring hurricanes. Extensive damage to agriculture and buildings occurred after Hurricane Georges in 1998 and Hurricane Lenny in 1999. In 1999 the government estimated that Hurricane Georges had caused over US$400 million of damage and was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency assistance with reconstruction. The devastation slowed tourist arrivals, due to damaged infrastructure and closed hotels, and also reduced the 1999 sugar crop. Construction, on the other hand, increased as people repaired their homes and the government rebuilt infrastructure.

The government has partly succeeded in reducing the country's dependence on sugar by encouraging other forms of agriculture, manufacturing, and financial services, as well as tourism. The light manufacturing sector includes electronic components, textiles, and packaging, for the U.S. market, while 1 industrial estate specializes in heavy operational machinery. Tourism, despite natural disasters, showed steady growth throughout the 1990s, and the government is attempting to build up an offshore financial sector. Nevis already has an international reputation as an established " tax haven ."

St. Kitts and Nevis has a mix of small, local companies and larger, U.S.-owned corporations. The state sector is still large, despite attempts by the government to divest itself of the state-owned and anachronistic Sugar Company, which drains government resources and remains a liability rather than an asset. Despite this state of affairs and diversification, sugar continues to occupy a large place in the islands' economic and social life. One persistent cause for concern is the country's growing debt, made worse by hurricane damage and the need to borrow to pay for reconstruction projects.


Since gaining its independence from the United Kingdom in 1983, the federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has experienced some turbulent political developments, particularly a concerted move by Nevisians to secede from the federation. There have also been political crises relating to disputed election results, alleged drug trafficking, and other forms of corruption.

In St. Kitts the main political party is the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP), which won elections in 1995 and 2000. Dominant in the 1960s and 1970s under self-government, in 1995 the SKNLP replaced a coalition government headed by the People's Action Movement (PAM), which remains the main opposition party. In Nevis the main party is the Concerned Citizens' Movement (CCM), which advocates secession from the federation and is opposed by the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP). A referendum on the issue of secession was held in Nevis in 1998, with 61.7 percent of the electorate voting in favor (just short of the two-thirds majority required for constitutional change). Relations between the 2 islands are sporadically tense, with Nevisians accusing St. Kitts of benefiting from their taxes without providing adequate services from central government.

Since its election in 1995, the SKNLP has made progress in modernizing the country's economy and attracting investment in manufacturing, tourism, and financial services. The party differs little from the PAM in terms of its general pro-business outlook but has attempted to put an end to the alleged corruption and drug-related activity that occurred in the early 1990s. Then in 1994 several high-profile murders occurred and British police officers were invited by the government to assist with anti-drug operations. The main issue of political difference remains between St. Kitts and Nevis, a conflict reminiscent of Anguilla's rebellion in 1969, which was based on Anguilla's desire not to be part of a state with St. Kitts and Nevis.

The government of St. Kitts and Nevis is able to exert considerable influence on economic development with its management of the state sector (which includes the money-losing St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corporation), its policies on foreign investment, and taxation. About the former, it has tried to increase foreign investment by offering tax concessions and other inducements to companies and individuals willing to invest in a range of industries and sectors. Government policy on taxation has been to increase needed revenue by spreading the range of taxation over sales taxes, property taxes, fees, and other taxes paid by foreign businesses. There is no personal income tax , but the government raised electricity and water tariffs and introduced a substantial rise in petroleum prices in 2000. The revenue earned through these measures was offset by falling income from taxes on hotel-room occupancy and other forms of tourist expenditure in the wake of hurricanes.

CountryTelephones aTelephones Mobile/Cellular aRadio Stations bRadios aTV Stations aTelevisions aInternet Service Providers cInternet Users c
St. Kitts & Nevis17,000205AM 3; FM 1; shortwave 028,000110,000162,000
United States194 M 69.209 M (1998)AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18575 M1,500219 M7,800148 M
Jamaica353,000 (1996)54,640 (1996)AM 10; FM 13; shortwave 01.215 M7460,0002160,000
St. Lucia37,0001,600AM 2; FM 7; shortwave 0111,000332,000155,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].


The road infrastructure in the islands is adequate though underdeveloped, with 320 kilometers (199 miles) of roads of which 136 kilometers (84 miles) are paved. There are 58 kilometers (36 miles) of railway track on St. Kitts for transporting sugarcane only. A deep-water port was opened in Basseterre in 1981, and more recently, the government has invested in cruise ship facilities in the capital, creating the Port Zante terminal that can receive 2 cruise ships at once. Other ports and harbors are less developed, and in Nevis there is only a small jetty at Charlestown. The main airport, R.L. Bradshaw International, is near Basseterre and can handle international flights. Nevis, on the other hand, has only a small airport and receives most of its tourists through St. Kitts, another source of friction between the 2 islands. The main focus for tourist infrastructure is now St. Kitts' southeast peninsula, where there are several large resorts. Much of the island, however, is undeveloped in tourism terms, but there are several hotels and guesthouses in former plantation houses.

St. Kitts and Nevis has no natural power resources and is obliged to import fuel, mostly oil from Trinidad and Tobago, for electricity generation. According to the CIA Handbook, electricity generation in 1998 was 85 million kilowatt hours (kWh) and consumption was 79 million kWh. Telecommunications have improved in recent years, with widespread access to telephones and growing use of cellular phones and the Internet. There are no recent statistics, however, regarding telecommunications.


Although an important employer and source of export earnings, agriculture accounted for only 5.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 1996. According to World Bank figures, by 1999 its share had decreased still further to about 3.6 percent of the GDP. This drop represents a massive fall from the 1960s when sugar was the major economic force on the island, contributing 25 percent of the GDP, and 1979 when agriculture represented 15.5 percent. Sugar remains the largest employer and source of revenue in agricultural terms.

Industry was estimated to contribute 22.5 percent of the GDP in 1996 and, according to the World Bank, 23.8 percent in 1999. Industry has always represented a high percentage of the GDP in St. Kitts and Nevis because the country has well-established, traditional manufacturing such as sugar refining.

The services sector has shown sustained growth, rising from 59.6 percent of the GDP in 1979 to 72 percent in 1996. The World Bank figure for 1999 is almost unchanged at 72.6 percent. The main service sector is tourism, but financial services are becoming an increasingly important source of revenue.


The first British colonial possession in the Caribbean, St. Kitts with, to a lesser degree, Nevis, was among the earliest plantation economies in the region. Sugar production dominated the island for 350 years. According to Eric Williams in his From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean, 1492-1969, in 1897, when the peak of sugar production was long past, St. Kitts still had over 15,000 sugar workers, 136 factories, and 35 plantations with over 500 acres each.

What remains is a fragment of the former industry, but the extensive plantations of the St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corporation (SSMC) still employed about 10 percent of the labor force , or 1,500 people, in 1994. In government hands since 1975, the SSMC loses money each year, and its output is subsidized by the government through the state-owned National Bank. According to the St. Kitts-Nevis Observer, production costs per ton are 25 percent higher than the price received from the European Union (EU), which offers the country a guaranteed annual quota of 15,600 tons. The United States also buys a fixed annual quota of sugar from St. Kitts-Nevis at above world market prices. But despite these preferential markets, the SSMC is a loss-maker, costing the government the equivalent of 3.5 percent of the GDP annually. In his 2001 New Year speech, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas spoke of the urgent need to reduce the SSMC's losses by divesting itself of its land and other assets to avoid a "national disaster."

The situation has been worsened by recent hurricane damage. In 1999 exports fell 24.7 percent from the previous year, totaling 17,178 tons and earning only US$9.6 million. This followed a brief upsurge in 1997, when production reached 31,374 tons. Bad weather conditions caused the tonnage of cane cut per hectare also to fall from 65 in 1998 to 53.5 in 1999. There is a recurring labor shortage in the industry since few younger Kittitians want to work long and hard hours for little reward. The government has been obliged to contract seasonal cane cutters from Guyana, and there have been complaints of low wages paid to these temporary workers and of their poor conditions.

The government has been encouraged by the IMF and others to diversify the country's agricultural output and to reduce the high food imports. There has been an increase in vegetable cultivation on St. Kitts, while Nevis produces sea-island cotton and coconuts. One successful by-product of the otherwise ailing sugar industry is cane spirit, a white rum exported to Europe or North America.


Traditional industries such as sugar refining, rum distilling, and tobacco processing are well established in St. Kitts. The island has also witnessed the steady growth of newer manufacturing interests in recent years, leading to a 23.8 percent share of the GDP in 1999. In fact, 4 industrial sites have been developed, specializing in heavy machinery, electronic components, and other manufactured goods destined for the North American market. Garment manufacturing has expanded since the mid-1990s and now accounts for a large share of export earnings. Upgrading the Port Zante harbor complex in Basseterre enables large container ships to call, further enhancing St. Kitts' attractiveness as an offshore manufacturing base. According to the World Bank, manufactured exports were valued at US$20 million in 1998 and 1999, suggesting that this sector was the least affected by hurricane damage. There is no manufacturing on Nevis. In 1997 the IMF estimated that 1,290 people worked in the manufacturing sector.



This sector was badly hit by the effects of the hurricanes in 1998 and 1999. The country had just started to rebuild after Georges in 1998 when Lenny created substantial damage in 1999. The Port Zante complex, where the pier and terminal buildings are located, suffered serious damage. In Nevis, the only large hotel was forced to close for 6 months, resulting in lay-offs of staff (al-though many were employed to re-landscape devastated gardens) and decreased government revenue. Overall visitor arrivals, both of those staying over and those on cruise ship calls, fell about 15 percent in 1999, with a resulting decrease in visitor expenditure from the 1998 figure of US$75.7 million.

Tourism has become important to St. Kitts and Nevis, which has created a network of often small but upmarket hotels and guesthouses in former plantation houses. Larger hotel complexes exist as well, especially in the Frigate Bay area of St. Kitts where there are golf courses, casinos, and condominiums. Cruise ships have become an important part of the tourist industry, especially since the construction of the Port Zante terminal. Tourism is vital to Nevis, where manufacturing and other economic activity is much less diversified than in St. Kitts. There is considerable concern that any slowdown in the United States or European economies could have a serious effect on the tourist industry if U.S. and European consumers should decide they cannot afford a Caribbean vacation.


As elsewhere in the Eastern Caribbean, financial services are of growing importance. This is especially true in Nevis, which has a reputation as an efficient and discreet tax haven. Most investors are based in North America and Europe, and few are local. The banks and other businesses offer services to customers, individuals, and businesses seeking to avoid taxation in the countries in which they are based. According to the IMF, the current legal framework "provides for a high degree of confidentiality and for income tax exemption." In early 2001 the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), supported by European and North American governments, named St. Kitts and Nevis, among other Caribbean countries, as a suspected location of financial irregularities. The government has agreed to close loopholes in its legal and regulatory structures about offshore financial transactions. There are several dozen banks and other businesses based in St. Kitts-Nevis, but they provide little local employment, as most business is conducted electronically. Details as to customer identity and the value of deposits are well-kept secrets.


St. Kitts and Nevis imports approximately 4 times more value than it exports (US$160 million in imports against US$42 million in exports in 1998). This trade imbalance is only partly offset by tourism and other service revenues. Most troubling is the large food import bill, much of which is due to foodstuffs imported for the tourist sector but which also suggests that the islands are dependent on imports for basic nutritional requirements. Other imports are machinery, cars, fuel, andsince the recent hurricanesbuilding materials.

According to 1995 figures (the most recent available), the United States was the most important export market, taking 68.5 percent of merchandise, mostly garments and electronic components. The United Kingdom took 22.3 percent of exports, primarily sugar, while

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): St. Kitts & Nevis
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.
Exchange rates: St. Kitts and Nevis
East Caribbean dollars (EC$) per US$1
Note: The rate for St. Kitts and Nevis has been fixed since 1976.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries received the remainder of exported goods. The United States was also the main source of imports (42.4 percent), with CARICOM countries supplying 17.2 percent, primarily food and fuel.


Hurricanes notwithstanding, St. Kitts and Nevis enjoyed average annual GDP growth rates of 5 percent in the 1990s. Inflation has also been low, largely because St. Kitts and Nevis is a member of regional financial institutions such as the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB). The Eastern Caribbean dollar, a currency shared with the 7 other members of the ECCB, is stable and has been pegged at a rate of EC$2.7 to US$1 for many years. Thus St. Kitts and Nevis is not too vulnerable to fluctuating exchange rates , although transactions with EU countries have been affected by the low value of the euro. There are plans for ECCB member countries to participate in a regional stock exchange, further integrating the economies of the small islands. In its 2000 analysis of the St. Kitts and Nevis economy, the IMF "considered that the exchange rate system operated by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank has served the country well in maintaining macroeconomic stability and low inflation."

The ECCB is headquartered in Basseterre, and there are 3 major international banks as well as the international business companies (IBCs) that operate in the financial services sector.


St. Kitts and Nevis is not one of the poorer countries of the Eastern Caribbean. The Caribbean Development Bank estimated per capita GDP at US$7,086 in 1998, which is above the regional average. There are no statistics for the distribution of wealth, but there are distinct pockets of poverty, especially in rural areas and those communities still dependent on the sugar industry. Few

GDP per Capita (US$)
St. Kitts & NevisN/A2,5693,1234,4796,716
United States19,36421,52923,20025,36329,683
St. LuciaN/A2,0762,1503,5423,907
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

of the benefits from economic growth and diversification are to be seen in the more remote north-coast areas of St. Kitts, where living conditions and social services are still rudimentary. Although free primary education is available and there is a network of rural medical clinics, costs attached to education and medical treatment are too high for poorer families. In many cases, regular remittances from family members working overseas are an essential economic lifeline.

In contrast, there is a conspicuously wealthy class based in Basseterre, in the Frigate Bay area. Some of this wealth is alleged to derive from drug-trafficking and other illegal activity, while other, legal, sources of prosperity are linked to real estate, tourism development, and the growth of financial services. There is a sizable and wealthy British expatriate community, especially in Nevis, while some older people are rich after a lifetime of working and saving abroad. But neither St. Kitts nor Nevis has the facilities to cater to the really rich, and those with large disposable incomes shop in Miami, Caracas or, less expensively, larger Caribbean islands. Education and health facilities are also found abroad.


In 1997 unemployment was estimated at 4.5 percent. Conditions in the antiquated agricultural sector are poor, with long hours and hard labor demanded, especially during the cane-cutting season. Average day rates in the sugar industry can be as low as US$10. A part of the labor force, especially during the annual harvest, has to be imported from poorer nations such as Guyana. The sugar labor force varies according to the season, but in the cutting season from March to July there are approximately 1,500 workers employed. The St. Kitts-Nevis Labor Union, once a powerful voice for the rights of sugar workers, is now severely weakened.

In contrast, wages and conditions in manufacturing, tourism, and the financial services sector are average or above-average for the region, and trade unions are effective in monitoring compliance with labor laws. There is no informal sector and little evidence of child labor, while women are active in most areas of employment except the sugar industry. Basic labor rights such as sick pay are observed.


1493. Christopher Columbus sights and names St. Kitts and Nevis.

1623. St. Kitts becomes the site of the first British settlement in the Caribbean.

1783. St. Kitts is officially ceded to Britain after 150 years of shared Anglo-French occupation.

1816. St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands are administered as a single colony.

1967. St. Kitts, Nevis, and Anguilla together become a "state in voluntary association with Britain" and is granted self-government.

1969. Anguilla unilaterally secedes from the tripartite grouping and is re-established as a separate British Crown Colony in 1971.

1983. St. Kitts and Nevis attains full independence as a federal state.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
CountryAll foodClothing and footwearFuel and power aHealth care bEducation bTransport & CommunicationsOther
St. Kitts & Nevis334115131814
United States139946851
St. Lucia405114171111
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

1994. Political crisis occurs amid allegations of corruption and official involvement in drug trafficking.

1995. St. Kitts and Nevis Labor Party (SKNLP) returns to power.

1998. Secession referendum in Nevis narrowly votes to retain federation; Hurricane Georges causes US$400 million in damages.

2000. SKNLP wins a second term in office.


Apart from the unpredictable issue of future hurricanes, economic prospects for St. Kitts and Nevis will be determined by the sugar industry and relations between the 2 islands. The government will seek to reduce its subsidies to the faltering state-owned sugar company, either by privatizing any profitable parts of its operations or by closing it altogether. The latter course of action would carry with it drastic social consequences, including wide-scale unemployment.

Much also depends on whether St. Kitts and Nevis remain within their federal relationship or whether Nevis eventually decides to go its own way. If it should do so, the island would be one of the smallest sovereign states in the world and even more vulnerable to unexpected economic shocks such as another hurricane. What is more likely is that Nevis will extract concessions from St. Kitts, especially on tax and government spending issues, and will remain within the federation, if rather reluctantly.

The broader picture for the 2 islands is also uncertain. If there is a general crackdown on offshore financial centers, as advocated by the wealthy nations of the OECS, then the budding financial sector in St. Kitts and Nevis will suffer as investors move their money elsewhere. Manufacturing, too, is also vulnerable to increased competition from elsewhere in the Caribbean and Latin America as trade barriers come down and foreign companies look for the cheapest sources of labor. Tourism, despite the risks it faces from weather and a possible recession in the United States, looks like the safest future option for these small and vulnerable islands.


St. Kitts and Nevis has no territories or colonies.


Caribbean Development Bank, Annual Report 1999. Barbados: 2000.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: OECS. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

International Monetary Fund. <>. Accessed February 2001.

"St. Kitts and Nevis." South America, Central America and the Caribbean 2001. London: Europa Publications, 2001.

St. Kitts and Nevis: Official Government Web Site. <>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed September 2001.

James Ferguson




The currency of St. Kitts and Nevis is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$). One EC dollar equals 100 cents. There are coins of 10, 20 and 50 cents, and notes of 5, 10, 20, and 100.


Machinery, food, electronics, beverages, tobacco.

CHIEF IMPORTS: Machinery, manufactures, food, fuels.


US$274 million (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$53.2 million (2000 est.). Imports: US$151.5 million (2000 est.).

Saint Kitts and Nevis

views updated May 18 2018

Saint Kitts and Nevis

ANGLICAN 27.5 percent
METHODIST 25.3 percent
MORAVIAN 7.3 percent
ROMAN CATHOLIC 6.9 percent
PENTECOSTAL 5.5 percent
CHURCH OF GOD 4.3 percent
BAPTIST 3.9 percent
BRETHREN 1.8 percent
RASTAFARIAN 0.7 percent
HINDU 0.4 percent
SALVATION ARMY 0.1 percent
MUSLIM 0.1 percent
OTHER 4.1 percent
UNDESIGNATED 5.9 percent

Country Overview


Saint Kitts and Nevis are two islands of the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Separated by a narrow channel, they occupy 104 square miles. Previously British colonies (1871–1956), the two islands, together with neighboring Anguilla, were part of the West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962. The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis became an independent nation on 19 September 1983. Since independence considerable political tension has existed between the two islands, with Nevis continuously asserting its constitutional right to secede from the federation. The 1998 plebiscite on secession was narrowly unsuccessful.

Christopher Columbus landed on Saint Kitts in 1493, accompanied by a number of Roman Catholic clergymen who were intended to serve as missionaries. During bloody wars in the seventeenth century, Saint Kitts shifted from Spanish to French to English domination. In the end Catholicism was effectively wiped out on the island, and it was not until the nineteenth century that the denomination was "revived from its ashes." By 1791 England had taken full control of the island with the help of Anglican clergy. The Roman Catholic and Anglican religions erased all vestiges of indigenous faiths on the islands.

Initially practiced by English settlers and indentured white servants, Anglicanism changed in its nature and practice by the middle of the seventeenth century, when sugar plantations began to flourish and West African slave labor was introduced. Before the end of the century, there was a shift in attitudes toward the saving of souls, culminating in the founding of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, whose purpose was to Christianize slaves and indigenous peoples in the colonies.

By the mid-1700s there were 10 times as many blacks as whites in Saint Kitts. As word of the atrocities of slavery spread throughout Europe, missionaries from other Protestant denominations traveled to the Caribbean. In 1777 two missionaries from the Moravian Church arrived in Saint Kitts to start a mission that still survives. In 1787 the Methodists began their missionary work in Saint Kitts. In strong contrast to the Anglicans, who remained dominant in the islands, Methodists, Moravians, and, before the end of the century, Baptists reached out explicitly to slaves and free blacks.

At least 20 denominations are active in contemporary Saint Kitts and Nevis.


Freedom of religion is a constitutional provision, and the government of Saint Kitts and Nevis generally respects this right in practice. Historically the federation's citizens have been tolerant of all faiths.

Major Religions




DATE OF ORIGIN 1623 c.e.


Anglicanism came to Saint Kitts on 28 January 1623, when Sir Thomas Warner arrived from England. With Warner was the English clergyman John Featley, who set up what was perhaps the first Anglican parish in the British West Indies in Old Road, the first town built on Saint Kitts.

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was responsible for supplying clergy to the islands. Even so, ecclesiastical appointments were handled by the colonial governor and were linked with appointments to civil service posts. Thus, the clergy served as state chaplains to English officials and planters. Anglican outreach to the majority slave population did not begin until 1796, when the first Anglican catechist and teachers arrived in Saint Kitts. They built schools and published religious literature, Bibles, and prayer books. With the abolition of slavery in 1834, the church played a significant role in reconstruction, increasing its efforts to spread the gospel and educate former slaves. Through education grants provided by the British government, 30,000 pounds annually went toward missionary work among freed slaves. Today the church is fully integrated and under the leadership of an indigenous, predominantly black clergy.

In 1870 the British parliament began its campaign to disestablish the Anglican Church. Left to organize themselves and find their own financing, the churches sought to form an alliance of dioceses. Thus, an ecclesiastical council, the Provincial Synod, was founded in the West Indies in 1873. At that time, few dioceses had been established in the region, but by 1959 the synod had become fully representative, with members from the dioceses of Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua and Guyana, Nassau and the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras (now Belize), and the Windward Islands. The synod consists of the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy, and the House of Laity. Two representatives from each diocese attend each of the latter two houses. As part of the diocese of Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis has been represented in the synod since it was founded in 1873.


John Featley is considered the father of Anglicanism in Saint Kitts and Nevis. Daniel Gatewood Davis became the first creole to be ordained as a priest on Saint Kitts. Thomas Cottle, a president of Nevis, built Saint Mark's Chapel of Ease on his estate in 1824 so that his family and slaves could worship together there. Rector James Ramsey championed the abolition of slavery in the islands. Rudolph Smithen was the first native Nevisian to be appointed rector in the parish of Saint George in Basseterre, the capital. He was also the first native to become an archdeacon and has been assigned to the diocese of Antigua since 2003.

The Reverend Verna Morgan was the first Nevisian woman to be ordained as a deacon. The Reverend Yvette Bagnall, the first Kittitian woman to be ordained as a deacon (2004), has been assigned to Saint George's parish in Basseterre. Canon Alston Percival, a native of Saint Kitts, is the superintendent of Anglican clergy in Nevis and also chairs the Christian Council on that island.


Saint Kitts and Nevis has produced no major Anglican theologians or authors.


There are 11 Anglican churches on Saint Kitts and 5 on Nevis. The seventeenth-century structures that remain are of particular interest. One of these, Saint James Windward Church in Nevis is known for the black Madonna in its sanctuary. The church is also one of three Anglican churches in the Caribbean to display a black crucifix. Built in 1643, Saint Thomas's Lowland Church is the oldest church on Nevis and the first Anglican church built in the Caribbean.

The history of the British and French struggles in the country is reflected in Saint George's Church in Basseterre. The French built this church, originally known as Notre Dame, in 1670. In 1706 the British burned it to the ground, only to rebuild it four years later. The church was rebuilt three more times; the present structure is the result of the 1869 restoration.


The Holy Eucharist is the most sacred of all things in the Anglican Church. Also deemed sacred are vessels for the Eucharist, as well as the ormbry (ambry), the cabinet that houses the vessels. The altar is considered holy, as is the Blessed Mother. Ultimately, all church buildings are held sacred.


Anglican holy days in Saint Kitts and Nevis include Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost, Ash Wednesday, All Saint's Day, and All Soul's Day. The festivals of patron saints are observed in the parishes. Special observances during Lent include midweek services and retreats. Thanksgiving festivals associated with the harvest are celebrated annually.


Traditionally, Anglican clergy wore cassocks in public. Vestments included a surplice and, depending on the rank of the individual, a mortarboard. This attire is now reserved for High Mass and other formal occasions. The choir, acolytes, and sexton still don traditional robes. Worshipers tend to reserve their finery for Sunday services. Modern dress is acceptable, and casual wear is worn for weekday services and meetings.


In general, Anglicans in Saint Kitts and Nevis observe no special dietary restrictions. Many Anglicans fast and abstain from meat and alcohol during Lent.


Anglicanism in Saint Kitts and Nevis has remained highly structured and liturgical, observing all the strict traditions of the Church of England. The form of worship is more interactive than is typical, however, and may include such Caribbean embellishments as the singing of evangelical-style choruses before or during the liturgical Mass or a sermon with a call-and-response format. Feast days are appropriately observed, as are all other sacraments and celebrations.


In addition to the major rites of passage (infant baptism, first Communion, and confirmation), marriage and the burial of the dead may be considered rites of passage in Anglican churches in the federation.


Membership is gained through baptism and confirmation. Each church welcomes any person professing Christianity and expressing a desire for fellowship with that particular congregation. Traditional missionary work is on the decline, but evangelization is by no means dormant. Churches often broadcast their Sunday services. The spirit of ecumenism is strongly encouraged.


Social justice has become an integral part of the operation of the Anglican Church in Saint Kitts and Nevis. The Mother's Union is charged with the development of the whole family. The Anglican Young People's Association (AYPA) has also been active as an agent of social justice for youth of both sexes. The Brethren of Saint Andrew, a men's organization, engages in philanthropic work in the parishes. Canon Alston Percival, rector of the parishes of Saint George and Saint John in Nevis, established a home for senior citizens in Gingerland. In addition, he has been an active advocate for the young and disenfranchised of the island.


While there are no longer any Anglican schools in the islands, the churches have remained active in the religious education of youth in Sunday schools. Members of church organizations regularly visit the sick and disabled, both at home and in hospitals; they reach out to the needy in society; and they fight for good morals among all citizens.


During much of the colonial period church and state were inextricable, with the Anglican leadership playing a leading role in the administration of the islands. With disestablishment, the tie between church and state was officially broken, though in practice it remained firm for a considerable period. Although still regarded as the "state church" by some, the Anglican Church no longer holds any special political authority.


The Anglican Church in Saint Kitts and Nevis has accepted the ordination of women to the priesthood. The ordination of non-abstaining homosexuals has caused a great deal of debate within the church. Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the Province of the West Indies has maintained that such ordinations are a clear departure from the Anglican consensus as expressed at the 1998 Lambeth Bishop's Conference. The church has firmly opposed same-sex marriage.


All aspects of life in the islands were affected by the segregationist prescriptions of the white English elites (including Anglican leaders) who controlled the islands during the greater part of their history. These traditions have completely eroded, how-ever, and since the middle of the twentieth century, the African elements of the culture, which were previously strictly suppressed, have risen in importance and respectability.


DATE OF ORIGIN 1787 c.e.


Methodism was introduced in Saint Kitts in 1787 by the Reverend Thomas Coke, the first Methodist bishop and a friend of John Wesley, Methodism's founder. Introduced in Nevis in 1789, Methodism attracted large followings on both islands because of the wide appeal of its message to the disadvantaged, mostly black populations. Through the centuries, Methodists maintained their commitment to proselytization; in addition, they provided education for members and children in both day and Sunday schools. Although the Methodist Church has remained prominent, it experienced its peak between the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. Since then there has been a marked decline in membership on both islands, due in no small part to the influx of newer denominations from North America.


Until the midtwentieth century Methodist ministers in Saint Kitts and Nevis traditionally came from England or the larger Caribbean islands. Among contemporary leaders is the Reverend Franklin Manners, a native Nevisian and the superintendent minister in Basseterre, who in 2003 completed a double term as president of the Methodist Conference in the Caribbean and the Americas. The head of the church in Nevis is the Reverend Moreland Williams. Methodism's strong lay leaders have included Sir Probyn Inniss, the first governor-general of the federation.


No major Methodist theologians have originated in Saint Kitts and Nevis.


There are 10 Methodist congregations in Saint Kitts and 7 in Nevis. The church buildings themselves are regarded as holy places, and the cemeteries attached to them are treated with reverence.


Methodists regard Holy Communion as sacred. The altar, at which Communion is served, is also deemed sacred, as is the pulpit. Methodists, like all Christians, venerate the cross, though not with the same degree of fervor as in some denominations.


Methodists in Saint Kitts and Nevis celebrate Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost. Other major annual festivals include a harvest thanksgiving service and a week of so-called missionary meetings, which consists of fund-raising activities rather than missionary work. The church also recognizes such celebrations as Mother's Day and Father's Day.


Methodist clergy usually don the traditional cassock and surplice for Sunday worship as well as for weddings, funerals, and baptisms. In modern times, however, it has not been unusual for them to wear business attire, even during Sunday services. Church choirs usually wear robes on all formal occasions. Worshipers wear relatively elaborate, if conservative, attire for Sunday services; however, for other events everyday attire is acceptable.


Methodists in Saint Kitts and Nevis observe no particular dietary restrictions. Abstinence from alcohol is preached though not necessarily practiced.


The practice of Methodism has traditionally been simple though highly liturgical and structured. Modern-day worshipers have sometimes attempted to emulate more charismatic denominations, but, in general, services are orderly and relatively conservative. Weddings and funerals are equally liturgical and ritualistic but vary in the degree of embellishment.

After Sunday worship, class meetings, which are at the very core of Methodist practice, provide the opportunity for spiritual fellowship. Prayer fellowship is also an integral aspect of Methodism in Saint Kitts and Nevis.


Methodist rites of passage include baptism and confirmation. Candidates for confirmation must first undergo a prescribed period of study and indoctrination.


Efforts to expand the Methodist membership are ongoing. The old-fashioned open-air meetings still take place, though usually in rural rather than urban settings. Churches on both islands broadcast their Sunday services via radio and television.


Education for all has been a major plank of Methodism in Saint Kitts and Nevis. Methodists have also conducted special services for the poor, a vibrant prison ministry, advocacy for indigents, and regular visits to the sick at home and in hospitals. They operate a private elementary school in Saint Kitts, where enrollment is open to children of any denomination.


The church heavily influences the behavior of the inhabitants of the islands. In both form and style, the religion is highly conservative, and temperance is its hallmark.


The political impact of the Methodist Church in the islands has been minimal. In the debate over the secession of Nevis from the federation, the church has advocated less drastic methods of settling the differences between the two islands.


Methodism in Saint Kitts and Nevis has tended toward a more conservative approach to such controversial issues as abortion and birth control. At the same time, the church advocates the judicious use of birth control, especially since some contraceptive devices aid in the containment of sexually transmitted diseases. Divorce is tolerated as a last resort in resolving marital problems, and the church will marry divorced persons. From its earliest beginnings, and certainly during the last 50 years, women have played an active part in the church. The ordination of women to full ministry has been widely endorsed by both clergy and laity.


Methodism has had a profound impact on the culture of the two islands—regrettably, one that has been more negative than positive. Having derived from what was essentially a slave society and having its own conservative bent, it gave rise to a cultural malaise that persisted well into the modern era. In the case of the Methodists, striving for rewards in heaven did not lead to the deep exploration of creativity, pleasure, and enjoyment of the here and now.

Other Religions

The Moravian Church came to Saint Kitts in the late eighteenth century from Germany, where its adherents practiced a strict, fundamentalist Protestant faith. In Saint Kitts the Moravians set to work to convert the slaves, openly embracing them and building churches, establishing schools, and looking after their health needs. Modern economic constraints forced the church to turn over its schools to the government, but it has remained active in the development of the youth of the island. There are four Moravian churches in contemporary Saint Kitts but none in Nevis.

The Roman Catholic Church was the first European church introduced in Saint Kitts and Nevis. There are, however, no accounts of this church ever having taken root until Capuchin friars arrived from France in 1623. Destroyed during the political turbulence of the mid-seventeenth century, Roman Catholicism did not revive in Saint Kitts until the arrival of Portuguese immigrants in 1846. It has since flourished in Saint Kitts, though it did not reach Nevis until 1947. The church offers a wide variety of social services. For more than 100 years it has operated a convent school on Saint Kitts offering primary and secondary education. Roman Catholic churches on both islands conduct the Mass in Spanish for growing populations of Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Dominican Republic.

The Wesleyan Holiness Church, a denomination that broke away from Methodism, is the oldest fundamentalist denomination on the islands. The Brethren, a group that apparently evolved from the United Brethren (as the Moravian Church was also known), have been on the islands for about 60 years. Pentecostals, Baptist splinter groups, and the Church of God came to the islands in the mid-twentieth century from North America. These groups have all made major in-roads in the memberships of the established churches in the islands.

The Seventh-day Adventists are one of the fastest-growing religious groups in the islands. Aggressive proselytization has attracted large numbers to their folds.

As 95 percent of the population of the islands is of African origin, it is not surprising to see the influence of African-derived religions there. The best-known and most influential of these is obeah, a West Indian form of black magic. Other African-derived religious influences can be found in such cultural activities as the Christmas Masquerades, which feature musicians and dancers in elaborate costumes. The Masquerades, which include elements of both African and European (especially French) dance, can be traced back to the time of slavery, when slaves were permitted to celebrate the sugarcane harvest.

Other religious groups on the islands include Rastafarians, Hindus, Muslims, and Bahá'ís. Most are immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants, from other Caribbean islands.

Rhonda Johnson and

Olivia Edgecomb-Howell

See Also Vol. 1: Anglicanism, Christianity, Methodism


The Anglican Communion Official Website:

The Church in the Province of the West Indies:

Cross, F.L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Kremser, Manfred. "African-Derived Religions in St. Kitts and Nevis." In Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions, edited by Stephen D. Glazier, pp. 321–23. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Official Site of the Nevis Tourism Authority:

Peters, Melvin K.H. "Caribbean." In The Encyclopedia of Protestantism, edited by Hans Hillerbrand. 4 vols. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Robinson, Lisa Clayton. "St. Kitts and Nevis." In Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, edited by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., pp. 1781–84. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999.

St. Kitts and Nevis Demography Digest 2002:

St. Kitts and Nevis Statistical Review 2002:

U.S. Department of State: International Religious Freedom Report 2002: St. Kitts and Nevis:

St. Kitts and Nevis

views updated May 09 2018


Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis

Major City:

Other City:


Christopher Columbus landed on St. Christopher in 1493, naming the island after his patron saint. French and English colonists settled in the region in the 1600s, and the colonists shortened the name to " ST . KITTS island." The settlers fought and eliminated the native Carib people. Sugar was the mainstay of the economy until well into the 20th century. St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla became part of the Leeward Islands Federation in 1871. In 1967, the three islands became an associated state. In 1969, Anguilla islanders rebelled and that island was permitted to secede in 1971. St. Kitts and Nevis became an independent federated state within the Commonwealth on September 19, 1983. In 1996, the premier of Nevis announced plans for the island to eventually secede from the federation and return to British control.



Basseterre is the capital of St. Kitts and Nevis, with a population of 12,000. The city lies along the southern coast of St. Kitts's central region. The economy of St. Kitts was traditionally based on growing and processing sugarcane, but tourism and export-oriented manufacturing have assumed larger roles. The government-owned St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corp. is still the largest industrial enterprise in the country.

Port Zante is Basseterre's new cruise ship port. Thirty acres of land have recently been reclaimed from the sea and added to Basseterre, which has building codes that encourage an 18th-century architectural style. The cruiseship terminal can handle vessels of up to 75,000 tons with a draft of 30 feet, and a marina takes yachts up to 70 feet long with a draft of 12 feet. Bradshaw International Airport (scheduled for completion in mid-1998) has one of the largest runways in the Caribbean and can handle jumbo jet traffic.

Recreation and Entertainment

Popular local team sports include basketball, cricket, soccer, netball, and volleyball. Mountain biking, horseback riding, and scuba diving and snorkeling over the coral reefs are popular tourist activities. The most popular dive sights on St. Kitts are Monkey Shoals, Coconut Tree Reef, Nags Head, Sandy Point, and the shipwrecked freighter of the River Taw. Local dive operators can provide instruction and equipment. There is a championship 18-hole golf on Nevis where PGA professionals offer private lessons.

The St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corporation's sugar conducts factory tours, as does the St. Kitts Breweries Ltd.

Basseterre's Georgian architectural style attracts tourists. St. George's Anglican Church was originally built in 1670 as a French Catholic church, and it has been destroyed both intentionally and accidentally several times over the centuries. The present building dates from 1869. Independence Square, in the center of Basseterre, was once a slave market. Brimstone Hill has a massive old fortress that took 100 years to build. The fortress covers 38 acres and rises almost 800 feet above the Caribbean.

The St. Christopher Heritage Society has a display of photos that shows the history, culture, and marine life of the island.


CHARLESTOWN is the main town on Nevis. The Museum of Nevis History is located at the birthplace of US statesman Alexander Hamilton. The museum features displays of rare pre-Colombian artifacts and colonial-era objects. Several resorts offer golden beaches, hiking trails, water sports, golf, tennis with accommodations ranging from modest plantation inns to luxury hotels.


Geography and Climate

St. Kitts lies about 5 miles southeast of the Netherlands Antilles and 45 miles northwest of Antigua in the Leeward Islands chain of the Caribbean Sea. Nevis lies two miles off the southeast coast of St. Kitts. The total area of St. Kitts is 104 square miles, and Nevis covers 36 square miles. Both islands are of volcanic origin. In the northwest of St. Kitts is the country's highest peak, Mt. Liamuiga (3,793 feet), and on the southern peninsula lies the Great Salt Pond. The highest point on Nevis is Mt. Nevis, at 3,232 feet. Temperatures stay between 68° F and 84° F throughout the year. The average annual rainfall is 43 inches, with the wet season lasting between May and November.


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 snowcapped mountain (in Spanish, nuestra senora de las nieves or our lady of the snows). European colonization 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 colonization 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 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 late that year and remains a British dependency. The federation of St. Kitts and Nevis attained full independence on September 19,1983.


St. Kitts and Nevis has a population of 43,400. There are about 298 persons per square mile, but the density on St. Kitts is twice that of Nevis. Over 90% of the population is of black African descent. There are minorities of mixed race persons, Indo-Pakistanis, and Europeans. The largest religious groups are the Anglican Church, the Church of God, the Methodist Church, the Moravians, the Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, the Pilgrim Holiness Church, and the Roman Catholic Church. English, spoken with local expressions, is the country's language.


As 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 bicameral legislature: An 11-member senate appointed by the governor general (mainly on the advice of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition) and an 11-member popularly elected house of representatives which has eight St. Kitts seats and three Nevis seats. The prime minister and the cabinet are responsible to the Parliament.

St. Kitts and Nevis has enjoyed a long history of free and fair elections, although the outcome of elections in 1993 was strongly protested by the opposition, and the RSS was briefly deployed to restore order. The elections in 1995 were contested by the two major parties, the ruling People's Action Movement (PAM) and the St. Kitts and Nevis Labor Party. Labor won seven of the 11 seats, with Dr. Denzil Douglas becoming prime minister. In March 2000 elections, Denzil Douglas and the Labour Party were returned to power, winning eight of the 11 seats in Parliament. The Nevis-based Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) won two seats and the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) won one seat. The PAM party was unable to obtain a seat.

Under the constitution, Nevis has considerable autonomy and has an island assembly, a premier, and a deputy governor general. Under certain specified conditions, it may secede from the federation. In June 1996, the Nevis Island Administration under the concerned citizens movement of Premier Vance Amory announced its intention to do so. Secession requires approval by two-thirds of the assembly's five elected members and also by two-thirds of voters in a referendum. After the Nevis Reformation Party blocked the bill of secession, the premier called for elections for February 24, 1997. Although the elections produced no change in the composition of the assembly, Premier Amory pledged to continue his efforts toward Nevis' independence. In August 1998, a referendum on the question of independence for Nevis failed and Nevis presently remains in the Federation. The March 2000 election results placed Vance Armory, as head of the CCM, the leader of the country's opposition party.

Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association. Like its neighbors in the English-speaking Caribbean, St. Kitts and Nevis has an excellent human rights record. Its judicial system is modeled on British practice and procedure and its jurisprudence on English common law. The Royal St. Kitts and Nevis police force has about 340 members.

Two thin diagonal yellow bands flanking a wide black diagonal band separate a green triangle at the hoist from a red triangle at the fly. On the black band are two white five-pointed stars.

Arts, Science, Education

Education is provided by the government and compulsory for 12 years. The Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College in Basseterre, completed in 1996, offers courses in vocational fields, the arts, sciences, and general studies, with plans to offer associate degrees as well as classes in conjunction with the University of the West Indies. The College of Further Education also provides higher education.

Commerce and Industry

St. Kitts and Nevis was the last sugar monoculture in the Eastern Caribbean. Faced with a sugar industry, which was finding it increasingly difficult to earn a profit, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis embarked on a program to diversify the agricultural sector and stimulate the development of other sectors of the economy.

The government instituted a program of investment incentives for businesses considering locating in St. Kitts or Nevis, encouraging both domestic and foreign private investment. Government policies provide liberal tax holidays, duty-free import of equipment and materials, and subsidies for training provided to local personnel. Tourism has shown the greatest growth. By 1987, tourism had surpassed sugar as the major foreign exchange earner for St. Kitts and Nevis.

The economy of St. Kitts and Nevis experienced strong growth for most of the 1990s, but hurricanes in 1998 and 1999 contributed to a sharp slowdown in growth. Growth was only 1% in 1998 and 2.8% in 1999, compared to 7.3% in 1997. Tourism in particular suffered in 1998 and 1999 as a result of the hurricanes which forced the closure of one of the major hotels and heavily damaged the cruiseship pier. Significant new investment in tourism as well as continued government efforts to diversify the economy are expected to improve economic performance. Consumer prices have risen marginally over the past few years. The inflation rate was 3%-4% for most of the 1990s.

St. Kitts and Nevis is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). All members of the ECCU, The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues a common currency for all members of the ECCU. The ECCB also manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries.


The only railway on St. Kitts is a small line used by the government to transport sugarcane and processed sugar. Main roads circle each island. A state-run motorboat service shuttles passengers between the two islands. There is regular freight service to St. Kitts and Nevis from the US and Europe. Most ocean freight is now fully containerized. The deepwater harbor handles ships which service the islands. Smaller carriers sail between St. Kitts and Nevis and Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and St. Maarten.

Driving on St. Kitts and Nevis is on the left-hand side of the road. Seventy-five percent of the main road is in reasonably good condition, having been recently resurfaced, and secondary roads are also fairly good. The islands have good police enforcement of traffic regulations. More detailed information on roads and traffic safety can be obtained from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Environment, Bay Road, Pelican Mall, P.O. Box 132, Basse Terre, St. Kitts, tel. (869) 465-8970.


The telephone system is operated by the government and international telecommunications services are privately operated. St. Kitts has one AM/FM radio station, and Nevis has two other AM stations. There is also one television broadcast station and two cable television systems. St. Kitts and Nevis has three newspapers: The Democrat (published by the opposition Peoples Action Movement), The Observer (independent), and The Labour Spokesman (affiliated with the governing Labour Party).


There are over 40 physicians and 190 nurses in the country.

Medical care is limited. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the U.S. In some cases, supplementary medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, has proved useful. For additional health information, travelers may contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at (404) 332-4559; Internet


Jan.1 New Year's Day

Feb Carnival*

Feb. 22 Independence Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday *

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 1 Labor Day

May/JuneWhit Sunday (Pentecost)*

May/JuneWhit Monday*

May/June Corpus Christi*

June 8 Queen's Official Birthday

Aug. 2Emancipation Day

Aug. 30Feast of St Rose of Lima (Rose Festival)

Oct. 4 Thanksgiving

Oct. 17 Feast of St Margaret Alacoque

Nov. 1 All Saints' Day

Nov. 2 All Souls' Day (Fet le Mo)

Nov. 11Remembrance Day

Nov. 22Feast of St. Cecilia

Dec. 13 National Discovery Day

Dec. 25 Christmas

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



A valid U.S. passport or certified U.S. birth certificate and a picture identification that contains both name and date of birth are required of U.S. citizens entering St. Kitts and Nevis. Visitors should also have a valid return ticket. St. Kitts and Nevis immigration recommends that visitors put their full home address in the U.S. on their arrival cards in order to facilitate the entry process. Stays of up to one month are granted at immigration. Anyone requiring an extension must apply to the Ministry of National Security. There is an airport departure tax. For further information, travelers can contact the Embassy of St. Kitts and Nevis, 3216 New Mexico Avenue, N.W., OECS Building, Washington, D.C. 20016, telephone (202) 686-2636, the Permanent Mission to the UN in New York at (212) 535-1934, or the Internet at

U.S. citizens living in or visiting St. Kitts and Nevis are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados and obtain updated information on travel and security within St. Kitts and Nevis. Consular Section hours are 9:00 am-12 noon and 2:00 pm-4:00 pm, Monday-Friday except local and U.S. holidays. The U.S. Embassy is located in the American Life Insurance (ALICO) building, Cheapside, Bridgetown, Barbados, telephone 1-246-431-0225, fax 1-246-431-0179, e-mail address:[email protected] or Internet home page:

Disaster Preparedness

St. Kitts and Nevis is a hurricane-prone country. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at

Saint Kitts and Nevis

views updated May 18 2018

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Culture Name

The inhabitants of the two islands are referred to as Kittitians (or Kitticians) and Nevisians, respectively.


Identification. Both islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. Originally, Columbus named the larger island for his patron saint, Saint Christopher, but in the early seventeenth century, British settlers shortened the name to Saint Kitts. Columbus named the smaller neighboring island Nuestra Señora de las Nieves ("Our Lady of the Clouds") because the volcanic mountain in its center usually was encircled by snowlike clouds. When the British arrived, they altered the spelling to Nevis.

Location and Geography. Two miles apart, Saint Kitts and Nevis are in the northern part of the Leeward Islands, approximately two hundred fifty miles (402 kilometers) southeast of Puerto Rico. Saint Kitts, the larger island, is twenty-three miles (thirty-seven kilometers) in its greatest length, with an area of sixty-eight square miles (176.8 square kilometers). Nevis is thirty-six square miles (93.6 square kilometers) in area. Formed by similar mountain-building forces, both islands have dormant volcanoes in their central regions. The capitals Basseterre (Saint Kitts) and Charlestown (Nevis) are ports that are involved in tourism.

Demography. The population has been estimated (1999) to be forty-four thousand, with thirty-five thousand on Saint Kitts and nine thousand on Nevis. However, many more Kittitians and Nevisians live abroad than inhabit the islands. Ninety-five percent of the populace consists of Afro-Caribbeans who are largely descendants of slaves imported to work on sugar plantations, with the remainder made up of descendants of British settlers and early and later migrants.

Linguistic Affiliation. All the inhabitants speak English, and all the Afro-Caribbean residents have access to a local dialect based partly on English and partly on several West African languages. English is the language of business, religion, and tourism and is the medium of instruction in schools. The local dialect, referred to as Kittitian on Saint Kitts and Nevisian on Nevis, is used in the family, at social gatherings, and among men socializing together. It also is employed by Nevisians to communicate with one another without being understood by tourists.

Symbolism. The eclectic nature of contemporary society on Saint Kitts/Nevis and the varied origins of the Afro-Caribbean populace militate against deeply held and widely shared cultural symbols. Both islands have traditional dances, music, garb, and tales, but neither one is committed to a constellation of symbols that could anchor a cultural identity. Instead, the richness and variety of the cultural background is celebrated in a series of festivals. The roots of those festivals go back to the seventeenth century, when they were often associated with Christmas and May Day celebrations. A strong association with Christmas remains, partly because of tradition and partly from the holiday visits of many Kittitians and Nevisians living elsewhere.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The development of political independence was the final link in a process of increasing autonomy for the Afro-Caribbean population of Saint Kitts/Nevis that began in the early nineteenth century. In the eighteenth century, partly because whites feared the slave population, which outnumbered them nearly ten to one, slaves were treated harshly. Although forced to work long hours on sugar plantations, they managed to maintain limited gardens of their own. Some slaves escaped to the mountainous interior, where they set up small holdings and tried to succeed at farming and remain unnoticed. Over the years, former slaves established villages in parts of the interior not suitable for plantations. When emancipation began in 1834, there were well-established Afro-Caribbean villages capable of maintaining elements of their traditional culture and developing a complex web of social relations.

Most inhabitants of the islands engaged in basic agriculture and lived very simply. Religion, particularly the Anglican faith, played a major role in education and the formation of concepts of respectability, with an admixture of African traditions centering on mortuary practices and holiday celebrations. By the early twentieth century, the British colonial government provided free basic public education and some amenities. Still, the situation of most islanders remained one of poverty with comparatively little social stratification based on wealth. Members of society who could sustain an elite status generally were connected either to religion or to education, and they maintained some visible material goods, such as a house and furnishings.

In the 1950s, the elimination of sugar and cotton production and an assortment of agricultural problems led to increasing waves of emigration, largely to Great Britain, Commonwealth members, and other English-speaking countries. Emigration resulted in significant changes that were accelerated by political changes in the mid-1960s, when Great Britain established the associated state of Saint Kitts/Nevis, which became fully independent in 1983. Nevisians were unhappy with their connection to the numerically dominant Kittitians and agreed to independence only if they could retain the right to secede and have internal self-rule.

The lengthy economic decline left the islands in an unpromising position. Initial efforts to establish more productive agricultural and other pursuits involving manual labor were stymied by the strong preference of Kittitians and Nevisians for white-collar work. The development of tourism in the 1970s and the increasing ability of emigrants to send funds home have led to better economic circumstances on both islands, which maintain excellent public school systems, resulting in a literacy rate in excess of 90 percent, and good public health programs.

National Identity. The coat of arms appears to owe as much to colonial influence as its does to indigenous traditions.

The contemporary national identity is complex and strongly affected by emigration and the opportunities afforded by education. Emigration in the 1970s reduced the population. That trend seems likely to continue, as current population projections for the years 2000 and 2010 indicate a maintenance of the 1995 figure of thirty-nine thousand. Current estimates suggest that far more inhabitants live abroad than at home, by a factor of four or five to one. Kittitians and Nevisians abroad are employed in a wide range of positions that reflect their education. Nonetheless, they retain strong ties to their homes, visit frequently on holidays, especially on Christmas, and regularly send home money and goods. Family ties are strongly maintained through frequent visits. Many younger islanders look forward to completing their educations abroad and then taking up residence in a foreign country. The result is a complex identity rooted partly in place and tradition and partly in the wider world and educational accomplishment. Emigration makes the achievement of white-collar work ever more possible.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Basseterre, the largest city on the islands, has eighteen thousand people, while Charlestown has an approximate population of 1,500. Both cities are seats of government and tourism and the major mercantile centers and ports of the islands. Both feature a combination of contemporary architecture mixed with colonial structures. Scattered throughout the islands, there are many fine buildings, often the homes of former plantation owners, some of which have been transformed into inns for tourists.

People usually live in towns and villages ranging from twenty to a few hundred residents in size. The villages often contain a general store and sometimes a post office and are characterized by groupings of houses that reflect kinship connections. Most of these village houses are fairly modest wood frame affairs, and the tropical clime obviates the need for complex insulation and weatherproofing. The largest problem faced by homeowners is the hurricanes that appear late in every summer.

House design usually includes a porch on which the occupants can observe passers by. Socializing occurs easily and frequently at home and in public settings. There is an expectation of and pressure for sociability, and adults try to be accessible. Men generally meet on street corners or frequent small bars, rum shops, and pubs where they can socialize. Women generally confine their interactions to social visits, shopping, and church, though chance encounters are always welcome. Sociability is a distinguishing characteristic of the islands and often is commented on by visitors.

There are good paved road systems totaling seventy-eight miles around each island, though some of the interior roads are either dirt or in poor repair. There are 4,500 automobiles on the islands, and far more people own cars than possess scooters or mopeds. The reason for this pattern seems to be status and the appearance of respectability.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. There are a variety of mixed dishes, including many that betray their off-islands origins, such as spaghetti, but there are also local culinary traditions. In addition to staples such as rice and beans, the islands are known for "goat water," a stew usually made from the neck bones and meat of goats. Accompanying most meals are a range of vegetables, especially squashes and peas, and hot sauces. While fresh fish are available, mutton or goat is the staple meat and is served in a variety of ways ranging from curried to creole style. Fried chicken is also popular, especially for entertaining guests. Beverages range from softdrinks to fruit juices to beer and rum. Of all these purchased drinks, beer is significantly the cheapest, as there is a brewery on Saint Kitts.

Basic Economy. Most coastal families maintain small gardens and a few chickens to round out the menu, but most people living along the more populous coast purchase their needs from general stores, and most of the goods are imported and expensive. Sugar production still accounts for a significant part of the income on Saint Kitts. Both islands produce a range of agricultural products for export, and Nevis has a small stock of cattle, most of which are exported.

The monetary unit is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar. The need to import many necessities, including foodstuffs, makes the cost of living high.

Both islands have enterprises that assemble electronics goods for export. In addition, there is significant production of beverages, beer, plastics, and ethanol. The biggest element in the current economy is clearly tourism, which accounts for approximate 53 percent of the national revenue. While locals own and run the great majority of the mercantile enterprises and many popular tourist locales, the largest resorts are owned by off-island concerns, principally American.

Social Stratification

With the exception of moneyed expatriates from America and Great Britain, the inhabitants do not have a significant class structure based on wealth. The major sociocultural concern of most islanders is to appear "respectable," meaning that one manages an acceptable appearance in possessions and in one's person and behaves in socially appropriate ways, as defined largely by cultural patterns originating in British colonial society. While poverty is inimical to respectability, wealth is not essential for it. Material possessions are important, but as demonstrations of respectability rather than of wealth. Education matters greatly; young people are serious about their studies, and good students are praised by adults and respected by their peers.

Political Life

Government. The islands are a constitutional monarchy with a single elected representative body, the National Assembly. The government is headed by the prime minister, and for administrative purposes, the country is divided into fourteen parishes.

The most singular aspect of the government is that it is bifurcated. While the head of government is in Basseterre, as a condition of union, Nevis demanded internal self-rule. Thus, that island has its own assembly and its own elected premier. The increasing disenchantment of most Nevisians with their treatment by the central government has led to a movement for independence. Although Saint Kitts/Nevis is already the smallest country in the Western Hemisphere, in August 1998, Nevisians voted on secession. The 62 percent of the population that supported secession fell only 4 percent short of the two-thirds required.

Social Problems and Control. The United States and other countries in the Caribbean are concerned that the islands could come under increasing pressure from drug cartels. While there is very little crime against persons or property, in the last ten years there have been increasing problems, especially on Saint Kitts, with drug smugglers who wish to use the islands for transshipment to the United States. Both Saint Kitts and Nevis maintain small police forces that seldom carry arms. Saint Kitts also maintains a coastal watch program in an effort to impede drug smuggling. If the islands become independent of one another, many observers fear that their size would make them vulnerable to outside pressures for illegal activities.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Generally, gender roles owe far more to the pattern of the colonial British then to that of West Africa, with one exception. While the male status has more rights and privileges than the female, especially in the public arena, women have significant rights and, as they approach middle age, may even have authority. Some of the better known and more successful entrepreneurs and political figures are women.

During most of the period before independence, the "respectable" pattern was for men to be the breadwinners and women to tend children at home and confine their social activities to the church and the marketplace. However, many families were matricentric, with the woman and extended kin providing much of the material and affective needs of children. With increased education, women have found new ways to realize their potential and gain public respect.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage is undertaken as both a social responsibility and a sign of adulthood. The reasons given for marriage emphasize love, though parents pressure children, especially females, who are old enough to marry but are not involved in socializing. Sexual experimentation is reluctantly accepted, and that has resulted in 20 percent of the children on Saint Kitts/Nevis being born out of wedlock.

A newly married couple may reside with either set of parents at first but will prefer to live in their own domicile, though usually close to other relatives. With the high percentage of educated citizens living abroad, there are an increasing number of mixed marriages. However, the kinship ties between off-islanders and residents continue to be strong.


Child Rearing and Education. Mothers are differentially involved in child care. Child rearing tends to be mild, with both males and females kept close until boys begin to explore at about school age. Both genders learn appropriate skills and are taught to respect their parents and elders.

Education is valued, and nearly all young people complete primary school. Most then attend secondary school system modeled on that of Great Britain, and a number of the better students obtain scholarships to study in the United States, Great Britain, or other Commonwealth countries.


Etiquette reflects the concept of respectability in which reciprocity and decorum define both inter-personal relations and social acceptability. It is based largely on colonial British models and relaxed only for close friends and family members.


Some 95 percent of islanders are Protestants, principally Anglican and Methodist, though there are a number of smaller Protestant sects. Religion remains a very important institution in the society and culture. It is a major vehicle for maintaining community solidarity and providing guidelines to and reinforcing the importance of respectable behavior.

While virtually all islanders identity themselves as Christians, many older and some younger islanders believe in obeah, a form of witchcraft in which an individual can be supernaturally harmed by another person for reasons ranging from a perceived wrong to simple envy.

Medicine and Health Care

Saint Kitts and Nevis have good health care with a sufficiency of doctors who are usually British or Canadian trained. There is a hospital on Saint Kitts and an infirmary on Nevis. Pharmaceutical services are widely available.

Secular Celebrations

Held in early August, Culturama is a celebration of traditional Nevisian culture in which music, arts, crafts, and dramatic presentations play dominant roles. It has proven to be a venue though which Nevisians can both expose the young to, and reaffirm pride in their cultural heritage.

The Arts and Humanities

Graphic and Performance Arts. There is a theater group on Saint Kitts and a society of craftspeople. On Nevis, there is a small dramatic society and theater in Charlestown, The Hamilton Arts Center, next to the Alexander Hamilton Museum. There are several reading societies and artists on the island, but little of an organized nature.


Browne, Whitman T. From Commoner to King: Robert L. Bradshaw, Crusader for Dignity and Justice in the Caribbean, 1992.

Hubbard, Vincent K. Swords, Ships, and Sugar: A History of Nevis to 1900, 1993.

Merrill, Gordon Clark. The Historical Geography of Saint Kitts and Nevis, 1958.

Mills, Frank L., S. B. Jones-Hendrickson, and Bertram Eugene. Christmas Sports in Saint Kitts-Nevis: Our Neglected Cultural Tradition, 1984.

Moll, Verna Penn. St Kitts-Nevis, 1995.

Motley, Constance Baker. Equal Justice under Law: An Autobiography, 1998.

Olwig, Karen Fog. Global Culture, Island Identity: Continuity and Change in the Afro-Caribbean Community of Nevis, 1993.

Richardson, Bonham C. Caribbean Migrants: Environment and Human Survival on Saint Kitts and Nevis, 1983.

Douglas Raybeck

Saint Kitts and Nevis

views updated May 21 2018

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Basic Data
Official Country Name:Saint Kitts and Nevis
Region:Puerto Rico & Lesser Antilles
Literacy Rate:97%

History & Background

The Federation of State of St. Kitts and Nevis (formerly the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis) is in the northern part of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea, about one-third of the way from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago. It encompasses an area of 262 square kilometers (101 square miles), approximately 1.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. Of that area St. Kitts occupies 168 square kilometers, (65 square miles) and Nevis 93 square kilometers (36 square miles).

St. Kitts has a central mountain range, reaching its highest point at Mount Liamuiga (1,156 meters or 3,792 feet). The capital of the country, Basseterre (population 15,000), is located on the southeastern shore of the island. Nevis lies to the southeast, with a central volcanic mountain rising to 985 meters (2,232 feet). The islands have 135 kilometers (52 miles) of coastline, with a tropical climate tempered by constant sea breezes with little temperature variation. Twenty-two percent of the land is arable with approximately 17 percent in permanent crops, 3 percent permanent pastures, and 17 percent woodland. The rainy season occurs from May to November, with the threat of hurricanes generally from July through October. The island economy once depended heavily on sugarcane production; however, falling prices have forced the country to depend more on tourism, export-oriented manufacturing, and offshore banking activity.

The population estimate as of July 2000 was 38,800, 30 percent aged 0-14 years, 61 percent 15-64 years, and 9 percent 65 years and older. The growth rate is estimated to be slightly less than zero. The population is predominantly of African descent with some British, Portuguese, and Lebanese. The language spoken is English, and the predominant religion is Anglican, with some Protestants and Roman Catholics. Ninety-seven percent of the population aged 15 and over have attended school.

Christopher Columbus discovered the islands in 1493. They were partially occupied by the British (1623) and the French (1624), remaining under joint control until ceded to the British in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht, only to be recaptured by the French in 1782, but finally passing to the British by way of the Treaty of Versailles the following year. For most of its history, the country was administered as part of a federation, which included at one time or another Anguilla, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Tobago. St. Kitts (then St. Christopher) and Nevis finally received their independence from Britain in 1983.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

St. Kitts and Nevis is a federation with a unicameral national assembly and, as part of the British Commonwealth, is headed by the Queen of England, represented by the Governor General. Each Parliament (consisting of the National Assembly and the Queen) has a life of five years unless dissolved before that time. The Cabinet is responsible to the Parliament and consists of the Governor General, who appoints the Prime Minister and other ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The law of St. Kitts and Nevis is administered by the St. Kitts-Nevis Supreme Court as well as Magistrates's Courts. The Privy Council of the United Kingdom is the ultimate court of appeal, with intermediate appellate jurisdiction resting in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

Educational SystemOverview

The idea for a public system of universal education in the West Indies paralleled emancipation. In 1833 a system for educating the newly free as well as the elite was incorporated in the act to emancipate British slaves.

Following Britain's establishment of the Negro Education Grant (1835), the various religious denominations were entrusted with the development and staffing of primary and secondary schools in the West Indies. The British government provided financial support based on the number of ex-slaves on each island. In addition to the government grant, the resources of the Mico Charity were applied to West Indian education. Four teacher-training institutions and numerous elementary schools established by Mico money supplemented the efforts of religious organizations.

Gradually the island governments adopted education acts whereby middle-class education was developed with governmental assistance. On the eve of World War I, in 1914, the Protestant religious denominations that had continued to run the schools despite limited government financial support turned over the schools and the responsibility for education to the government. A notable date in the educational history of St. Kitts and Nevis occurred in 1929 when Miriam Pickard opened her secondary school for girls. That school and the boys' secondary school (St. Kitts Grammar School), established late in the nineteenth century, subsequently merged into a coeducational secondary school in the 1960s.

As the West Indian colonies moved toward independent statehood after World War II, each developed plans for modernizing its education system. An initial step toward a Caribbean-area focus on curriculum came with the introduction of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) Secondary School Examination, which St. Kitts and Nevis, along with other Caribbean members of the Commonwealth, adopted in 1983. Based on a Caribbean-focused curriculum, this system of examinations would ultimately replace the General Certificate of Education (G. C. E.) examinations that were prepared in the United Kingdom. However, until the introduction of the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) in 2000, advanced level examinations taken by grade-14 students were administered by the G. C. E. board. CAPE, on the other hand, is administered by CXC.

Clarence Fitzroy Bryant, former minister of education, played a significant role in bringing universal secondary education to St. Kitts and Nevis in the 1970s. This milestone has helped St. Kitts and Nevis achieve the high literacy rate (98 percent) of today. The goal of the St. Kitts and Nevis educational system is the development of its human resources.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Schooling is in English and is free to all who qualify, from preprimary through sixth forms (grades 13 and 14). The government also underwrites textbooks and examination fees. The school year consists of 3 terms of 13 weeks each and runs from early September to mid-July. In addition to the two-month recess between school years, there is a three-week vacation at Christmas and a two-week vacation at Easter. The school day for primary and secondary education is from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 1:15 to 3:30 p.m. Teaching periods vary from 30 to 35 minutes at the primary level; 30 to 45 minutes at the secondary level; to one hour at the collegiate level.

Primary education for those aged 5 to 12 includes a one-year kindergarten and a six-year primary cycle. In 7 of the 29 government primary schools, a four-year senior stage of post primary education is offered to those who do not find a place in junior schools. There are 19 primary schools on St. Kitts and 9 on Nevis.

The number of primary-level pupils on St. Kitts for the year 2000 was 5,631. For every teacher there were approximately 20 students. On Nevis the student/teacher ratio was slightly less at approximately 19 to 1 with a total of 1,291 students. The combined number of teachers on both islands at the primary level in 2000 was 354; the total number of students was 6,922.

Secondary Education

Four years of secondary education are compulsory for every child on St. Kitts and Nevis. The traditional secondary schools receive a limited number of pupils who have clearly shown ability and interest in academic education by age 12 and who may reasonably be expected to pass the G. C. E. "O" level exam or the academic subject exams of the CXC. Under the current arrangement, all students move into secondary school, but may follow slightly different curricula. Students finishing secondary school may move into the Advanced Vocational Education Centre (AVEC) in preparation for the local college or they can transfer directly to the college if they possess the requisite skills.

In the year 2000 there were 263 teachers and 3,532 pupils at the secondary level on St. Kitts, approximating a 1 to 13 teacher/student ratio. On Nevis there were 45 teachers to 926 pupils with a larger ratio of about 1 to 20. The combined number of teachers on both islands at this level was 260. Pupils totaled 4,458.

Higher Education

St. Kitts and Nevis does not provide full tertiary level education. As of September 1998, students have been able to complete the first year of university locally. Thereafter, they would enroll at the University of West Indies (UWI), which has campuses at: Mona (Jamaica), Cave Hill (Barbados), and St. Augustine (Trinidad and Tobago). The UWI program also offers noncredit courses for adult learners. Berne University, with a campus at Clarence Fitzroy College, Basseterre, provides online and summer residency graduate programs.

The requirements for entry to the teaching profession are four ordinary level (O) subject passes in the school leaving examination, one of which must be English. Most teachers enroll in the division of Teacher Education at the college after at least one year teaching.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Available from

Petty, Osmon, Secretary for the Ministry of Education, St. Kitts & Nevis. Personal correspondence with the author. March 2001.

Redden, Kenneth R., ed. Modern Legal Systems. Buffalo, NY: Willaim S. Heid & Co., 1989.

Dennis J. Stone

Saint Kitts and Nevis

views updated Jun 11 2018

Saint Kitts and Nevis

  • Area: 101 sq mi (261 sq km)/ World Rank: 195
  • Location: Northern and Western hemispheres, in the Eastern Caribbean Sea between Puerto Rico and Trinidad
  • Coordinates: 17°20′N, 62°45′W
  • Borders: None
  • Coastline: 84 mi (135 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 12 NM
  • Highest Point: Mount Misery, 3,793 ft (1,156 m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest Distances: 23 mi (37 km) N-S; 5 mi (8 km) E-W
  • Longest River: No perennial rivers of significant length
  • Largest Lake: Great Salt Pond
  • Natural Hazards: Hurricanes; earthquakes
  • Population: 38,756 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 195
  • Capital City: Basseterre, located on the western coast of Saint Kitts
  • Largest City: Basseterre, population 11,600 (2002 est.)


Shaped like an exclamation mark, the popular tourist destinations of Saint Kitts and Nevis lie in the northern part of Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, with Barbuda in the northeast and Antigua to the southwest. They are volcanic islands separated by a two-mile-wide channel known as the Narrows. The larger island, Saint Kitts, has a dormant volcano, a slat lake, and tropical forests and is dotted by several bays along its southern region. Nevis is also home to a dormant volcano, as well as rich forests and boasts numerous black and white sand beaches. The islands are known for their lush vegetarian and gently warm tropical climate.

Saint Kitts and Nevis are located on the Caribbean Tectonic Plate where it meets the North American Plate. The subduction of the Atlantic Plate below the Caribbean Plate caused the islands to rise out of the ocean.



The major mountain range on the island of Saint Kitts runs through the middle of the island in the south-westerly direction. Rainforests surround the higher slopes while plots of sugarcane cover the foothills. Mount Misery (Mt. Liamuiga) has the highest peak on the island at 3,793 ft (1,156 m). The circular island of Nevis slopes to its highest peak, Nevis Peak, which has an elevation of 3,232 ft (985 m) and is often capped in white clouds. Both Mt. Misery and Mt. Nevis are dormant volcanoes. Nevis itself is considered to be one giant volcano. Earthquakes in the surrounding areas confirm that both of these volcanoes will likely erupt again.


The southern peninsula on Saint Kitts consists of many low hills and expansive reaches of flat terrain. There is little vegetation in this area, since it does not receive as much rainfall as the forests in the higher elevations. Cacti are prevalent, and the area is subject to erosion.



The baseball-shaped Great Salt Pond located near the southeastern tip of Saint Kitts is the only lake on the islands of significant size. Its waters have a higher salt concentration than those of the surrounding Caribbean Sea.


Most of the rivers on Saint Kitts and Nevis have dried significantly over the course of history. Those that do remain are small and drain from the mountain ranges in the wet season, drying up in most parts if not completely in the dry season. Of significance are the Wingfield and Cayon rivers, which during the wet seasons will flow almost to the Caribbean.


Large swamps and marshes of all kinds can be found on the southern peninsula of Saint Kitts, with red and white mangrove as the dominant species in this area. Black vervet monkeys are common here, especially around the aptly-named Monkey Hill.


Oceans and Seas

Saint Kitts and Nevis are located in the Caribbean Sea, separated by a two-mile-wide channel known as the Narrows. While there are coral reefs in the Caribbean around the islands, none near the islands are of significant size. The highest concentration of these reefs is near Nag's Head and the southwestern coast of Saint Kitts. The coral reefs on Saint Kitts, notably those near Sandy Point Bay, are rich in marine life. Barracuda, eels, rays, and sea turtles, as well as various corals and sponges, may be found in these waters.

Major Islands

Located in the channel separating the islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis is the small Booby Island, an area rich in fish, especially snappers.

The Coast and Beaches

The coastlines of the islands are rather jagged and indented, providing for many bay and beach areas. Located on the southern tip of Saint Kitts are Majors Bay, Banana Bay, and Cockleshell Bay. Other bays line the coastline, including Half Moon Bay, Sandy Bay, Frigate and North Frigate Bays, and North and South Friar's Bays. There are two capes of interest: Belle Tete, on the northwestern shore of Saint Kitts, and Nag's Head at the end of the Frigate Bay Peninsula. The beaches on both islands range from smooth with white sand to coarse with black sand, with the best beaches found in southern bay area of Saint Kitts. The northern end of Saint Kitts has numerous black volcanic sand beaches. Nevis's most well known beach is Pinney's Beach, which boasts fine, white sand and is lined by coconut trees.



The temperatures recorded on Saint Kitts and Nevis change very little during the year, due to their close proximity to the equator. Year-round temperatures average 79°F (26°C) and rarely exceed 89°F (32°C).


Rainfall is greater and more frequent in higher elevations. Most rain falls between May and November, with an average annual rainfall of 43 in (109 cm). The summer months are especially humid; hurricanes are possible in the late summer and early fall months.


Fertile grasslands exist near the capital city of Basseterre, and are primarily used for crop cultivation. However, much of the natural vegetation has been removed.

Forests and Jungles

More than 240 species of trees are found in the forests that surround the islands' mountains. Common to both islands are lemon and palm trees, as well as hibiscus and tamarind. In recent years, hurricanes and deforestation have seriously affected the size of the rainforests.


The island of Saint Kitts is more populated than Nevis, both in actual numbers and in population density. In 2002, the estimated population density of Saint Kitts was 445 inhabitants per sq mi (172 inhabitants per sq km) while the population density of Nevis was 246 per sq mi (95 per sq km). More than 25 percent of all the islands' inhabitants live in the capital city of Basseterre on Saint Kitts. Most of the country's population is of African descent.

Parishes – Saint Kitts and Nevis
NameArea (sq mi)Area (sq km)
Christ Church --Nichola Town7.218.6
Saint Anne -- Sandy Point4.912.8
Saint George -- Basseterre11.128.7
Saint George -- Gingerland7.118.5
Saint James -- Windward12.031.1
Saint John -- Capisterre9.624.8
Saint John -- Figtree8.221.3
Saint Mary -- Cayon5.815.1
Saint Paul -- Capisterre5.313.8
Saint Paul -- Charlestown1.43.5
Saint Peter -- Basseterre8.020.7
Saint Thomas -- Middle Island9.424.3
Saint Thomas -- Lowland7.018.1
Trinity -- Palmetto Point6.015.4
SOURCE: Geo-Data: The World Geographical Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989.


The islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis have limited natural resources apart from their fertile, arable lands, which support the cultivation of sugarcane, sea island cotton, peanuts, and coconut. Salt raking is done occasionally.


Gordon, Joyce. Nevis: Queen of the Caribees. London: Macmillan Caribbean, 1990.

Merrill, Gordon Clark. The Historical Geography of St. Kitts and Nevis, the West Indies. Mexico: Instituto Panamericano de Geografia e Historia, 1958.

Moll, Verna P. Saint Kitts-Nevis. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1995.

Richardson, Bonham C. Caribbean Migrants: Environment and Human Survival on Saint Kitts and Nevis. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1983.


Historians believe that the Portuguese explorer, Christopher Columbus, may have thought the clouds surrounding the summit of Mount Nevis were snow cover, since he named the island Nevis and the Spanish word for snow is nieve.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

views updated May 11 2018

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Type of Government

Saint Kitts and Nevis is a parliamentary democracy and an independent state within the British Commonwealth. The executive branch consists of a prime minister, who is head of government, and a governor general, who is head of state and the representative of the British monarch. The prime minister and his or her cabinet is responsible to the unicameral parliament, the National Assembly, three of whose members are appointed and the remaining eleven of which are elected by popular vote. The country’s judicial system is modeled on English common law.


Saint Kitts and Nevis is made up of two Caribbean islands separated by just two miles. Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) explored the islands in 1493, but no colonial settlements were established on either island until 1623 when the British founded the colony of Saint Christopher on Saint Kitts under Sir Thomas Warner (d. 1649). Granted a Royal Commission, Warner sent colonists to nearby islands, including Nevis and Anguilla. The French settled on Saint Kitts in 1625, and the following year Warner and his fellow European settlers, fearful of attack by the indigenous inhabitants, the Carib, struck first, killing more than two thousand natives. Thereafter, the English and French divided the island, but tensions grew between the two countries for the next century until a decisive British victory in 1782 ended French presence on both islands.

Meanwhile, the settlers became relatively prosperous cultivating tobacco. Nevis became renowned for its peacefulness and wealth, but did suffer one major setback: in 1690 a huge earthquake and subsequent tsunami completely destroyed the island’s capital city, Jamestown. By 1640 tobacco had given way to sugar cane as the major export for the islands, and African slaves were imported to work the crop. Soon the African population far outstripped the number of British settlers. With the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834, sugar profits began to decline, a problem exacerbated by over-farming and by competition from countries such as Brazil and Cuba.

Administratively, the two islands were grouped with Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands in what was called the Leeward Islands; in 1833 this was renamed the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands, with the separate islands maintaining a degree of independence from London and from one another. However, in 1883, Saint Kitts, Nevis, and Anguilla were united, with a common president. This forced unification caused tensions between the formerly independent islands.

During the twentieth century, as sugar prices and production declined, workers on the islands grew restive. The Great Depression of the 1930s brought worker frustrations to a head, and an organized labor movement was founded as labor riots spread. The Saint Kitts and Nevis Trades and Labour Union was formed in 1940 to tap the growing labor movement, and its political arm, the Saint Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKLP), managed to put the union leader Robert Bradshaw (1916–1978) into the local legislature; later he became the first premier of Saint Kitts, Nevis, and Anguilla. For the next three decades, the Labour Party was at the forefront of politics in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The road to independence was long. The British granted universal adult suffrage in 1952 and allowed for increased local representation. In 1958 Saint Kitts, Nevis, and Anguilla were placed under the auspices of the West Indies Federation and then reclassified again, in 1967, as associated states of the United Kingdom. Anguilla, seeking its own independence, broke away from the state in 1971; final ratification of its secession came in 1980. Saint Kitts and Nevis gained formal independence from Britain in 1983, becoming a fully sovereign and democratic state, though remaining a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth.

Government Structure

The country of Saint Kitts and Nevis is a federation of those two islands. According to the 1983 constitution, the British monarch is head of state, represented locally by a governor general at the capital of Basseterre on the larger island of Saint Kitts. A deputy governor general is also delegated for Nevis. However, real power resides in the hands of the parliament and the prime minister.

The prime minister is the leader of the majority party or ruling coalition in the unicameral legislature, the National Assembly. The prime minister is the head of government and rules along with the members of the cabinet, also chosen from members of the majority party or coalition majority. The prime minister can call for elections if they are demanded by the people in a referendum.

The fourteen-member National Assembly is elected every five years (suffrage is universal for all citizens eighteen or older). Eleven members are directly elected from the eleven different constituencies, three of them representing Nevis and eight Saint Kitts. Three additional senators are appointed by the governor general in consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. By the terms of the 1983 constitution, Nevis has its own legislative assembly, the Nevis Island Assembly, and local administration. The Nevis Island Administration (NIA) is led by the premier and a cabinet. Nevis was also guaranteed in the 1983 constitution the right to secede from the federation if such a motion is approved by three of the five members of the local Nevisian assembly and thereafter by two-thirds of the voters on the island of Nevis.

The judicial branch of the federation operates on the principles of British common law as well as the laws and regulations passed by the National Assembly (also sometimes referred to as the House of Assembly). Magistrates’ courts deal with petty criminal and civil cases; legal assistance is provided to indigent criminal defendants. The attorney general, a member of the cabinet, is the government’s principal legal adviser. Saint Kitts and Nevis also belongs to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, based in Saint Lucia; there is one judge of this court residing in Saint Kitts. Higher appeals go, since 2005, to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Political Parties and Factions

Four major parties dominate Saint Kitts and Nevis politics: the SKLP, the People’s Action Movement (PAM), the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM), and the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP).

The SKLP dominated politics until 1980, led at first by Robert Bradshaw, considered to be the father of independence. With Bradshaw’s death in 1978, his deputy took over, only to die a year later. Thereafter, the party floundered for a time, coming back into power in 1995 under Denzil Douglas (1953–). The SKLP also won the 2004 election, taking more than fifty percent of the vote, and keeping Douglas in power as prime minister.

PAM was formed in 1964 by families of the former estate and plantation owners, a conservative reaction to the power of the SKLP. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, PAM, alone or in coalition, controlled the government under Kennedy Simmonds (1936–).

CCM is a political party formed in Nevis whose members hold seats both in the National Assembly and in the Nevis Island Assembly. It advocates constitutional reform to give greater autonomy to Nevis in administering its own affairs and in its relationship with Saint Kitts. Another Nevis-based party, NRP, was founded in 1970 and is led by Simeon Daniel (1934–), premier of Nevis from 1983 to 1992.

Major Events

Since independence in 1983, St. Kitts and Nevis has gone through major economic restructuring, as its three-century reliance on sugar was doomed by a worldwide price drop in that product. Accordingly, the government, under various administrations, has pushed for diversification into tourism and financial services. In the financial services sector, the country became embroiled in various forms of illegal or unethical practices, including money laundering, and was blacklisted by some international financial agencies. By 2002, though, such irregularities seemed to have been corrected.

In 1998 residents of the island of Nevis voted on a referendum to secede. The measure, which by the terms of the constitution required a two-thirds majority to pass, achieved about 62 percent of the vote, and thus narrowly failed.

Twenty-First Century

The economy and Nevis secession continue to be the dominant challenges to stability in Saint Kitts and Nevis. In 2005 the government decided to abandon the state-owned sugar industry, which had been suffering since the 1960s. Tourism has become the nation’s top industry, but it is not known if that can completely replace revenues formerly derived from sugar exports. Nationalist sentiment on Nevis has not abated since the referendum, and the movement for secession persists despite attempts by the federal government to provide increased constitutional autonomy to lessen tensions.

Cox, Edward L. Free Coloreds in the Slave Societies of St. Kitts and Grenada, 1763–1833. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1984.

Government of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis. (accessed April 10, 2007).

Moll, V. P. St. Kitts-Nevis. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio, 1995.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

views updated May 18 2018

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Official name: Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis

Area: 261 square kilometers (101 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Misery (1,156 meters/3,793 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 8 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 37 kilometers (23 miles) from north to south; 8 kilometers (5 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 135 kilometers (84 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Shaped like an exclamation mark, the popular tourist destinations of Saint Kitts and Nevis lie in the northern part of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, with Barbuda to the northeast and Antigua to the southwest. Covering an area of 261 square kilometers (101 square miles), Saint Kitts and Nevis is over one-and one-half times the size of Washington, D.C.


Saint Kitts and Nevis has no territories or dependencies.


The temperatures recorded on Saint Kitts and Nevis change very little during the year, due to their close proximity to the equator. Year-round temperatures average 26°C (79°F) and rarely exceed 32°C (89°F).

Rainfall is greater and more frequent in higher elevations. Most rain falls between May and November, with an average annual rainfall of 109 centimeters (43 inches). The summer months are especially humid; hurricanes are possible in the late summer and early fall months.


Both Saint Kitts and Nevis are volcanic islands. The larger of the two, Saint Kitts, contains a dormant volcano, a salt lake, and tropical forests. The circular island of Nevis, also home to a dormant volcano, slopes to its highest peak, Nevis Peak, and is home to rich forests and sandy beaches. Both islands are known for their lush vegetation.


Saint Kitts and Nevis are located in the Caribbean Sea.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

While there are coral reefs throughout the Caribbean, none of the reefs near the islands are of significant size. The highest concentration of these reefs is near Nag's Head and the southwestern coast of Saint Kitts. The coral reefs on Saint Kitts, notably those near Sandy Point Bay, are rich in marine life.

Sea Inlets and Straits

A two-mile-wide channel, known as the Narrows, separates Saint Kitts from Nevis.

Islands and Archipelagos

Located in the channel separating the islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis is the small Booby Island.

Coastal Features

The coastlines of the islands are rather jagged and indented, with many bay and beach areas. Located on the southern tip of Saint Kitts are Majors Bay, Banana Bay, and Cockleshell Bay. Other bays line the coastline, including Half Moon Bay, Sandy Bay, Frigate and North Frigate Bays, and North and South Friar's Bays. There are two capes of interest: Belle Tete, on the northwestern shore of Saint Kitts, and Nag's Head, at the end of the Frigate Bay Peninsula. The beaches on both islands range from smooth with white sand to coarse with black sand. The northern end of Saint Kitts has numerous black volcanic sand beaches.


The Great Salt Pond, located near the southeastern tip of Saint Kitts, is the only lake of significant size on the islands.


Most of the rivers on Saint Kitts and Nevis no longer flow year-round. Those that remain are small and drain from the mountain ranges in the wet season, drying up partially or completely in the dry season. Two seasonal rivers of note are the Wingfield and Cayon Rivers, which during the wet seasons will flow almost to the Caribbean.


There are no deserts on Saint Kitts and Nevis.


Plots of sugarcane cover the foothills of the central mountain range on Saint Kitts. The island's southern peninsula consists of many low hills and expansive reaches of flat terrain, which include large swamps and marshes of all kinds.


The major mountain range on the island of Saint Kitts runs through the middle of the island from northeast to southwest. Rainforests surround the higher slopes. Mount Misery (also called Mount Liamuiga) is the highest summit on the island at 1,156 meters (3,793 feet). The highest peak on Nevis, called Nevis Peak, has an elevation of 985 meters (3,232 feet); it is often capped in white clouds.


Coral grottoes located some 12 meters (40 feet) beneath Nevis's western coast are a popular dive site, providing underwater access to the island's coral reefs.


There are no plateaus or significant monoliths on Saint Kitts and Nevis.


Once known as "the Gibraltar of the West Indies," Brimstone Hill on the island of Saint Kitts is home to an eighteenth-century fortress that was restored in the 1960s.



Gordon, Joyce. Nevis: Queen of the Caribees. London: Macmillan Caribbean, 1990.

Merrill, Gordon Clark. The Historical Geography of St. Kitts and Nevis, the West Indies. Mexico: Instituto Panamericano de Geografia e Historia, 1958.

Richardson, Bonham C. Caribbean Migrants: Environment and Human Survival on Saint Kitts and Nevis. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1983.

Web Sites

Lonely Planet: Destination St. Kitts and Nevis. (accessed March 13, 2003).

St. Kitts Tourism Authority. (accessed March 13, 2003).

Saint Kitts and Nevis

views updated Jun 11 2018

Saint Kitts and Nevis

The twin island federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis is 261 square kilometers (100 square miles) in area and is located in the northeastern Caribbean chain of the Leeward Islands. A two-mile-wide channel separates the two islands, and the capital city of Basseterre is located on Saint Kitts. The population, estimated at 46,700 in 2002, has a life expectancy of 72 years and a 98 percent literacy rate. The site of the earliest British colonial settlement in the Caribbean, the islands gained their independence in 1983.

Sugar plantations traditionally dominated Saint Kitts, whereas Nevis was shaped by small farms and trading. Tourism, remittances, and assembly manufacturing are the mainstays of the economy. The 2001 World Bank estimate of gross national income per capita was $10,190, well above the Latin America and Caribbean average, and qualified Saint Kitts as an upper-middle-income country. The currency is tied to the U.S. dollar and 60 percent of exports are to the United States, but the islands also maintain close trading ties with Europe and other Caribbean states.

Trade unions developed among sugar workers in the 1930s and led to the creation of the Saint Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) in 1940. After the 1960s other parties emerged in reaction to the early SKNLP dominance in politics. The People's Action Movement, started in 1965, reflected opposition on Saint Kitts, and Nevis-based parties were developed in the 1970s and 1980s, including the formation of the Nevis Reformation Party and the Concerned Citizens Movement. New parties continue to be formed: The United People's Party was founded in 1993 and the United National Empowerment Party in 2004.

The 1983 constitution is based on a British-style parliamentary system. Eleven members are elected, and three are appointed. Eight electoral districts are on Saint Kitts, and three on Nevis. Majority control of the parliament has been achieved either by one party winning the Saint Kitts electoral seats or by a coalition between a Saint Kitts party and Nevis representatives. The SKNLP controlled the government from the 1957 until 1980. From 1980 to 1995 the government was formed by coalitions between the People's Action Movement on Saint Kitts and Nevis Reformation Party on Nevis. These coalitions became increasingly fragile: The 1993 election caused protests when a governing coalition was formed by a narrow margin. The SKNLP returned to power in 1995 and won re-election in 2000. In the October 2004 election the SKNLP won seven seats, all on Saint Kitts, and Denzil Douglas (b. 1953) was named prime minister for a third term.

The 1983 constitution is also based on a federal arrangement between the two islands and reflected long-standing conflicts. Nevis has autonomy over many policy matters, possesses its own island assembly, and has the right to secede. Secession is a contentious issue on Nevis: A 1998 referendum failed to meet the required two-thirds by 4 percentage points. Electoral politics has increased conflict between the two islands. The demands for secession reflect a desire for more control over resources, represent a way for Nevis-based parties to appeal to the electorate, and have been a bargaining strategy between the parties. Intermarriage and travel as well as a sense of national identity brought about by emigration have tended to defuse the rhetoric between the parties on this issue.

Saint Kitts and Nevis has an excellent human rights record. The judicial system follows British common law practices and procedures. Saint Kitts and Nevis is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal and is cooperating with other Caribbean states in the creation of a Caribbean Court of Justice to replace the British Privy Council as the final appellate court. The death penalty is mandatory for capital offenses but was ruled to be unconstitutional by the British Privy Council. Allegations about the impact of drug smuggling and money laundering on politics and about close ties between parties and law enforcement officials have put into question the quality of democracy in recent years. Freedom of speech and the press has been challenged on occasion by the intensity of electoral competition.

Saint Kitts and Nevis is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, a multi-island regional administrative organization. Security is provided by the Eastern Caribbean Regional Security System, a collective security organization, and by a 370-member police force. The main security concern is the interdiction of drug smugglers, and a 1995 treaty with the United States allows for joint patrols of adjacent waters.

See also: Caribbean Region.


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Buchanan, Ivan, and J. W. Tapley Seaton. "Constitutional Evolution in the Caribbean: A Historical Analysis of the Union of St. Kitts and Nevis." The Parliamentarian 82, no. 4 (2001):379–384.

Griffin, Clifford. Democracy and Neoliberalism in the Developing World: Lessons from the Anglophone Caribbean. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 1997.

Harrington, Joanna. "The Challenge of the Mandatory Death Penalty in the Commonwealth Caribbean." American Journal of International Law 98, no. 1 (2004):126–140.

Jones-Hendrickson, Simon. "Which Way Forward: Constitutional Issues and Reform in the Twin Island Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis." In Living at the Borderlines: Issues in Caribbean Sovereignty and Development, ed. Cynthia Barrow-Giles and Don Marshall. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 2003.

"Saint Kitts and Nevis." CIA World Factbook. Washington, DC: U. S. Central Intelligence Agency, 2004. <>.

Derwin Munroe

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Saint Kitts and Nevis