St. Vincent and the Grenadines

views updated May 21 2018



CAPITAL: Kingstown

FLAG: Three vertical bands of blue, yellow, and green; centered on the yellow band are three green diamonds arranged in a v-pattern.

ANTHEM: National Anthem, beginning "St. Vincent! Land so beautiful."

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 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 measures are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; CARICOM Day, 5 July; Carnival, 6 July; Bank Holiday, 1st Monday in August; Independence Day, 27 October; Christmas Day, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Whitmonday.

TIME: 8 am = noon GMT.


Located in the Windward Islands group of the Lesser Antilles, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is 34 km (21 mi) sw of St. Lucia and about 160 km (100 mi) w of Barbados. Scattered between St. Vincent and Grenada to the sw are more than 100 small islands called the Grenadines, half of which belong to St. Vincent and the other half to Grenada. The Grenadines belonging to St. Vincent include Union Island, Mayreau, Canouan, Mustique, Bequia, and many other uninhabited cays, rocks, and reefs. The land area of St. Vincent island is 344 sq km (133 sq mi). Bequia, the largest of the Grenadines belonging to St. Vincent, has an area of 18 sq km (7 sq mi). The total land area of the country is 389 sq km (150 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by St. Vincent and the Grenadines is slightly less than twice the size of Washington, DC.

The capital city, Kingstown, is located on the southeast coast of the island of St. Vincent.


St. Vincent is a rugged island of volcanic formation, and the Grenadines are formed by a volcanic ridge running northsouth between St. Vincent and Grenada. The highest peak on St. Vincent is Soufrière, an active volcano with an altitude of 1,234 m (4,048 ft); it has a crater lake 1.6 km (1 mi) wide. In the center of the island, Richmond Peak rises to a height of 1,079 m (3,539 ft). Only 5% of the island's surface has slopes of less than 5°. The low-lying Grenadines have wide beaches and shallow bays and harbors, but most have no source of freshwater except rainfall. The highest point in the Grenadines is Mt. Tobai on Union Island, with an altitude of 308 m (1,010 ft).


The islands enjoy a pleasant tropical climate all year round, with a yearly average temperature of 26°c (79°f). The warmest month is September, with an average temperature of 27°c (81°f); the coolest is January, with an average temperature of 25°c (77°f). The average yearly rainfall on St. Vincent is 231 cm (91 in), but in the mountainous areas the average rainfall is more than 380 cm (150 in) a year. May or June through December is the rainy season.


The shallow waters of the Grenadines abound with marine life. Lobsters, conch, fish of all varieties, and turtles can be found in such areas as the Tobago Cays, which lie north of Prune (Palm) Island. Whales are frequently sighted off Petit Nevis, and large iguanas can be found on some of the waterless rocks and cays.

In Kingstown, on St. Vincent, there is a famous botanical garden where the breadfruit tree was introduced to the West Indies from South Pacific islands in 1793. Some of the many birds found in St. Vincent are the Caribbean eleania, the trembler, the bananaquit, and the Antillean crested hummingbird.


The principal recurrent threat to the environment comes from the Soufrière volcano, which erupted violently on 7 May 1902, destroying much of northern St. Vincent and claiming 1,565 lives. After another eruption, on 13 April 1979, the volcano remained active for weeks, spewing over much of the island a pall of volcanic ash, which covered mountains, forests, and plantation fields. Forests are threatened by farming development and use of wood for commercial purposes.

Pollution from pleasure yachts and other sources has seriously affected the eastern shorelines of all the major islands of the Grenadines. In Bequia's Admiralty Bay, the pollution is so severe that swimming is dangerous. The main contributing factors are toxic chemicals used in farming and sewage. Fresh water resources are also limited. The nation's tourist trade increases the need for water even more. The nation's coast is particularly vulnerable to pollution from industrial sources.

The central highlands of St. Vincent have been set aside as a natural preservation area for nesting of the St. Vincent parrot, the St. Vincent wren, and the St. Vincent solitaire, all endangered or rare species. In the Grenadines, the hawksbill, green sea, and leatherback turtles have been declared endangered. The Tobago Cays have been proposed as a nature preserve, but aside from a few sites on Union Island there are no protected areas in the Grenadines belonging to St. Vincent. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 2 types of mammals, 2 species of birds, 4 types of reptiles, 1 species of amphibian, 11 species of fish, and 4 species of plants. Threatened species included the guaiac tree, the great white shark, the St. Vincent black snake, and several species of whales and dolphins.


The population of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 111,000, which placed it at number 176 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 6% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 30% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.1%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 117,000. The overall population density was 285 per sq km (737 per sq mi), with the majority of the population living on St. Vincent, which is the main island. The Grenadines are sparsely populated; many of the islands are uninhabited.

The UN estimated that 55% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.97%. The capital city, Kingstown, had a population of 29,000 in that year.


Although no reliable statistics are available, emigration is known to take place to Trinidad, Guyana, Guadeloupe, and Martinique. In the past, the United Kingdom and the United States also accepted substantial numbers of migrants, and Canada is still receiving arrivals from the islands. The number of migrants was estimated to be 8,000 in 2001. In 2005, the net migration rate was -7.61 per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


About 66% of the islanders are descendants of African slaves. About 19% of the population is of mixed origin. Of the mixed group, about 1,000 persons, identified as Black Caribs, descend from the intermingling of Amerindians and Africans that occurred before European colonization. In the second half of the 19th century, about 2,472 indentured laborers were brought to St. Vincent from Asia; their descendants, making up about 6% of the current population, are known as East Indians. About 2% of the people are Carib Amerindians.


English is the official language of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Some islanders speak a French patois, representing a mixture of African and French grammar, with a vocabulary drawing mostly upon French, along with some English and a few Spanish words. A few islanders speak French as their first language.


Christianity is the dominant religion of the islands. The largest denomination is the Anglican Church, with about 24,000 members. The Methodist Church has about 4,500 registered members, but up to 12,000 people have claimed some affiliation with this denomination. About 11,000 citizens are Roman Catholic and another 11,000 are Seventh-Day Adventist. The Pentecostal Assembly of the West Indies has about 20 congregations in the country; other Pentecostal denominations are present. There are small communities of Baha'is, Hindus, and Muslims. There is also a group of Rastafarians, some of whom claim discrimination by local police because their religion endorses the use of marijuana, which is illegal in the country. Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution. The Christian Council of Churches promotes interfaith understanding and maintains a close relationship with the government.


St. Vincent is on the main air routes of the Caribbean, with direct flights to Trinidad and Barbados as well as the other islands to the north. In 2004 there were an estimated six airports and airfields, five of which had paved runways (as of 2005). The international airport is located on the southern tip of the island, near Kingstown; one of the much smaller airports is located on the east coast, north of Georgetown. Small airports are also located on Union, Canouan, and Mustique islands. In 1991, the construction industry and the infrastructure were given a minor boost with the government's announcement of an us$18.5 million airport improvement and road construction and upgrading program.

All of the Grenadines have excellent harbors served by a ferry service operating out of Kingstown. Wharf facilities were enlarged in the early 1980s, with financial support from the United States, to include a deepwater pier. In 2005, the merchant fleet comprised 657 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 7,967,418 GRT. Although the main road of St. Vincent, going down the east coast and up the west coast, does not encircle the island, it does connect all the main towns with the capital. As of 2002, the islands had about 829 km (516 mi) of roads, of which 580 km (361 mi) were paved. About 8,110 vehicles were registered in 1995, including 4,935 passenger cars. There is approximately one vehicle for every 15 residents.


The Arawak Amerindians, who migrated from South America, are the earliest known inhabitants of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Subsequently, the Caribs took control of the islands and were there when Christopher Columbus reached St. Vincent on 22 January 1498.

St. Vincent was one of the last of the West Indies to be settled. Left to the Carib Amerindians by British and French agreement in 1660, the island continued to have a sizable Amerindian population until the first quarter of the 18th century. One of the results of this isolation from European influence was the evolution of the Black Caribs, who descend from the intermarriage of runaway or shipwrecked slaves with the Amerindians. The island was taken formally by the British in 1763, who ruled thereafter, except from 1779 to 1783 when it was in the hands of the French.

The island changed its ethnic character during the next century. When the Black Caribs and the remaining Amerindians rebelled against the British in 1795 at French instigation, most of the defeated insurgents were removed to the Bay of Honduras. Those who remained were decimated by an eruption of Soufrière in 1812. They were supplanted by African slaves, who were freed in 1834, Madeiran Portuguese, who immigrated in 1848 because of a labor shortage, and Asian indentured laborers who arrived in the latter half of the 19th century.

St. Vincent was administered as a crown colony within the Windward Islands group from 1833 until 1960, when it became a separate administrative unit linked with the Federation of the West Indies. The federation fell apart in 1962, and after lengthy discussion, St. Vincent became a self-governing state in association with the United Kingdom seven years later. On 27 October 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines achieved full independence as a member of the Commonwealth.

During the first months of independence, the young nation faced a rebellion on Union Island, its southernmost constituent, by a group of Rastafarians attempting to secede. The revolt was put down with military support from neighboring Barbados. In the end, 1 person was killed and 40 arrested. Otherwise, the political system has had few disruptions. The government at independence under the St. Vincent Labor Party gave way to the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1984, with the NDP renewing its government in 1989.

In 1990, leaders of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Grenada, and St. Lucia formed the Regional Constituent Assembly to plan for a limited union. However, these talks were halted after 1995 because the parties in power changed in several of the countries. In the February 1994 election, the NDP won its third consecutive term in office. The NDP captured 12 seats in the House of Assembly and the Unity Labor Party (ULP) won three seats.

The NDP retained its parliamentary majority by only one vote in early elections held in June 1998, winning 8 seats as opposed to 7 won by the opposition ULP led by Vincent Beache. But in 2001, the ULP led by Ralph Gonsalves won the election with 56.7% of the vote and secured 12 of the 15 elected seats in the 21-member Assembly.

In spite of efforts at diversification, bananas remained the most important sector of the country's economy. However, the banana industry, like those of other Caribbean island nations, suffered serious blows in past years.

In 2003, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was admitted to the Non-Aligned Movement of developing nations. That year, the country was also removed from the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force's list of nations deemed uncooperative in the fight against money laundering.


When the nation became independent in 1979, it kept the then British monarch as the nominal head of government, represented by a governor-general. The governor-general appoints the leader of the majority party to be prime minister. The cabinet is appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister. Executive power is in the hands of the prime minister and cabinet, who are members of the majority party in the legislature. The legislature is unicameral, a 21-seat House of Assembly. The House of Assembly consists of representatives elected from each of 15 constituencies for a maximum of five years, plus 6 senators appointed by the governor-general.


There are two major parties and four minor parties on the islands. The majority party is the New Democratic Party (NDP). Founded in 1975, the party had, after 1984, held a parliamentary majority. In the elections of June 1998, the NDP's majority slipped from 12 to 8 out of 15 seats, giving it only a one-seat margin over the opposition SVLP.

The St. Vincent Unity Labour Party (ULP) was founded in 1955 and was in power at independence and governed the nation, under Robert Milton Cato, until the July 1984 elections. Under the leadership of party leader, Ralph Gonsalves, the ULP won the 2001 parliamentary election with 12 out of 15 seats. The ULP also won the 2005 election, winning 55.26% of the vote (12 seats) to the NDP's 44.68% (3 seats). The next elections were to be held in 2010.


In an attempt to decentralize the government, this small nation has been subdivided into six parishes.


The islands are divided into three judicial districts; there are 11 courts within the three districts. Appeals may be carried to the East Caribbean Supreme Court, based in St. Lucia, and made up of the Court of Appeal and the High Court. Prior to 2003, in exceptional cases, appeals were carried to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. On 9 June 2003, Caribbean leaders met in Kingston, Jamaica, to ratify a treaty to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Eight nationsBarbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobagoofficially approved the CCJ, although 14 nations were planning to use the court for appeals. Haiti had agreed to use the CCJ for resolution of trade disputes. 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.

The constitution guarantees a public trial before an independent and impartial court. Legal counsel is afforded to indigent defendants in cases involving capital punishment. There are no separate security or military courts.


There are no armed forces except those of the police force and coast guard. The Eastern Caribbean Regional Security System, which includes Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia, as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, provides for joint coast guard operations, military exercises, and disaster contingency plans.


St. Vincent and the Grenadines became a member of the United Nations on 16 September 1980 and belongs to the ECLAC and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, ILO, UNCTAD, UNSECSO, the World Bank, and the WHO. The nation is a member of the WTO, the ACP Group, CARICOM, the Caribbean Development Bank, G-77, the OAS, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the OECS. It is also part of 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, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is part of the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Whaling, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with bananas as the primary cash crop. Vegetable production for export grew significantly in the mid-1980s, as the market for arrowroot declined. Revenues from banana exports fell after 1990, but EU support after 1998 helped the industry. Tourism is particularly important in the Grenadines, where yachting is a principal pastime. Some of the smaller cays have been wholly acquired by private interests and developed into resorts for European and North American visitors. Some industrial development has begun in St. Vincent, but the government has been relatively unsuccessful at introducing new industries, and high unemployment rates continued. The continuing dependence on a single crop represents the biggest obstacle to economic development; tropical storms frequently disturb agricultural production. Dependence upon the tourism industry is also risky, as witnessed by the low numbers of arrivals following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. About 160,000 tourists arrived in the country in 2004.

Although private sector activity was weak in the mid-2000s, growth was supported by a rebound in agricultural production and expansionary fiscal policies, including large public sector investments. Following stagnation in 2001, a moderate recovery began in 200203. The GDP growth rate reached 5.4% in 2004.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 St. Vincent and the Grenadines's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $342.0 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 $2,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 0.7%. The average inflation rate in 2001 was -0.4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 10% of GDP, industry 26%, and services 64%.

Approximately 27% of household consumption was spent on food, 8% on fuel, 2% on health care, and 13% on education. It was estimated that for the same period private consumption grew at an annual rate of 7%.


As of 1991, the labor force totaled an estimated 41,680 persons. As of 2001, the services sector accounted for 60.7% of those employed, with 15.4% in agriculture, 19.7% engaged in industry, and 4.2% in undefined occupations. In 2001 the unemployment rate was estimated at 15%.

One of the first authentic labor unions in the West Indies was formed in St. Vincent in 1935, during the Great Depression. From this initial Workingman's Association, the labor movement in St. Vincent has developed unions for agricultural workers, dockworkers, civil servants, and teachers. There is some poaching of members among competing trade unions, and the labor movement is gradually losing support. While workers have the right to form unions and strike, employers are not compelled to recognize a union or bargain collectively with them. Many employers do try to maintain good relations with their workers though, and strikes are rare. St. Vincent and the Grenadines joined the International Labor Organization in 1999.

The minimum working age is 16 and this is enforced by the government and respected by employers. Some children under 16 do work on family-owned banana plantations. There is no statutory workweek, but most workweeks are 40 hours long in practice. The minimum wage varies by economic sector and level of employee skill. As of 2002, the minimum wage for agricultural workers was us$6.74 per day (not including shelter) and us$7.49 per day for industrial workers.


About half of St. Vincent is devoted to crop growing. Agricultural products accounted for 60% of exports in 2004. Real growth in agriculture was averaging 6.7% annually. Bananas constitute the main crop; vegetables, coconut, spices, and sugar are also important. Banana production was adversely affected by the eruption of Soufrière, which reduced exports from 30,414 tons in 1978 to 22,692 tons in 1979. Further damage was done by two hurricanes in 1979 and 1980; in the latter year, some 95% of the crop was destroyed. Production rebounded during 1981, and 83,000 tons were produced in 1982; in 2004, 45,000 tons were produced. Other crops in 2004 included coconuts, 21,500 tons; sugarcane, 18,000 tons; sweet potatoes, 1,200 tons; and plantains, 3,500 tons. Most of the agricultural products are grown on small farms; quality control is sometimes a problem, particularly in the production of bananas. There are approximately 5,000 banana growers on the island.


Estimates of the livestock population in 2005 include 12,000 sheep, 9,150 hogs, 5,000 head of cattle, 7,200 goats, and 125,000 poultry of all types. The island of St. Vincent does not produce enough meat, poultry, eggs, and milk to satisfy local demand.


At one time, St. Vincent and Bequia were the centers for a thriving whaling industry, but only 21 humpback whales were captured from 1970 to 2003. Since the New Kingston Fish Market opened in the late 1980s, the fish catch rapidly increased. In 2003, the total catch amounted to 4,782 tons, up from 921 tons in 1996. However, fisheries exports declined from us$1,960,300 in 1990 to us$551,000 in 2003. Technical assistance and training to fisherman and fisheries staff was being sponsored by the Canadian Fisheries Development Project.


There is virtually no commercial forestry, although 36% of the land consists of forests and woodlands. Some local timber is used for residential and boat construction. Imports of forest products amounted to almost us$18.5 million in 2004.


Mining played a minor role in the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Some sand was extracted for local construction projects, and on some of the smaller and drier Grenadines, salt was produced on a small scale for local consumption.


The electric power facilities of St. Vincent and the Grenadines were being expanded and improved to meet the growing industrial demand. In 2002, total power generation amounted to 91 million kWh, of which 72.5% was from fossil fuels and 27.5% from hydropower. Consumption of electricity in the same year was 85 million kWh. Total installed capacity in 2002 was 23,000 kW.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines had no reserves of natural gas, oil, or coal, nor any refining capacity. All fossil fuel needs are met by imports of refined oil products. In 2002, imports and consumption of refined oil products each averaged 1,300 barrels per day. Of that amount, distillates and gasoline accounted for the majority. Distillate imports averaged 690 barrels per day, while gasoline accounted for 440 barrels per day.


A substantial amount of industrial activity centers on the processing of agricultural products. Because of depression in the sugar industry, sugar-processing facilities established in 198182 were shut down in 1985; in the same year, a beer factory began production. Nonagricultural industries include several garment factories, a furniture factory, an electronics plant, and a corrugated cardboard box plant. Manufacturing accounted for 6.1% of GDP in 2001, and industrial activity as a whole contributed 26% to GDP in 2001.

The tourism industry lagged in the 1990s because of difficult transportation access and the lack of white sand beaches on the main islands. However, the government put more emphasis than ever on the promotion of the country as an upscale tourist destination. A new airport on Union Island was opened in 1993. A year earlier, a new airport, financed by a grant from the EC (now EU), opened on the island of Bequia. In 1996, a new cruise ship and berths came on line.

The 2003 budget called for the establishment of two business parks at Diamond and Campden Park; 178,000 sq ft of factory space had been created at Campden Park Estate by 2006, and plans were ongoing for the development of the Diamond Industrial Estate. The government also announced the reintroduction of a new product development and processing facility.


St. Vincent seeks scientific expertise to deal with problems associated with its main agricultural products, especially bananas. The computer industry in the United States and Europe has opened up a new demand for paper; with proper processing, arrowroot might be able to compete in this new market, but so far the technology is lacking. Experimentation on arrowroot waste as a source of biogas has also been undertaken. A National Council for Science and Technology was created late in 1981. St. Vincent also has an Appropriate Technology Center, established in 1982. In 2002, there were 21 researchers and 110 technicians actively engaged in research and development.


Kingstown is the main commercial distribution center. Agriculture has traditionally formed the basis of the local economy, but tourism has become much more important as a sector of the economy. Local produce markets exist in all the Grenadines and in the small villages on St. Vincent. Government offices on St. Vincent are open on weekdays from 8 am to noon and from 1 to 4:15 pm. On Saturday afternoons, most shops are closed. Supermarkets and shopping centers, however, are generally open from 8 am to 8 pm.


St. Vincent and the Grenadines is highly dependent on foreign trade. From the agricultural sector, bananas (50%) and vegetables are major foreign exchange earners. Other exports include yachts, eddoes and dasheen (taro), arrowroot starch, and tennis racquets.

In 2000 the country's imports were distributed among the following categories: consumer goods, 18.0%; food, 25.8%; fuels, 9.6%; industrial supplies, 28.8%; machinery, 10.3%; and transportation, 7.5%.

About half of exports go to other Caribbean islands, and over one-third of imports come from the United States. The principal export partners in 2004 were: the United Kingdom (33.5%), Barbados (13.1%), St. Lucia (11.5%), Trinidad and Tobago (9.9%), Antigua and Barbuda (8.3%), the United States (5.3%), Grenada (5.3%), and Dominica (4.1%). The principal import partners were: the United States (37.5%), Trinidad and Tobago (21.3%), and the United Kingdom (10.5%).


St. Vincent and the Grenadines has had an unfavorable balance of trade since the 1950s. Income from tourism, investments, and development assistance makes up the balance. However, the tourism industry suffered as a result of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks

United Kingdom11.214.5-3.3
United States5.182.9-77.8
Trinidad and Tobago4.241.6-37.4
Saint Lucia3.92.31.6
Antigua and Barbuda2.72.7
Saint Kitts and Nevis1.01.0
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account-42.3
   Balance on goods-116.8
   Balance on services76.4
   Balance on income-14.0
   Current transfers12.1
Capital Account10.6
Financial Account12.7
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines32.5
   Portfolio investment assets-5.4
   Portfolio investment liabilities6.4
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets-7.7
   Other investment liabilities-13.0
Net Errors and Omissions13.0
Reserves and Related Items6.0
() data not available or not significant.

on the United States, but began to rebound in 200203, with tourism arrivals reaching 160,000 in 2004.

In 2004, the value of exports was estimated at us$37 million, and imports were valued at us$225 million.


In the late 1980s, the nation's largest financial institution was the state-run National Commercial Bank, and various branches of Canadian banks were prominent in Kingstown. Commercial banks include Bank of Nova Scotia, Barclays, CIBC, Development Corp., First St. Vincent Bank, New Bank, Owens Bank, St. Vincent Cooperative Bank, and Republic Bank. The government has established arrangements for offshore banking corporations, with direct connections to Swiss banking facilities. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $95.9 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $278.0 million.

There is no securities exchange, except for the common CARICOM exchange.


Local insurance companies are limited in scope and importance. Representatives of insurance corporations based in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States operate on St. Vincent.


Most of the government's income comes from customs duties and taxes. The leading categories of expenditures are education, public works, and health.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2000 St. Vincent and the Grenadines's central government took in revenues of approximately us$94.6 million and had expenditures of us$85.8 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately us$8.8 million. Total external debt was us$167.2 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, general government revenues in millions of East Caribbean dollars were 377.7 and expenditures were 327.6. The value of revenues in millions of US dollars was $140 and expenditures $120, based on a official exchange rate for 2003 of 2.7000 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 36.8%; public order and safety, 8.6%; economic affairs, 11.1%; environmental protection, 1.3%; housing and community amenities, 1.6%; health, 12.7%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.2%; education, 17.5%; and social protection, 10.1%.


The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines levies a progressive personal income tax (ranging from 1055%), a corporate tax of 45% of net income, inheritance taxes, and a social security contribution of 2.5% of gross salary up to a maximum of us$41.75 per month.


By far the most important customs revenues are from import duties. There is a duty on exported goods, but the revenue earned is relatively small. By agreement with certain private corporations, the government waives customs duties on specific items in order to stimulate industrial development. Under an October 1992 CARICOM agreement, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has eliminated import licensing. St. Vincent has adopted CARICOM's common external tariff (CET), which ranges from 020%.


The government has encouraged foreign investment by establishing industrial estates, including both factories and homes for laborers, as well as by offering favorable tax conditions for the investors. Investment benefits include tax holidays, repatriation of profits, duty free concessions, and consumption tax exemptions. Tax holidays vary between 10 and 15 years (the nominal corporation

Revenue and Grants377.7100.0%
   Tax revenue270.471.6%
   Social contributions20.25.3%
   Other revenue53.314.1%
   General public services120.636.8%
   Public order and safety28.28.6%
   Economic affairs36.211.1%
   Environmental protection4.31.3%
   Housing and community amenities5.41.6%
   Recreational, culture, and religion0.80.2%
   Social protection33.210.1%
() data not available or not significant.

tax rate is 40%). In 2004, the NIPI (National Investment Promotion Inc.) was created to act as a catalyst to stimulate local and foreign direct investment in all productive sectors, and to facilitate the expansion of the export sector with a view toward stimulating job growth and wider economic development. At its inauguration, the NIPI placed special emphasis on agroprocessing, light manufacturing, and hotel development.

A large multinational company handles the marketing of most banana production, and a US firm has established a children's garment factory. The government has allowed the sale of some small islands in the Grenadines, notably Mustique, owned by a Scotsman, and Prune, bought by a US family and now called Palm Island by its entrepreneur owner. Petit St. Vincent and much of Canouan are being developed by the government for tourism.

St. Vincent is still eager to receive foreign investment, while providing special incentives and credit tailored to the needs of the investors. St. Vincent is eligible for trade benefits under Caribcan (Canada), the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), and the Lomé Convention (Europealthough these have been challenged by the WTO).

The government is targeting offshore services as a means of diversification away from bananas and tourism. The Offshore Finance Authority was set up in 1996 to regulate bank and company registration, and the island is to be marketed in Puerto Rico, London, Hong Kong, New York, and Miami.

Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow peaked at $92.5 million and $89 million in 1997 and 1998, respectively, but has since declined. FDI inflow was $56 million in 1999; $28 billion in 2000; and $35.7 million in 2001. In 2003, FDI reached 10.14% of GDP, below the level of 1995 (11.48%), but above the rate in 2000 (8.67%).

As of 2006, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was attracting investment in the following sectors: tourism, construction, international financial services, banking and insurance, telecommunications, and manufacturing.


A 1982 loan from the Caribbean Development Bank was designed to stimulate and redirect agricultural production, support the tourist industry, and contribute to the creation of the infrastructure necessary for industrial development. Loans and government incentives have since focused on supporting the banana trade, improving infrastructure, and stimulating tourism.

A severe drought in 2001 and the effects of the downturn in the global economy and the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States adversely affected the economy. Construction later rebounded as public sector projects were implemented. Public sector debt rose to 80% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004, up from 72% in 2002, and 67% in 2001. Reducing poverty remained a central priority of the government, as was reform of the tax system. The government was also taking steps to combat money laundering and drug traffickingSt. Vincent is a large producer of marijuana, and has been used as a transshipment point for illegal narcotics from South America.


In 1986, legislation established a social security system, replacing the provident fund that had been in existence since 1970. Workers contribute 2.5% of earnings, while employers pay 3.5% of payroll distributions. Benefits are provided for old age, disability, death, sickness, and maternity, and have been expanded to cover the self-employed. Employers fund a compulsory workers' compensation program. The worker is eligible for a pension at age 60, or earlier if incapacitated. Maternity benefits are provided at a rate of 65% of average earnings for a period of 13 weeks. Workers' medical benefits include medical, surgical, and hospital treatments, as well as medicine, appliances, and transportation.

St. Vincent also has an extensive program of community development, which stimulates the formation of cooperatives and self-help programs in the rural communities. A national family planning program has been introduced as part of the government's maternal and child welfare services.

The minimum wage law mandates that women receive equal pay for equal work. Violence against women remains a serious problem, although the government is increasing attention to the issue. A domestic violence law establishes a family court to handle cases of spousal abuse, and consequently more women are coming forward with complaints. The penalty for rape is usually 10 or more years in prison.

Human rights are generally respected. Problems include the use of physical force to extract confessions and inadequate prison conditions.


Kingstown's general hospital, with 209 beds, was the country's only government-run acute care hospital. There were five rural hospitals, including one located on the east coast of St. Vincent, the second on the west coast, and the third on Bequia. There are also hospitals for the aged and a 120-bed Mental Health Center. Approximately 38 outpatient clinics provide medical care to 9 health districts throughout the nation. In 2004, there were an estimated 88 physicians, 239 nurses, and 5 dentists per 100,000 people.

The fertility rate was 2.4 children per woman. Gastrointestinal diseases continued to be a problem, although they are less so than in the past. Circulatory system diseases accounted for about 42% of all deaths, cancer for 16%, and external causes for 6.7%. The immunization rates for a child under one were as follows: diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, 99%, measles, 99%, polio, 99%, and tuberculosis, 98%.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 17.5 and 6.1 per 1,000 people. Infant mortality in 2005 was estimated at 14.78 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth was 73.62 years.


Among other efforts to eliminate substandard housing conditions, the government has undertaken housing renewal projects in both rural and urban areas and has sought to provide housing for workers on industrial estates. Another government program supplies building materials at low cost to working people. A majority of dwellings were detached houses; apartments accounted for less than 10%. In the same period, over half of all housing units were owner occupied, with smaller percentages either rented or occupied rent free. Dwellings were constructed primarily of either wood or concrete, with a smaller number constructed of both wood and concrete, or stone.


Primary education lasts for seven years, followed by five years of secondary education. The government-assisted School for Children with Special Needs serves handicapped students. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 90% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 58% of age-eligible students; 56% for boys and 61% for girls. It is estimated that about 77.5% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 18:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 22:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 4.7% of primary school enrollment and 33.2% of secondary enrollment.

At the postsecondary level there is a teachers' training college, affiliated with the University of the West Indies, and a technical college. Adult education classes are offered by the Ministry of Education. Vocational training is available through the Department of Public Works, and agricultural training is offered by the Ministry of Agriculture. In 1989, students at the university and all higher-level institutions numbered 677 with 96 teaching staff. Nearly 68% of these higher-level students were women. The adult literacy rate has been estimated at about 96%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 10% of GDP, or 20.3% of total government expenditures.


The government maintains a free public library system with 260,000 volumes. The main public library system is Kingstown Library Services; the central library is located in Kingstown and there are about 18 public library branches located throughout the country. The National Archives of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was established in 1990 and is open to the public, as is the National Documentation Centre (est. 1982); both are located in Kingstown. The small National Museum in Kingstown houses ancient Indian clay pottery. The Botanical Garden in Kingstown is open to the public.


The internal telephone system of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, fully automatic, is operated by Cable and Wireless Ltd. (West Indies), which also provides telegraph, telex, and international telephone services. In 2002, there were 27,300 mainline phones and 10,000 mobile phones in use throughout the country.

In 2004, there were two privately owned radio stations and one partially government-funded radio station. There were also one government-operated television station and two private television stations. In 1997 there were 627 radios and 170 television sets per 1,000 population. In 2002, there were 7,000 Internet subscribers. In 2003, there were four Internet hosts.

In 2005, there were four major newspapers: The Herald (daily), The News, (weekly), Searchlight (weekly), and The Vincentian (weekly). These were all privately owned. There are also several small political publications. Constitutionally provided free speech and free press are respected by the government, with no reports of interference or censorship.


A chamber of commerce meets in Kingstown. Among the important commercial organizations is the St. Vincent Hotel Association. A civil liberties organization, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association, was founded in 1986. National youth organizations include the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts Association of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean Federation of Youth, Young Democrats of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and YMCA/YWCA. There are sports associations prompting amateur competition for athletes of all ages. There is a national chapter of the Red Cross Society.


Tourism is oriented toward yachting, with havens located on most of the Grenadines and also at Young Island, off the southern tip of St. Vincent. Posh resorts have been created on many of the smaller Grenadines, with villas and cottages built alongside small private beaches. The many cathedrals, gardens, and forts also attract tourists. All foreign nationals must present a valid passport except those of the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada who may instead use proof of citizenship. All visitors are required to have an onward/return ticket. Visas are required for nationals of Jordan, Syria, the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and Nigeria.

In 2003, there were a total of 1,680 hotel rooms with 3,360 beds. The number of tourist arrivals totaled 78,535 that year. According to US Department of State estimates, the daily cost of staying in St. Vincent was us$213 between December and April, and us$196 the rest of the year.


Robert Milton Cato (191597), prime minister from independence until 1984, was one of the founders of the SVLP. James FitzAllen Mitchell (b.1931), prime minister from 19842000, was one of the founders of the NDP. Sir Fred Albert Phillips (b.1918) is a specialist on constitutional and international law.


St. Vincent and the Grenadines has no territories or colonies.


Brown, Cindy Kilgorie. Adventure Guide to St. Vincent, Grenada and the Grenadines. Edison, N.J.: Hunter, 2003.

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.

Potter, Robert B. St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio, 1992.

Young, Virginia Heyer. Becoming West Indian: Culture, Self, and Nation in St. Vincent. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

views updated Jun 11 2018




Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are islands situated between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, north of Trinidad and Tobago. They form part of the Windward Islands, which also include St. Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, and Martinique. The island of Saint Vincent has an area of 344 square kilometers (133 square miles) and its 32 dependent islands and cays in the Grenadine island chain have a total area of 45 square kilometers (17 square miles). The main inhabited islands of the Grenadines are Bequia, Mustique, Union Island, and Canouan. Others are privately owned. Saint Vincent is approximately twice the size of Washington, D.C., and has a coastline of 84 kilometers (52 miles). The capital and only town of any size is Kingstown, situated on the island's southwest coast.


The population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was estimated at 115,461 in mid-2000. This represented a population growth rate of 0.43 percent from the previous year, consistent with annual average increases of 0.4 percent from 1995 onwards. At this rate of growth, the population will stand at approximately 125,000 in 2010. The great majority of Vincentians live on the main island of Saint Vincent, with the population of Bequia, the largest dependency, numbering no more than 5,000.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' relatively low population growth rate is partly the result of family planning campaigns supported by the government and partly a consequence of marked patterns of migration. The island has traditionally depended on migration to the United Kingdom, United States, and other, larger Caribbean islands as a solution to its chronic unemployment problem, and in 2000 there were an estimated 7.75 migrants per 1,000 population. The country's population is evenly distributed among age groups, with 30 percent of Vincentians aged between 0 and 14 years, 63 percent between 15 and 64, and 7 percent 65 and older. Life expectancy on the islands is 72.3 years. Approximately 66 percent of the population is of African descent, with smaller communities of mixed-race, white, and Indian-descended Vincentians. The Anglican church is the largest in the country, attracting 47 percent of the population; 28 percent of the people are Methodists and 13 percent Roman Catholics, with the remainder adhering to other faiths. Most people live in small villages or towns, which are mostly situated around the coast.


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' economy is largely based on agriculture, bananas in particular. It has been so for many years, but other economic activities have become more important in recent years, namely tourism, manufacturing, and financial services. Bananas have been Saint Vincent's main export and source of revenue since the 1950s, when the British colonial authorities actively encouraged the establishment of a local banana industry. The regularity of income from banana-growing lay behind the island's steady economic growth in the 1980s and early 1990s, but the crop is always vulnerable to hurricanes, drought, and disease, and suffered serious problems in 1994. The removal of preferential access into the European Union (EU) market was threatened by a 1997 ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The ruling stated that the EU was unfairly favoring Caribbean producers at the expense of Latin American exporters. This created a loss of confidence in the industry's long-term future. Even so, recent years have witnessed an attempt to improve the regularity and quality of banana exports through an irrigation and rehabilitation scheme initiated by the government and the Windward Islands Banana Development and Exporting Company (WIBDECO).

Recent governments have tried to encourage diversification into other agricultural exports, and Saint Vincent exports a wide range of fruits and vegetables both to the United Kingdom and to regional (that is, Caribbean) markets. The traditional cultivation of arrowroot has been expanded as an export industry, and fishing is an important sector within the economy.

Industry is divided between manufacturing for the local and regional market and that destined for export to North America. The former includes food processing (flour and rice) and brewing, while the latter includes some garment and electronic components assembly, as well as the manufacture of sporting goods such as tennis rackets. There is a mixture of small local companies and local subsidiaries of foreign corporations.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has also sought to develop a range of service industries, of which tourism is the most important. Tourist facilities range from extremely exclusive, mostly privately-owned resorts and villas on islands such as Mustique and Canouan to a growing cruise ship facility in Kingstown. Yachting is also extremely popular around the beautiful Grenadine island chain. In recent years, the country has entered the financial services sector, with a large number of banks and other financial institutions present in Kingstown. This sector has attracted some controversy on account of its alleged secrecy. Saint Vincent has also been subject to criticism from the United States, both for its large-scale marijuana cultivation and for the alleged role played by the southern Grenadine islands as shipment points for cocaine en route from South America to the United States.

According to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had a total external debt of $99.3 million at the beginning of 1999. The country's major economic problem, however, remains a high level of unemployment, affecting at least 22 percent of the workforce in 1999. According to the World Bank, some 30 percent of people in the English-speaking Windward Islands live in conditions of poverty.


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an independent state within the British Commonwealth. It claims as its head of state Queen Elizabeth, who is represented on the islands by a governor general. The nation's form of government is a parliamentary democracy. The governor general selects the prime minister, usually the leader of the majority party in the unicameral (one-house) House of Assembly. The House of Assembly consists of 21 seats (15 representatives chosen by popular election and 6 appointed senators). The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, based in Saint Lucia, carries out judicial functions. One judge from the court is based in Saint Vincent.

Vincentian politics have been dominated by the figure of Sir James Mitchell since he and his National Democratic Party (NDP) first won elections in 1984. Elections in 1998 gave the NDP its fourth consecutive victory, but there was considerable controversy. The NDP won 8 out of 15 seats in parliament but only 45.3 percent of votes cast. The opposition Unity Labour Party (ULP) won only 7 seats but 54.6 percent of the vote. After political unrest and subsequent mediation from representatives of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 2000, it was agreed that fresh elections would be brought forward by 2 years to March 2001. In those elections the ULP took 56.7 percent of the vote and occupied 12 of the 15 seats in the National Assembly; the NDP took 40.7 percent of the vote and held only 3 seats. Ralph Gon-salves was subsequently appointed as prime minister.

There is little ideological difference between the 2 main parties in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and both support a mixed economy in which government encourages and regulates private-sector growth and foreign investment. Differences tend to be as much personal as political, although the ULP puts particular emphasis on the need to reduce unemployment through the continued rehabilitation of agriculture and government spending on infrastructure . Governments are able to exert particular influence on the economy, in part because it is so small and in part because there is a relatively large public sector .

Taxation is made up of a mixture of income tax , indirect sales taxes, and taxes levied on companies and foreign-owned financial institutions. In an attempt to increase fiscal revenues from International Business Companies (IBCs), the government introduced legislation in 1996 ensuring almost complete secrecy concerning their financial transactions. The government has also attempted to raise revenues by acting as a flag of convenience, offering registration facilities for foreign shipping companies. Both of these measures have led to criticism not only from the political opposition but also from in ternational bodies concerned with money-laundering and marine safety.


The infrastructure of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is not fully developed, although recent government initiatives have involved improvements in roads, port facilities, and hospitals. Of 1,040 kilometers (646 miles) of roads only 320 kilometers (199 miles) were paved in 1996. Roads in rural areas, particularly in the north of Saint Vincent, are often poor. There are no railways, and the single international airport, near Kingstown, is unable to receive wide-bodied jets. Discussions have taken place with potential foreign investors concerning the runway's extension, while opponents of this scheme favor a new airport.

Lack of infrastructure has hampered the growth of tourism, even though the government has recently invested in a cruise ship jetty (landing wharf) at Kingstown as well as an airport on Canouan. Small farmers also complain that poor roads are an obstacle to transporting fragile commodities such as bananas to dock or to inland collection points. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also suffers from having to import most of its energy supplies, mainly petroleum, from Trinidad and Tobago. About one-third of the country's annual electricity production of 64 million kilowatt hours (kWh) is derived from hydro-electric schemes, while annual consumption is estimated at 60 million kWh.

Telecommunications, dominated by Cable & Wireless, are generally good, and there is growing use of cellular phones. There were an estimated 20,500 main line telephones in use in 1998, but Internet use is as yet relatively underdeveloped.

CountryTelephones aTelephones, Mobile/Cellular aRadio Stations bRadios aTV Stations aTelevisions aInternet Service Providers cInternet Users c
St. Vincent & the Grenadines20,500 (1998)N/AAM 1; FM 3; shortwave 077,000118,000152,000
United States194 M69.209 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 most recent available statistics (1996) show that agriculture accounted for 10.6 percent of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' gross domestic product (GDP). Farming, and banana cultivation in particular, is, however, an important source of employment and constitutes the country's main export, valued at $14.4 million in 1999. The most recent employment statistics, dating from 1991, show that approximately 22 percent of Vincentians worked in agriculture.

Industry accounted for 17.5 percent of GDP in 1996 and has grown considerably since the 1980s. Even so, it is still a relatively small sector, comprising mainly food processing for local markets and some export-oriented manufacturing. In 1991, some 9 percent of the labor force was employed in manufacturing, with a further 11 percent working in construction.

Services accounted for 71.9 percent of GDP in 1996. Leaving aside government services, the largest contributor to this sector was tourism, which produced approximately $74 million in visitor expenditures in 1998. Other growing segments of the service sector were those related to offshore financial transactions and related informatics (information science) or electronic data processing. In 1991, before the financial sector grew, about 5 percent of the working population were employed in hotels and restaurants, while less than 2 percent were classified as involved in "financial intermediation."


Saint Vincent's mountainous terrain made it less suitable as a sugar-producing center than most other Caribbean islands, but the banana industry, beginning in the 1950s, was well suited to a territory mostly made up of small, family-run farms. A combination of protective quotas and stable prices guaranteed by Britain and then the European Union (EU) underpinned the steady growth of the banana industry in the 1980s and early 1990s, despite occasional hurricanes and other natural disasters. In the 1980s, bananas contributed, on average, 60 percent of export earnings and were the island's single biggest economic activity. This situation changed dramatically in 1995 when the United States complained to the WTO that the EU banana regime discriminated against Latin American producers. A series of legal rulings ensued, with the U.S. introducing trade sanctions against the EU, which has sought to find a compromise between the WTO ruling and its commitments to Caribbean banana producers. As a result, the late 1990s were marked by considerable uncertainty in Saint Vincent's banana industry and a drop in production from almost 80,000 tons in 1990 to 37,435 tons in 1999. According to the World Bank, the banana crisis has already caused "a decline in the central government's revenue growth, a slowdown in the pace of domestically financed investment, a rise in unemployment, and major financial difficulties for the Banana Growers' Association." Even so, recent efforts to improve banana production through irrigation schemes show a determination on the part of local farmers and their organizations to ensure the industry's survival. One possible strategy is to concentrate on the organic and "fair trade" markets in Europe.

Other important crops include coconuts, sweet potatoes, and ornamental flowers, some of which are exported to "niche markets" in the UK and U.S. The government has encouraged diversified small farming by splitting up some 7,000 acres of state-owned land into 1,500 small-holdings . Arrowroot, traditionally used as a food thickener, is now grown as a dressing for computer paper, and acreage of this crop has expanded in recent years, making Saint Vincent and the Grenadines the world's largest producer. Less well documented is the significant cultivation of marijuana, which is believed to be grown in the mountainous interior of Saint Vincent. In January 2000, U.S. Marines participated in a controversial crop eradication program, in which millions of plants were reportedly destroyed.

The fishing sector has benefited from extensive foreign development funding, most notably from Japan. There are now jetties and fish refrigeration facilities in Saint Vincent, Bequia, and Canouan, the large complex in Kingstown having been dubbed "Little Tokyo."


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a small industrial sector, but one that has grown in importance in recent years. Most manufacturing revolves around food processing, such as rice milling and flour production, for the local and regional market. The major producer is the East Caribbean Group of Companies. There is also large-scale production of chicken feed and polypropylene bags, while the local brewery, the Saint Vincent Brewery Ltd., which produces beer and soft drinks, accounts for approximately 30 percent of total industrial production. The other industrial sector is geared towards exports into the North American market and includes a handful of assembly plants producing garments and sports goods, especially tennis rackets.

Saint Vincent's industrial growth (there is no industry on the Grenadines) is hampered by several factors, including poor infrastructure, relatively high wages, and fierce competition from lower-wage areas elsewhere in the Caribbean and Latin America. Increasingly, Saint Vincent's industrial output has been directed towards other territories in the Eastern Caribbean.


Saint Vincent came relatively late to tourism, although its dependencies such as Bequia and Mustique had developed a reputation for exclusive luxury tourism as early as the 1960s. In recent years, the main island of Saint Vincent has tried to capitalize on its spectacular natural beauty by encouraging cruise ship companies to include it on their itineraries and by developing the yachting sector. In 1999, according to the Caribbean Development Bank, these 2 sectors showed a marked increase in visitor arrivals, bringing total arrivals to 223,125. On the other hand, stayover arrivals declined slightly by 1.5 percent from the previous year. There are few large hotels in Saint Vincent or in its dependencies, and as a result the $75 million annual tourist expenditure is more widely distributed through small hotels and retailers than in many other Caribbean countries.

The government has sought to expand tourism by opening a new cruise ship pier at Kingstown, upgrading the airport on Canouan, and improving the Leeward Highway on the west coast. Deliberations on the enlargement of the existing airport or the building of a new one continue. But Saint Vincent, which has few white sand beaches and an otherwise underdeveloped infrastructure, is not suitable for mass tourism and has wisely concentrated on attracting a small "upmarket" tourist clientele.

The other major service sector deals with overseas financial business. The 1996 legislation ensuring near total secrecy on taxation and other financial activity encouraged the arrival of many IBCs, totaling 2,698 in 1999. But there have been persistent allegations that the country's stringent secrecy provisions have served to conceal illegal financial operations such as tax evasion and drug money laundering. In early 2001, the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), supported by European and North American governments, named Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, among other Caribbean countries, as a suspected location of financial irregularities. Related to the financial sector is a small data processing sub-sector, in which there is limited employment in computerized financial dealings.

The retail sector is underdeveloped, with few large stores or supermarkets. Markets, both in Kingstown and Bequia, are busy, and many rural Vincentians depend on small village corner stores. The growth of tourism and yacht chartering in particular has produced a noticeable increase in specialist retail outlets.


With imports of $180 million and exports of $47.8 million in 1998, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' import bill is on average approximately 4 times that of what it earns through exports. Its main source of imports in 1998 was the United States, which contributed some 35 percent of the total. The other main suppliers of the country's imports were other CARICOM countries (22 percent) and the United Kingdom (11 percent). The main imports of foodstuffs, fuel, and machinery are distributed among those suppliers.

The main export, bananas, is directed towards the United Kingdom, which accounts for 42 percent of Vincentian exports. The other main export market is

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): St. Vincent & the
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

comprised of CARICOM members such as Trinidad & Tobago, which imports much of Saint Vincent's agricultural produce. Rice, flour, and other food items are also exported regionally.

The deficit in the balance of trade is partly offset by tourism receipts and by revenue from the financial sector. Another important source of foreign exchange is the regular remittance payments sent back by Vincentians working overseas.


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has experienced steady growth in GDP in recent years (except in 1994), averaging over 3 percent annually since the mid-1990s. In 1999, GDP growth stood at 4.5 percent, a fall from the 1998 figure of 5.7 percent. This economic progress reflects a steady increase in tourism and the revenues generated by financial services, which has partly counter-balanced problems in the banana industry. Inflation has been low in recent years and, in 1999, was estimated at less than 1 percent. As a result, consumer prices are relatively low, and visitors from neighboring islands such as Grenada and Barbados now come to Saint Vincent to take advantage of lower prices.

Exchange rates: St. Vincent and the Grenadines
East Caribbean dollars (EC$) per US$1
Note: The rate for St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been fixed since 1976.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' financial stability is in part because of its membership in regional financial institutions. The Eastern Caribbean dollar, a currency shared with the 7 other members of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), is stable and has been pegged at a rate of EC$2.7: US$1 for many years. This means that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is not particularly vulnerable to fluctuating exchange rates , although transactions with Europe 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, but by early 2001 little real progress had been made.


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is not a country of social extremes. There is a small middle class, traditionally involved in retailing and the professions, while a significant group of small farmers benefited from the "banana boom" of the 1980s, resulting in much improved housing conditions in many rural communities. Society is not prohibitively stratified, and educational opportunities exist for upward mobility. The literacy rate is high at 98 percent for both men and women.

There are no recent figures relating to income distribution in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but World Bank and other sources suggest that at least 30 percent of the population still lives in poverty, including the large numbers of unemployed. The most underdeveloped and marginalized area of the main island is the north, where villages such as Sandy Bay, Owia, and Fancy are still without electricity (although a project to connect them was underway in 2000). Here, the volcanic terrain limits the development of agriculture and there are few economic opportunities other than cultivating marijuana. The inhabitants of the poorest north coast settlements include the last descendants of the Black Caribs, a community descended from the island's indigenous population and slaves who escaped the sugar plantations in the 18th century and revolted against the British. On the east coast, the once thriving town of Georgetown is now almost deserted, abandoned since the government-owned sugar mill was closed

GDP per Capita (US$)
St. Vincent & the GrenadinesN/A1,3221,6492,1682,635
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.
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
CountryAll foodClothing and footwearFuel and power aHealth care bEducation bTransport & CommunicationsOther
St. Vincent & the Grenadines27482132422
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.

in the 1970s. Here, as elsewhere beyond the Kingstown area, educational and medical services are basic.

In contrast, the wealthier middle-class suburbs around Kingstown have a full range of amenities and facilities. The more prosperous banana-growing villages of the fertile inland valleys are also evidence of economic success. The wealthiest sectors of the population include those involved in the tourism industry, the new financial services sector and, according to critics, those with political connections.


Figures from 1991 (the most recent available) showed a total employed workforce of 33,440, with unemployment standing at 19.8 percent. More recent statistics, from 1999, suggest that unemployment stood at 22 percent. Figures cited by the newly elected Unity Labour Party say unemployment may be as high as 45 percent (although this number may be inflated for political reasons). Pay and working conditions are average by regional standards, and workers in agriculture, manufacturing, and the large public sector enjoy the protection of well-organized growers' associations and trade unions. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the government observes basic working legislation. Wages, although low by North American standards, are higher than in many poorer Caribbean nations and range between $100 and $300 per week for jobs in agriculture and manufacturing. The large civil service is well represented by trade unions and is able to negotiate substantial salary increases.

Conditions are toughest in agriculture, where many small farmers work remote and usually mountainous holdings without adequate irrigation or other inputs. Much of this work is carried out by families, and women, as well as some children, are widely involved in agricultural production as well as retailing.


1498. Saint Vincent sighted by Columbus on his third voyage of discovery.

1627-73. Islands claimed but not settled by Great Britain.

1673-1762. Jointly administered by Great Britain and France as neutral territory.

1763. Saint Vincent ceded to British after conflict with France.

1779-83. Islands occupied by French forces.

1796. Suppression and mass deportation of the Black Caribs by General Abercrombie.

1833-1960. Islands are part of the British Windward Islands colony.

1950s. First banana exports to United Kingdom.

1979. Islands declare independence from United Kingdom and become part of the British Commonwealth.

1984. James Mitchell of the conservative New Democratic Party becomes prime minister and dominates politics until 2000.

1987. Hurricane Emily destroys 70 percent of banana crop.

2000. Mitchell resigns amidst political controversy; Ralph Gonsalves, head of the United Labour Party, is elected in 2001.


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' short-term economic prospects depend to a large extent on the fate of its banana industry. If preferential access into the EU is removed or substantially reduced, the industry will not be able to compete with large Latin American producers and will collapse, creating widespread poverty among small farmers. Attempts to diversify away from dependency on bananas have begun, but will need to be accelerated over the next decade. The country's food processing and export industry also faces potential threats from cheaper regional competitors such as the Dominican Republic, which are now involved in reciprocal free-trade agreements with CARICOM countries.

Tourism seems to have a more healthy future, and the potential of the main island and its dependencies has yet to be fully realized. The authorities will have to balance the need for increased visitor arrivals with keeping the islands' reputation as an unspoiled and exclusive destination for the wealthier tourist. More doubtful is the outlook for the financial services sector, especially if the government is forced to remove secrecy provisions through international pressure. Overall, the medium-term future for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines does not look particularly bright, and the government will face an uphill task in reducing current levels of unemployment and poverty.

The Unity Labour Party, which attained a majority in the 2001 parliamentary elections in March of 2001, has stated that its aim is to add 1,500 jobs to the economy right away, invest in infrastructure to allow for the creation of more jobs in the medium and long term, boost the information technology and tourism industries, and provide more support for the production of bananas, sugar, and arrowroot. However, it is too early to say whether these ambitious plans can be realized, especially as many of these plans rely on government expenditures which may not be possible given existing government funding.


St. Vincent and the Grenadines has no territories or colonies.


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

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

"The Path to Caribbean Nationhood." Unity Labour Party. <>. Accessed July 2001.

"Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." South America, Central America and the Caribbean 2001. London: Europa Publications, 2001.

"St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the IMF." International Monetary Fund. <>. Accessed July 2001.

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

U.S. State Department. Background Notes: St. Vincent & the Grenadines. <>. Accessed July 2001.

James Ferguson




Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$). One EC dollar equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents and 1 EC dollar, and notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 EC dollars.


Bananas, fruit and vegetables, arrowroot, sporting goods.


Foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, chemicals and fertilizers, minerals and fuels.


US$309 million (1999 est.).


Exports: US$47.8 million (1998 est.). Imports: US$180 million (1998 est.).

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

views updated Jun 11 2018

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Culture Name


Alternative Names

The locals sometimes call the main island "Hairoun," its Carib name. The term "Saint Vincent" is often used for the whole group, including the Grenadines.


Identification. The name "Saint Vincent" was bestowed by Columbus on his discovery of the island on 22 January 1498, in honor of Saint Vincent of Saragossa, a Spanish saint. The name "Grenadines" derives from the Spanish for "pomegranate" (in reference to the distribution of the smaller islands; pomegranate fruits do not grow on the islands).

Location and Geography. The area of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is 150 square miles (389 square kilometers), with the 133 square miles comprising the mainland and 17 square miles in the Grenadines.

Demography. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a population of approximately 120,000 (2000 estimate), with about 110,000 residing on Saint Vincent and the remainder distributed among the Grenadines. On Saint Vincent, most of the population lives in the southern two thirds of the island because the volcano occupies the northern third of the island. The capital, Kingstown, and its suburbs have a population of around 25,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is English. Most, however, normally speak a creole known locally as "dialect." This would be unintelligible to the casual visitor, but it is based on an English vocabulary and can be learned in a short time.

Symbolism. The national flag is a tricolor of green, gold, and blue, with a stylized V in the centerrepresenting the rich foliage of the island, the sun, and the sea. All public buildings display the flag, as do many private homes. Vincentians dwell on the natural beauty of the islands: the volcano and the "black sand" of the beaches; the Vincentian parrot, an endangered endemic species; the rainforest of the interior; the beautiful views.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Saint Vincent was one of the last Caribbean islands to be colonized by Europeans. The aboriginal Caribs existed there in sufficient force to hold off European incursions until the eighteenth century. In the early seventeenth century, the Black Caribsa population composed of the descendants of Caribs and African maroons from other islandsemerged on Saint Vincent.

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris granted Saint Vincent to the British who quickly set up plantations with large numbers of slaves. The Carib lands in the northern part of the island had been excluded from expropriation by the British, but the promise of profitable sugar cultivation led to encroachment by planters and eventually to two Carib wars. After the Second Carib War (17931795), the Black Caribs were removed to Central America. The "Red" Caribs, whose descendants still live in Saint Vincent, were allowed to stay.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the British colony had settled into a sugar plantation economy maintained by the importation of slaves. Slavery ended on 1 August 1834.

The importation of Africans by Europeans established the basic Afro-European foundation of Vincentian society. The labor shortage created by emancipation occasioned the immigration of East Indians, Portuguese, and Barbadian whites. Many of the freed slaves were turned into agricultural wage earners, but most became peasants. A combination of peasant and plantation agriculture remains the character of Saint Vincent in modern times.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, Vincentians gradually came to have more control over their own political life. Universal suffrage granted by the British Crown in 1951 gave common people a measure of power that was formerly possessed by the planters. Independence was granted in 1979. Due to the reliance on an export economy of bananas, Saint Vincent remains dependent on the trade policies of the United States, Great Britain, and the European Union.

National Identity. The poor people in Saint Vincent, whether of African, European, Native American, or Asian descent, derive a strong sense of identity from the history of the resistance activities of the Caribs in the eighteenth century, while the wealthier Vincentians identify with English or North American models of behavior. More than that, the environmental features of Saint Vincent unify the country. The national anthem emphasizes the natural beauty of the islands.

Ethnic Relations. The population of the nation at the 1991 census was 106,499, with over 82,000 describing themselves as African/Negro/Black (77.1 percent), 17,501 as mixed (16.4 percent), 3,341 as Amerindian/Carib (3.1 percent), 1,477 as East Indian (1.4 percent), 511 as Portuguese (0.5 percent), 982 as white (0.9 percent), and 140 describing themselves as "other."

Each of the ethnic minorities has been successfully integrated into the nation state and a Vincentian identity. All ethnicities intermarry with the black majority, although the Barbados-descended local whites of Dorsetshire Hill are said to be more reclusive.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is primarily rural. Most of the population lives in small villages of 100 to 500 people. The only large town in the country is the capital, Kingstown.

Saint Vincent has a reliable electric supply to the entire island, along with telephone service and safe drinking water. Many people cannot afford utilities in their homes, and the government has supplied most villages with public showers and water taps. Most buildings are made of cinder block or wood frames, painted white or the pastel colors common to the Caribbean.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The daily dish of most Vincentians is pilau, a preparation of rice and pigeon peas to which is added any meat or fish available. Locally grown vegetables, "ground provision," include yams and sweet potatoes, dasheens, eddoes, tannies, and cassava. Among the island's abundant fruits are bananas, mangos, breadfruit, guavas, plumrose, coconuts, passion fruits, and pineapples.

The main meal is usually eaten in the early evening when the heat of the day has dissipated. A light lunch or snacks of fruit make up the midday meal. Breakfast is normally a hearty affair, typically consisting of fried salt fish with onions and peppers, bread, and a pot of cocoa or coffee.

Fish of all kinds are caught by the local fishermen. Cetaceans also are hunted and eaten, the most common being porpoises, killer whales, and pilot whales. Fishsellers travel to the villages in pickup trucks when a catch is in, blowing conch shells to announce that fish are for sale. On holidays, it is common for everyone to fish for crawfish in the mountain streams or to catch land crabs to add to the evening meal.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Whenever guests are invited for a meal, they must be fed until they are satisfied. Rum is drunk before or after a special meal, or even during a break in the day. Strong rum (70 percent alcohol) is the Vincentian drink and is offered to all male guests. Women may have beer, but usually they do not drink strong alcohol. Sea mossa mixture of milk, seaweed, and spicesis considered an aphrodisiac and appears at Christmas and other special occasions. For birthdays and other celebrations cakes are usually eaten.

Basic Economy. Bananas and tourism are the main forces in the Vincentian economy: bananas on the mainland, tourism in the Grenadines. Plantations continued to exist after the end of slavery and remained powerful, but small farming employed more people in contemporary times. Few households can subsist entirely from their farming, and most have some members engaged in wage labor. Remittances from abroad have become an essential part of the Vincentian economy.

Land Tenure and Property. The current pattern of land distribution and use began during slavery, and a few families own most of the land. Agricultural land may be owned outright, rented or sharecropped. Land may also be held jointly by a number of siblings and their heirsa uniquely Caribbean form of land tenure known as "family land." All who have a share in the land have a right to its produce.

Commercial Activities. The economy is a mixture of subsistence and plantation agriculture. In the capital, Kingstown, a market square is occupied on most days by women selling "ground provision," produce from their gardens. Women also sell their produce in neighboring countries. A separate market in the capital is set up for fishermen. Funded by Japan, it is called "Little Tokyo." Whales, caught on the western side of Saint Vincent, are butchered and sold out of the town of Barroullie. All fish products are produced for local consumption.

On Saint Vincent, there is a cigarette factory, a plastics factory, a various food processing facilities directed to the local market. Occasionally, European and American investments provide jobs, including a tennis racket factory, clothing manufacture, and a marina.

On Canouan, a traditional boat-building industry continues to employ a few people.

On the other islands, subsistence agriculture and tourism are the primary factors in the economy.

Major Industries. Apart from agriculture, and tourism in the Grenadines, there is no major industry. Saint Vincent is a major world producer of arrowroot.

Trade. The main trade partners are the United States, other CARICOM (Caribbean common market) countries, the United Kingdom, and the European Economic Community. Saint Vincent has very little manufacturing, so most of the trade is in bananas, arrowroot, and other agricultural produce. In spite of the peasant economy, all of the food staples used daily by Vincentiansflour, rice, sugar, salt codare imported.

Division of Labor. Unemployment ranged from 20 to 50 percent throughout the twentieth century, with the highest rates coming in the 1990s. These figures are misleading, as nearly everyone is engaged in some subsistence activity. Most Vincentians engage in multiple economic activities.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Vincentian society consists of a small elite composed of foreign-educated black Vincentians and the white planter families, a small middle class of government employees and business professionals, and a large class of poor people. The Caribs, whose villages flank the volcano, are the poorest people on the island. A community of foreign expatriates who have taken Vincentian citizenship live in the southeast section of the main island. Foreign whites control Mustique, Petit Saint Vincent, and Palm Island.

Symbols of Social Stratification. A sharp difference is visible between the very small local elite and the activities of the poor who make up the majority of the Vincentian population. The middle class differentiate themselves from the poorer people by their use of standard English speech, private automobiles, and expensive dress, as well as lodge memberships and such activities as beauty contests.

Political Life

Government. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II as head of state in 2000. Her representative on the island then was Governor-General David Jack.

Leadership and Political Officials. Power is divided between the Unity Labor Party (social democrat) and the New Democracy Party (conservative), with the conservatives holding the balance for most of the years since independence. Sir James Mitchell has been prime minister since 1984. Ralph Gonsalves, a scholar and lawyer, was the minority leader in 2000.

Social Problems and Control. Unemployment, underemployment, and the drug trade are the main problems Saint Vincent has had to face in modern times. The Grenadines, with their many uninhabited islets, are a transhipment point for illicit drugs from South America to the United States.

Military Activity. The country has no formal military. The duties of a military have been taken over by the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Royal Police Force. The U.S. military has a training and advisory role.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The U.S. Peace Corps and Canadian Crossroads organizations maintain a presence in Saint Vincent. Scandinavian, Taiwanese, and Japanese aid agencies all have active projects in the islands. The World Health Organization had some success in an AIDS awareness campaign, with the result that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has one of the highest rates of condom use in the world near the end of the 1990s.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Churches organize many activities, but secular clubs are plentiful. These include drama groups, lodges, nature organizations, the girl and boy scouts, and domino playing, soccer, and cricket clubs.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Men and women work together on many activities, but typically men do the farming, women do the gardening, and men work at sea. Traditionally, only women sell produce in the market square; only men sell fish. Women are paid less than men at service jobs.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Although women have more economic power than in many peasant economies and are often heads of households, men have a higher status. Relationships between men and women are placed overtly in a context of monetary/sexual favor exchange.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Three forms of conjugal relationship are recognized: "visiting" (the couple reside separately), "keeping" (cohabitation), and legal marriage. Among the majority of the population, the tendency is to marry later in life, usually after a couple has had several children together. It is common for women and men to have a number of children by different partners.

Domestic Unit. Households in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines may be composed of extended families, nuclear families, or individuals. The matrifocal, multigeneration family is typical. Overall, the composition of the household is flexible. In times of need, children are "lent" or "shifted" to the households of kin to lighten the subsistence needs of a household.

Inheritance. Inheritance is bilateral according to British law. Family land is always inherited jointly and cannot be broken up.

Kin Groups. People recognize kin of any degree and will go out of their way to be especially courteous and generous to them, but there are no kin groupings larger than the extended family.


Infant Care. For most Vincentians, the umbilicus or "navel string" is planted under a fruit-bearing tree shortly after birth, so that the child will have a healthy and productive life. The child is not given a name until about four weeks after birth. Meanwhile, the infant is coddled and cuddled and played with by all in the household. Care is taken not to become too attached to the infant unless it should sicken and die from too much lovea condition known as love maljo.

Child Rearing and Education. Children are raised by everyone in the household and in the extended family. Children early develop a sense of security about their place in society. At the age of five or six, the child may begin to attend school. Education is free but not compulsory up to about eight years of age. After that, tuition must be paid. Many families cannot afford to send their children to school at any age, and their children work on the farms as soon as they are able. Literacy is in excess of 80 percent, and given their occupational opportunities, Vincentians are over educated on the whole. People often must have several O-levels (equivalent to one or two years of American college) to be hired as a clerk in a store.

Higher Education. Saint Vincent has a small teacher's college, a nursing school, and a medical college on the main island. The medical college is geared to foreign students, only admitting one or two Vincentians on scholarship per class. A University of West Indies Extension office offers some classes but no degrees.


Generosity is the main feature of Vincentian conduct. Vincentians give of themselves and their resources to an extraordinary degree. Two customs that may strike the visitor as unusual are that it is a serious breach of etiquette to call someone's name in public and that the use of cameras by foreigners is likely to elicit an angry or violent response.


Almost everyone in Saint Vincent is a Christian, and most Christian denominations are represented. A native religion, a combination of African rituals and Christian liturgy, has formed on Saint Vincent. Its followers are known as the Converted, or Spiritual Baptists. Believed by the rest of the population to have a particular facility with spirits, they are utilized by most Vincentians to conduct rituals at wakes and at other times of spiritual unrest. The local "pointer," the Converted ritual specialist, may also be consulted for illness or psychological unease. Rastafarians also have a presence in Saint Vincent.

Religious Beliefs. Saint Vincent is a Christian country, although a few Bahai can be found. Main denominations are Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, and Pentecostal. About 10 percent of the population belongs to the local "Converted" religion (also known as "Spiritual Baptist"), a combination of African and Christian rituals. Several hundred Vincentians are Rastafarians.

Among a large portion of the Vincentian population, dreams are interpreted as real spiritual events and many ordinary Vincentians fear dreams, as they may predict misfortune. "Jumbies" (evil spirits), "Rounces" (spirit-animals that produce night terrors), "Ghosts" (the spirits of lie people seeking their graves), "Diablesses" (demon temptresses), "Haggs" (vampire-like creatures), and other supernatural beings inhabit Saint Vincent and many small ritual actions are required to protect one from them. These include keeping a bottle of hot pepper sauce by one's bed, placing a jar of urine in one's yard, and spinning around before entering one's home. Some young people scoff at these practices.

Religious Practitioners. The ordinary Christian denominations have ministers, priests, and bishops as they are found in other Christian countries. The Rastafarians have elders, who do not conduct any special rituals but instead are respected interpreters of scripture (the Bible). The Converted have a host of religious practitioners, the most important of which is the office of "pointer." The local pointer is the person to whom most Vincentians will turn in times of spiritual trouble. Although the Converted are persecuted socially and their religion was actually illegal until 1965, they are still revered and feared for their powers. The Converted say, "They curse us in the day, but they seek us out at night."

Rituals and Holy Places. There are no pilgrimage locations on Saint Vincent. Church buildings themselves are the only permanently holy places. Rituals by the Converted temporarily sanctify specific locationsa house, the market square, a crossroads, a beachfor services they hold there.

Traditionally the Converted conduct a wake for a family (regardless of the denomination) on any one of the third-, ninth-, fortieth-night, or six-month or one-year anniversary of the deathbut the "nine nights" and the "forty days" are the most important. The Converted receive a ritual payment of hot cross buns and cocoa tea.

The celebrations of Carnival (originally before Lent) and Nine Mornings (before Christmas) began as religious rituals, but now are primarily secular in nature.

Death and the Afterlife. The dead in Saint Vincent are remarkably mobile. On All Saint's Eve (31 October) and on All Soul's Eve (1 November), souls of the deceased are believed to leave the grave and to wander about Saint Vincent visiting their favorite places. Lighted candles are placed on the graves of departed family members to guide the souls back to their resting places.

The dead also roam on the third, ninth, and fortieth days after death, and on the six-month and one-year anniversary of the death. The Converted traditionally are called to conduct rituals in the home of the deceased on any of these days.

Medicine and Health Care

Health care is accessible to people in all parts of the island. Basic health care is free or low cost to all, but any special services and all surgery are expensive. Many of the poor forgo operations that would be considered necessary in other countries.

Secular Celebrations

The two most important events in the Vincentian calendar are Christmas and Carnival. There are, besides, twelve national holidays throughout the year: New Year's Day, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Day (22 January, celebrating the discovery of the islands by Columbus), Good Friday, Easter Monday, Labor Day (1 May, also known locally as "Fisherman's Day"), Whit Monday, CARICOM Day (celebrating the Caribbean common market), Carnival Tuesday, August Monday (1 August, Emancipation Day), Independence Day (27 October), Christmas Day, and Boxing Day (26 December).

Christmas includes three segments: Nine Mornings, Christmas Day, and "the two days following Christmas." Following a custom begun during slavery, on the Nine Mornings Vincentians hold parties each day in the pre-dawn hours, then go to work, and party again the next day for each of the nine days. In Kingstown, large sections of the town are taken over by the party goers. Christmas Day is spent with one's family. Boxing Day and the day after are spent visiting neighbors. The Christmas season coincides with a cooling "Christmas breeze" and is looked forward to for the temporary relief from the tropical heat as much as for the celebrations.

Carnival celebrations, with their attendant calypso and costume contests, are sponsored by the government.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The visual arts are not highly elaborated on Saint Vincent. Several musical groups do support themselves, although mainly by tours and record sales off the island. The government sponsors the Carnival celebration which formerly was held according to the religious calendar, but was moved to July to encourage tourism.

Literature. There is almost no written literature produced by Vincentians themselves. Myths, folktales, and other stories are rarely passed down in any formal way. However, Vincentians place great value on the ability to create good stories, jokes, and riddles and to present them in a convincing and entertaining way. Impromptu speaking contests and joke contests may be arranged in any gathering. Moonlit nights in the rural villages are especially noted as a time for these performances.

Graphic Arts. There is little in the way of graphic arts in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Occasionally an individual self-taught artist will gain attention.

Performance Arts. Calypso, Soka, Reggae, and Gospel are the main forms of music heard in Saint Vincent. Competitive caroling groups also perform at Christmas time.

Dramatic presentations are held by school and church groups throughout the islands as fund-raising events. The most important of these are "concerts," variety shows featuring short plays, jokes, and singing for which a small entrance fee is charged.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Local development of the sciences is negligible; however, the islands themselves are the focus of much scientific activity. Scientists from around the world are attracted by Saint Vincent's volcano and its endemic wildlife. Dozens of sociologists and anthropologists have conducted major research on aspects of Vincentian society.


Abrahams, Roger D. The Man-of-Words in the West Indies: Performance and the Emergence of Creole Culture, 1983.

Austin, Roy L. "Family Environment, Educational Aspiration and Performance in Saint Vincent." The Review of Black Political Economy 17 (3): 101122, 1989.

Betley, Brian James. "Stratification and Strategies: A Study of Adaptation and Mobility in a Vincentian Town." Ph.D. dssertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1976.

Brittain, Ann W. "Anticipated Child Loss to Migration and Sustained High Fertility in an East Caribbean Population. Social Biology 38 (;ef): 94112, 1991.

Gearing, Margaret Jean. "Family Planning in Saint Vincent, West Indies: A Population History Perspective." Social Science and Medicine 35 (10): 12731282, 1992.

Gullick, Charles (C. J. M. R.). Myths of a Minority: The Changing Traditions of the Vincentian Caribs, 1985.

Jackson, Jane. "Social Organization in Saint Vincent." B.Litt. thesis, Oxford University, 1972.

Landman, Bette Emeline. "Household and Community in Canouan, British West Indies." Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 1972.

Price, Neil. Behind the Planter's Back: Lower Class Responses to Marginality in Bequia Island, Saint Vincent, 1988.

Shacochis, Bob. Swimming in the Volcano, 1993.

Thomas-Hope, Elizabeth M. Explanation in Caribbean Migration: Perception and the Image: Jamaica, Barbados, Saint Vincent, 1992.

Zane, Wallace W. Journeys to the Spiritual Lands: The Natural History of a West Indian Religion, 1999.

Wallace W. Zane

St. Vincent and The Grenadines

views updated May 17 2018


St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Major City:


ST. VINCENT may have been inhabited as early as 5000 BC. Agrarian Arawaks immigrated from South America. The Caribs eventually conquered the Arawaks, killing all the men and incorporating the women into their group. Christopher Columbus allegedly sighted the island on January 22, 1498, the feast day of the island's namesake. European settlers later arrived with African slaves. In 1675, slaves from a Dutch shipwreck made it to the island of Bequia and were given shelter by the native, or Yellow Caribs. Slaves from Barbados and St. Lucia later managed to escape to the island. The mixture of slaves and Yellow Caribs created a new group known as the Black Caribs. The Caribs ardently fought off European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th century. Tensions between the Yellow Caribs and the Black Caribs led to conflict and territorial division. The perpetual hostilities delayed colonial development of the island, while several nearby islands already had an advanced sugar industry. In 1700 the French divided St. Vincent, with the west going to the Yellow Caribs and the east going to the Black Caribs. French settlers began cultivating coffee, tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugar on plantations worked by African slaves starting in 1719. Great Britain controlled St. Vincent from 1763 until French rule was restored in 1779. The British got control back in 1783. Under the British, sugar production fell throughout the 1800s, and arrow-root became the leading cash crop by 1900. St. Vincent is still the world's leading producer of arrow-root, which is used to make starch. St. Vincent became a crown colony in 1877, and a legislative council was created in 1925. The island was granted associate statehood status in 1969 and became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence on October 27, 1979.



Kingstown, the capital, is located on the southwestern coast of the island of St. Vincent and has a population of about 27,000. The town overlooks Kingstown Harbour and is protected by Berkshire Hill to the north and Cane Garden Point to the south. Cruise ships put into Kingstown Harbour. The E.T. Joshua Airport is located on the southern tip of St. Vincent near Kingstown. Local transportation is provided by open-air buses and small minibus taxis sporting colorful hand-painted names and designs. Campden Industrial Park, about three miles west of the city, is a 30-acre enclave that serves as the principal industrial area of the country. The East Caribbean Group of Companies has operations there that handle animal feed processing, bag production, and flour and rice milling. In 1989 a fire destroyed much of Kingstown's center, but reconstruction in 1990 emphasized increasing tourism.

Recreation and Entertainment

St. Vincent has numerous beaches for swimming and surfing. The waters along the black sand beaches of the Atlantic coast are choppy and conducive to surfing and windsurfing, while the waters along the golden sand beaches of the Caribbean coast are calm and more pleasant for swimming. Cricket is played throughout the islands, and several local players have gone on to represent the West Indies at the international level. International sports are played at the Arnos Vale Playing Field. Soccer, netball, volleyball, and basketball are also popular. Soccer is the most widely played sport, and there are 14 local leagues that organize team play. Indoor sports such as squash and table tennis are played in the suburbs of Kingstown. Weight training, karate, and taekwondo are also becoming popular. Swimming, sailing, and windsurfing are popular aquatic activities. Dominoes is a popular game among groups of men.

Bay Street is Kingstown's water-front district, with shops and a few hotels. The Cobblestone Inn was built in 1814 as a sugar warehouse and was restored to its original Georgian style. St. George's Anglican Cathedral also is an example of Georgian architecture, and contains several Kempe and Munich stained glass windows. St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral originally was built in 1823, and was most recently renovated in the 1940s. The cathedral is a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic, and Moorish designs.

The General Post Office in Kingstown features stamps produced by the government that are prized by international collectors. St. Vincent Philatelic Services, Ltd. in Kingstown works with an agency in New York to produce nine collectible issues per year. Kingstown's vegetable market is one of the island's main commercial centers.

The St. Vincent Botanic Gardens and Museum on the outskirts of Kingstown features tropical foliage and brightly colored songbirds. It is the most ornate garden in the Caribbean and the oldest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The gardens occupy 20 acres and were founded in 1765 as a nursery for plants useful to medicine and commerce. The French introduced exotic Asian spices (such as cinnamon) to the gardens. Cloves were brought from Martinique and nutmeg and black pepper plants from French Guiana. Breadfruit trees brought from the South Pacific by Captain Bligh were introduced in 1793. The St. Vincent National Museum at the gardens contains stone, ceramic, and shell artifacts dating from 500 BC to AD 1200 left behind by the pre-Columbian inhabitants of St. Vincent and some of the other islands in the Grenadines. The Parrot Breeding Center at the Botanic Gardens is trying to increase the population of the islands' national bird, the St. Vincent parrot (Amazona guildingi). Fort Charlotte, west of Kingstown, sits atop a ridge 600 feet above sea level and was completed in 1806. A museum at the fort depicts the history of the Black Caribs on the island.

Cultural activities on St. Vincent include several festivals, arts and crafts exhibitions, dancing, and folksinging. The national carnival festival, known as Vincy Mas, is celebrated in early July. Costumed, steel, and calypso bands give performances, and there are beauty shows. The Music Festival has been held every other year since 1956 and features vocal, choral, and instrumental performances. There is also an annual school drama festival. There are plans to build a performing arts center in Kingstown. The Kingstown Free Library has a display of Carib artifacts.


Geography and Climate

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is located 21 miles southwest of St. Lucia and about 100 miles west of Barbados in the Caribbean Sea. Scattered between St. Vincent and Grenada are more than 100 small islands called the Grenadines, half of which belong to St. Vincent and the other half to Grenada. The Grenadines belonging to St. Vincent include Union Island, Mayreau, Canouan, Mustique, Bequia, and many other uninhabited cays, rocks, and reefs. St. Vincent has an area of 134 square miles, with a coastline of 52 miles. Bequia, the largest of the Grenadines, has an area of 7 square miles. St. Vincent is a rugged island with dark volcanic sand beaches. Its highest point is Soufrière, an active volcano that rises 4,048 feet above sea level. Only 5% of St. Vincent's surface has slopes of less than 5°. The low-lying Grenadines have wide beaches and shallow bays and harbors. The islands have a pleasant tropical climate throughout the year, with the average temperature ranging from 77° F in January to 81° F in September. The rainfall on St. Vincent averages about 91 inches per year, but more than 150 inches may fall in the mountains. The islands lie in the Caribbean hurricane belt and were devastated in 1780, 1898, and 1980.


St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a population of about 122,000, with over 90% living on the main island. Only about a dozen of the country's 120 islands are populated. About 66% of the islanders are descendants of slaves brought from Africa. About 20% is of mixed origins and about 3.5% is of European descent. Some 5.5% of the islanders are descendants of 19th-century East Indian indentured laborers. About 2% of the people are indigenous Caribs. The mixture of Africans and the native Caribs (Yellow Caribs) created an ethnicity known as the Black Caribs. Some scholars believe that the African origin of the Black Caribs came from escaped slaves, while others believe they descended from a stranded group of 13th century West African explorers. Today, the few remaining descendants of the Yellow Caribs live at Sandy Bay. The majority of the population is Anglican or Methodist. There is also a significant Roman Catholic minority. English is the official language of the country. Some islanders speak a French patois, which uses a mixture of African and French grammar, with a vocabulary using mostly French words, with some English and a few Spanish words. A minority of the islanders speak French as a first language.


St. Vincent was one of the last of the West Indies to be settled by Europeans. The British and French agreed to leave the island to the native Caribs in 1660, and the island had a sizable Carib population until the 1720s. The island was formally taken by the British in 1763, who ruled thereafter except during 1779-83, when its was under French control. St. Vincent was administered as a crown colony from 1833 until 1960. Upon independence in 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines kept the British monarch as the nominal head of state, represented by a governor-general.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II is head of state and is represented on the island by a governor general, an office with mostly ceremonial functions. Control of the government rests with the prime minister and the cabinet.

The parliament is a unicameral body with a 15-member elected house of assembly and a six-member appointed senate. The governor general appoints senators, four on the advice of the prime minister and two on the advice of the leader of the opposition. The parliamentary term of office is 5 years, although the prime minister may call elections at any time.

As in other English-speaking Caribbean countries, the judiciary in St. Vincent is rooted in British common law. There are 11 courts in three magisterial districts. The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, comprising a high court and a court of appeals, is known in St. Vincent as the St. Vincent and the Grenadines supreme court. The court of last resort is the judicial committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council in London.

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

The flag consists of three vertical bands of blue, yellow and green; centered on the yellow band are three green diamonds arranged in a V-pattern.

Arts, Science, Education

Primary education lasts for seven years and is provided by the government but not compulsory. There are about 65 primary schools. The government-assisted School for Children with Special Needs serves handicapped students. At the secondary level, there are a teachers' training college and a technical college. Government agencies sponsor adult education, vocational training, and agricultural training.

Commerce and Industry

The St. Vincent economy has traditionally been dependent on agriculture, but the government has attempted to diversify the economy in recent years. Agriculture now accounts for about 9% of GDP compared to 11% in 1996 and 13% in 1993. Bananas account for more than 80% of agricultural output. and account for upwards of 60% of the work force and about 35% of merchandise exports. Such reliance on a single crop makes the economy vulnerable to external factors. St. Vincent's banana growers benefit from preferential access to the European market. In view of the European Union's announced phase-out of this preferred access, economic diversification is a priority.

Tourism has become a very important part of the economy. In 1993, tourism supplanted banana exports as the chief source of foreign exchange. The Grenadines have become a favorite of the up-market yachting crowd. The trend toward increasing tourism revenues will likely continue. In 1996, new cruiseship and ferry berths came on-line, sharply increasing the number of passenger arrivals. In 2000, total visitor arrivals were about 280,700. A relatively small number of Americans--under 1,000--reside on the islands.

St. Vincent is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). 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.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative. The country belongs to the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), which has signed a framework agreement with the United States to promote trade and investment in the region. St. Vincent also is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).


St. Vincent is on the main air routes of the Caribbean, with direct flights to Trinidad and Barbados as well as other islands to the north. The international airport is located on St. Vincent near Kingstown and there is another on the east coast, near Georgetown. There are also small airports on Bequia, Canouan, Mustique, and Union Island. All of the Grenadines have excellent harbors served by a ferry service out of Kingstown.

Harbors in the Grenadines are being expanded to increase potential tourism. There is a road on St. Vincent that connects all of the main towns with the capital.

Vehicles travel on the left, and traffic approaches from the right. Roads are narrow, with steep inclines/declines throughout the island. Taxis and buses tend to be relatively safe, but the buses are often overcrowded. Vans are generally overcrowded and frequently travel at high rates of speed. Rural mountainous roads are the more dangerous areas for road travel. Night driving should be done with great caution and is discouraged in mountainous areas because the roads are not well marked, there are few, if any, guardrails, and the roads are often steep and winding.


Cable and Wireless (West Indies) operates the islands' telecommunications services. There are two AM radio stations, one television station, and four weekly newspapers.


The general hospital in Kingstown has over 200 beds and is equipped with x-ray, dental, and eye clinics. There are three rural hospitals, two on St. Vincent and another on Bequia.

Clothing and Services

Sandals are an important beach accessory, as the sand can become very hot. Comfortable, casual clothing is the norm, but it is considered improper to wear swimwear when in town. A raincoat and light sweater may be needed for the higher altitudes of St. Vincent, where it can get wet, windy, and cool.


Jan.1 New Year's Day

Jan. 22 St. Vincent & the Grenadines Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 6 Labor Day

May/June Whit Sunday (Pentecost)

May/June Whit Monday

July 1 CARICOM day

July Carnival Tuesday*

Aug. August Monday*

Oct. 27 Independence Day

Dec. 25 Christmas

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



For stays up to six months, U.S. citizens may enter St. Vincent and The Grenadines without a passport. U.S. citizens must carry an original document proving U.S. citizenship (a U.S. passport, certificate of naturalization, certificate of citizenship or a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate).

Photo identification, a return/onward ticket and/or proof of sufficient funds are also required.

For further information concerning entry requirements, travelers can contact the Embassy of St. Vincent and The Grenadines, 3216 New Mexico Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016, telephone (202) 364-6730, or the consulates in Los Angeles, New Orleans, and New York.

The United States does not maintain an Embassy in St. Vincent and The Grenadines. U.S. citizens requiring assistance may contact the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados; telephone 1 (246) 436-4950. The Consular Section is located in the American Life Insurance Company (ALICO) building, Cheapside, Bridgetown; telephone 1 (246) 431-0225. Americans are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the Embassy in Bridgetown and obtain updated information on travel and security in St. Vincent and The Grenadines and within the area.


Bobrow, Jill and Dana Jinkins. St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Gems of the Caribbean. Waits-field, Vt.: Concepts Publishing Inc., 1993.

Philpott, Don. Caribbean Sunseekers: St. Vincent & Grenadines. Lincolnwood, Ill.: Passport Books, 1996.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

views updated May 17 2018

Saint Vincent and the

ANGLICAN 17.75 percent
PENTECOSTAL 17.6 percent
METHODIST 10.9 percent
ROMAN CATHOLIC 7.45 percent

Country Overview


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, an island group in the eastern Caribbean, lies between Saint Lucia to the north and Grenada to the south. The total land area is just 150 square miles (388 square kilometers), 90 percent of which is on the island of Saint Vincent. The other islands, known as the Grenadines, include Mustique, Baliceaux, Canouan, Petit Mustique, Bequia, Union Island, and Mayreau. The islands are mountainous, rising in Saint Vincent to over 4,000 feet. Approximately 66 percent of Vincentians are blacks, 19 percent are of mixed race, 6 percent are East Indian, 2 percent are Amerindian Caribs, and 7 percent are of other ethnicities.

The original inhabitants of Saint Vincent were Caribs, Amerindians who migrated northward from South America looking for new land and in pursuit of their weaker rivals, the Arawaks. French settlers arrived about 1650, probably from Martinique, bringing Catholicism to the island. Because it produced large quantities of sugar, the Caribbean region was of great importance to European powers and was featured in many of their conflicts for dominance, including various wars between France and Britain. Saint Vincent passed into British hands at the 1763 Peace of Paris. With the British came Anglicanism, Methodism, and other Protestant groups, and Roman Catholic growth was somewhat arrested. The indigenous people survived for some time but were not integrated into the society. By the time of British occupation, slaves from Africa had begun to constitute a substantial portion of the population. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines remained a British colony until they negotiated their independence from Britain in 1979.

Except for some seven thousand people who have no religious affiliation, the population claims to be Christian. The preliminary census data for 2001 lists 12 Christian denominations on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Some newer denominations (the Church of God, evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Seventh-day Adventists), more aggressive in their approach to evangelization than the older denominations, have made substantial inroads and claim more than ten thousand adherents. Between 1980 and 2000 Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Methodists declined by 20 to 40 percent.


Freedom of religious expression is guaranteed under the constitution of 1979. The variety of religious groups is reflected in the country's ecumenical Council of Churches, which includes Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Methodists, and others. For the most part Christian and non-Christian groups, as well as groups that may be called only marginally religious, such as the Rastafarians, coexist peacefully.

Some churches require members to separate themselves from other Christian bodies. For example, one report, issued by Baptists, lamented the strong inroads ecumenism was making into Saint Vincent's religious life and asserted that more Baptist churches, especially in the interior and on the Grenadine islands, might remedy the situation.

Major Religion


DATE OF ORIGIN Late 1770s c.e.


Anglican work began on Saint Vincent in the late eighteenth century, when British occupiers arrived after the Peace of Paris. The church originally formed part of the diocese of Barbados and the Leeward Islands, established in 1824. In 1878 the Vincentian Anglicans became part of the newly established diocese of the Windward Islands, administered originally by the Bishop of Barbados. The island's first full-time Anglican bishop was appointed in 1927. Since the 1960s Anglicans have moved purposefully toward a local ministry, and church leadership has included a number of people born in the region. The church has also made efforts to respond to the challenges of the region and the era.


The Most Reverend Cuthbert Woodroffe (born in 1918), former bishop of the Windward Islands and archbishop of the West Indies, was the first native of the Windward Islands to hold such high offices. He was succeeded by the Right Reverend Sehon Goodridge, appointed bishop of the Windward Islands in 1994. A graduate of Codrington College, where he also served as principal, Goodgridge went on to head the Simon of Cyrene Theological Institute in London, where he was elected bishop.


The Anglican Church of Saint Vincent has produced no theologians of note. Bishop Goodridge published a book on the first bishop of Barbados, William Hart Coleridge, and articles on liberation theology, development, human rights, and peace.


The main Anglican church of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint George's Cathedral in Kingstown, was completed and dedicated in 1820. The island has some 20 other Anglican churches.


Like Anglicans elsewhere, Vincentian Anglicans hold their place of worship and the sacraments of the church to be sacred.


Vincentian Anglicans celebrate Christmas day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Whit Monday, and the government recognizes them as public holidays.

A particularly Vincentian celebration called the Nine Mornings—originally Catholic but now celebrated by other Christians, including Anglicans—is held during the nine days before Christmas. According to tradition, the Nine Mornings originated in the 1920s when Father Carlos Verbeke (a Dominican priest in charge of St. Mary's cathedral from 1919 to 1957) started celebrating a novena in the early morning hours instead of at midday, perhaps to take advantage of the people being already in the streets. Novenas, long customary in the Roman Catholic Church, are a devotion that is practiced over nine consecutive days as an act of thanksgiving or penitence.

The Nine Mornings may also be the continuation and expansion of a tradition of merriment that dates back to the 1870s, when rival bands from different villages paraded in the streets of Kingstown. Over the years the celebration has incorporated a variety of practices, including worship on Christmas itself and various thanksgivings for relief from hurricane, volcanic eruption, or other disasters. People also decorate houses, churches, and commercial buildings. The celebrations now coincide with the nine shopping days before Christmas, a testimony to the increasing commercialization of the festival.


Anglicans on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are expected to dressed appropriately for worship. Choir members, acolytes, and others officiating in the sanctuary are often robed. For the Eucharist ordained ministers wear specific robes (in the colors of the various seasons of the Christian year). Anglican clergy wear "choir" dress—a cassock, surplice, scarf (long and black, similar to a stole), and academic hood—for morning and evening prayer services. Before the 1970s Anglican clergy were required to wear clerical dress in public, but guidelines have become more relaxed.


The only dietary rule for Anglicans on the islands is that of moderation, since eating too much is regarded as a sin (gluttony). The Anglican Church does encourage moderate fasting during Lent and sometimes generally on Wednesdays and Fridays.


Eucharistic rituals on Saint Vincent vary from the simple to the elaborate. More elaborate services involve processions, the use of incense at various points, and much ceremony in moving from one part of the service to another. Good Friday liturgies are characterized by the veneration of the cross and Easter by the blessing of the paschal candle and the renewal of baptismal vows.


The Anglican Church practices infant baptism. In most churches water is poured on the head of the infant or adult. Confirmation takes place at age 12 or older. Whereas baptisms, marriages, and funerals were formerly separate services, it is increasingly the custom that such services take place within the context of the Eucharist; thus, nuptial and requiem masses are common.


The Anglican Church is not aggressive in seeking new members, a complacency that survives from a time when it was virtually the state church. Membership has declined significantly with the aging of the congregations and the rise of newer denominations.


In addition to its 25 congregations, the Anglicans administer five primary schools and three secondary schools in Saint Vincent and Bequia. Because the government is unable to provide for all the educational needs of its citizens, the church still has work to do in this area.


The Anglican Church on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has begun to relax its views on nontraditional family arrangements. For many years the church (like all Anglican churches in the West Indies) declined to remarry divorced persons, viewing such marriages as improper while the divorced partner was still alive. Since 1977, however, remarriage is allowed, though only under specific conditions determined by the bishop.

Common-law unions on Saint Vincent go back two or more centuries to the period when enslaved Africans were not permitted to contract marriages. Though the Anglican Church waged a long battle against common-law unions, it has had to come to terms with the growing social recognition and acceptance of the practice. The Anglican Mother's Union, which formerly did not admit unmarried mothers, has started to do so with the church's approval. Not all the organization's members agree with this change, despite their group's name and the preponderance of unwed mothers in the region.


Members of the Anglican Church have served as judges, senators, and politicians in Saint Vincent. Once a lay preacher at the cathedral was simultaneously a government minister. The Anglican Church's views on marriage have been expressed in sermons, and Bishop Goodridge spoke out against the ordination of a homosexual priest as a bishop in the Untied States.


There is some controversy on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines over the ordination of women. While the Anglicans and Methodists ordain women, the Roman Catholics do not. The Anglican Church is permissive in the matter, and the final decision rests with the local bishop. Only one priest of the diocese has disagreed to the extent of severing his association with the Anglican Church and entering the Roman Catholic Church.


Most of the existing Anglican churches on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are European-style in architecture and old. With its own rich tradition of music, the Anglican Church never really attempted to include Caribbean music in the liturgy, though this has begun to change. Ecclesiastical authorities of the Anglican Province of the West Indies has mandated that its Commission on Liturgy and Music undertake to prepare a hymnal incorporating Caribbean music.

Other Religions

The beginnings of Pentecostalism in Saint Vincent are undocumented. Its growth has been rapid. From 3,941 adherents in 1980, church membership grew to over 11,000 in 1991 and 18,708 in 2001. The Pentecostals practice believer's baptism, meaning that one can be baptized only after the profession of faith. Pentecostals usually perform baptisms by immersion in the sea. As part of their belief in gifts of the Spirit, they also practice speaking in tongues—languages unknown even to the speaker and requiring an interpreter. Vincentian Pentecostals are inclined to break off from the main church for various reasons to start other "cells."

Methodism came to Saint Vincent in 1787 when Thomas Coke, an English missionary on the way to North America, was shipwrecked in Antigua. Coke visited Saint Vincent before completing his journey. The Methodists were given a warm welcome at first, but along with other dissenters of Anglicanism, they came to be viewed suspiciously by slave society. The Methodist Church resumed its growth after emancipation but declined as the nineteenth century wore on. The arrival of new denominations from North America since the 1980s has furthered that decline.

The Seventh-day Adventists began their work in Saint Vincent in 1901. Their first place of worship was a former Presbyterian Church building. The Vincentian Seventh-day Adventists are part of the Eastern Caribbean Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists and have experienced tremendous growth—enough to have 32 church buildings of their own. A major part of their success stems from their social programs. They administer three primary schools, a primary health care facility, and a dental clinic. The Seventh-day Adventists practice believer's baptism, usually administered in the sea. Members are not allowed to drink anything alcoholic or to eat pork.

Originally known as "Shakers," the Spiritual Baptists began work in Saint Vincent in the late nineteenth century, perhaps as early as 1870. The church drew its leadership and adherents from among the lower classes, and its growth attracted adverse notice, inspiring efforts to suppress it. Vincentian Spiritual Baptists worshiped noisily, often in the open air, ringing handbells, pouring water at the four corners of any buildings used for worship, and singing loudly, which earned them the nickname "Shouters." They were accused of practicing obeah, or witchcraft. Their activity was made illegal in 1912 by an ordinance that was not repealed until 1965. The group then began to attract adherents from the middle classes, and a government minister was said to have become a member. Gradually the islands became more open-minded toward new religions, leading to a greater respect for the church, which in turn encouraged its growth. Spiritual Baptists have Holy Week and Easter rituals similar to the those of the Anglicans, but the Baptist's are often more elaborate and include outdoor processions with ringing bells. Ministers wear clothing similar to that of Anglican and Catholic priests for worship. Spiritual Baptists usually perform baptisms by immersion in the sea.

French settlers brought Roman Catholicism to Saint Vincent in the mid-seventeenth century. Though the church's growth slowed after the arrival of the British, it made gains during the twentieth century. Historically part of the joint diocese of Bridgetown-Kingstown, the Saint Vincent Catholic Church became separate in 1989, forming the diocese of Kingstown. There are six parishes, and the church also administers five preschools, three primary schools, and three secondary schools.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) is working to establish itself on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Young Mormon men, required to do a period of missionary work before going to college, come to the islands from the United States and work for a year or two before moving on.

Saint Vincent has small communities of Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Bahais, the latter two going from place to place to communicate their message.

Noel Titus

See Also Vol. 1: Anglicanism/Episcopalianism, Christianity, Pentecostalism


Adams, Edgar. Nine Mornings. Kingstown: Edgar Adams Publishing, 1998.

——. People on the Move. London: Edgar Adams Publishing, 2002.

Flannery, Austin, ed. Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. Northport, N.Y.: Costello Publishing Company, 1975.

Henney, Jeannette. "Spirit Possession and Trance in Saint Vincent." In Trance, Healing, and Hallucination. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1974; Malabar, Fla.: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1982.

Simpson, G.E. Black Religions in the New World. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

views updated May 14 2018

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Basic Data
Official Country Name:Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Region:Puerto Rico & Lesser Antilles
Language(s):English, French patois
Literacy Rate:96%

After the arrival of the white man, the history of education in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was inextricably bound up with the other Anglophonic people of the Caribbean regionincluding the Bahamas (where Christopher Columbus first made landfall), Trinidad, Jamaica, and Tobagoand England herself. This still holds true; in the year 2000, Queen Elizabeth II was the nominal head of state and English was the official language of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Prior to Columbus, the aboriginal Carib and Arawak peoples regarded education as the inculcation in their young of tribal values such as courage in adversity and skill in tracking game. The earliest attempts at European education in the area took the form of missionaries attempting to convert the Indians to Christianity, almost totally unsuccessfully. However, with the coming of the British and the advent of plantation society and slavery, the aboriginals virtually disappeared (only 2 percent of the population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was Amerind in 1999) and, by the end of the seventeenth century, the population of the West Indies consisted of five major elements: whites from Europe, whites born locally, locals of mixed blood, free native blacks, and black slaves. Non-whites were overwhelmingly in the numerical, but not political, majority. Since Caucasian blood was considered the defining hallmark of true humanity, little attempt was made to educate the non-white population.

Great Britain abolished slavery in 1833 and, in 1835, the Negro Education Grant was established to educate the former slaves by creating primary and secondary schools in the West Indies, a plan that had the backing of colonial officials and clergy. Funds calculated in ratio to the number of ex-slaves on each island were supplied through the grant and charitable donations.

The Negro Education Grant was terminated in 1845, and its role was taken by the governments of the various islands, although clerical support continued throughout all the West Indies until 1914 when among the more Protestant populations (Barbados or Antigua, for example) it was ended and the responsibility devolved completely upon the legislatures. In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, however, there were many more Roman Catholics, so the church continued its educational involvement, funding its schools unilaterally, while the public schools relied solely upon governmental fundingnot unlike the system that developed in the United States of America. Gradually, government support for nongovernmental education evolved. In the decades following, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines followed the lead of other Commonwealth members by replacing the secondary school examinations sent from the United Kingdom with the Caribbean Council Secondary School Examination. The language of instruction was and remains English.

By 1970, about 96 percent of the total population was literate, as defined by the percentage of those citizens aged 15 and over who had ever attended school. Twenty years later, 55 percent of the total population had achieved both the primary and secondary level of education; another 49 percent qualified for the primary only. In 1990, there were 100 private preprimary schools on the islands; in the same year, there were 1,119 teachers engaged in primary education. In 1997, there were 60 primary schools, with approximately one-third being denominational or private. Whether they were from secular or non-secular primary schools, upon completion of schooling, all students who wished to go on to secondary schools (of which in 1997 there were 21 with a student/teacher ratio of 15.5:1) had to take and pass the yearly Common Entrance Examination administered by the Ministry of Education. Students who passed moved on to an academic secondary school. Students who failed were permitted to attend a "junior" secondary school, which was less prestigious. Students who did not wish to attend any secondary school were tested by the Primary School Leaving Certificate Examination (50 percent English, 20 percent mathematics) and, if they passed, were given a certificate of graduation that allowed them egress into entry level jobs. Government secondary schools of both classes were free; the private schools charged a nominal fee, primarily because of government assistance.

By 1987, several true colleges and universities also existed, both on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and other West Indian principalities. The University of West Indies offered a three-year degree program, with a first-year site on Saint Vincent, while Saint Vincent Teachers College prepared primary school teachers. For the mechanically-minded, Saint Vincent Technical College offered the equivalent of what would be a two-year Associate's Degree from a community college in the United States in vocational fields, such as air conditioning. Additionally, Kingstown Technical Centre proffered a popular tertiary education in such things as woodworking and mechanics.

However, in an increasingly technology-and computer-driven twenty-first century, educators throughout the world have needed to rethink their missions, and the governments of the West Indies, including Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, have taken several approaches to educate their workforces and prepare for the future. Additional help has been forthcoming from the European Union and United States. The educational policies once dictated by a plantation economy, one not particularly conducive to higher and more sophisticated education, are being refocused on producing people skilled in the new industries of tourism, hospitality, information technology, and the ubiquitous computer. These governments, including that of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, have now moved to refocus and retool their workforces at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. The Community College of Saint Vincent has been added to Saint Vincent Technical College, as well as a number of tertiary schools on neighboring Saint Lucia, Grenada, and Dominica. There is additional government money for higher education and training programs for young people who are not going to college or for scholarships to those wanting to attend universities in various countries outside of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, such as Cuba.

The European Union is assisting economically in the upgrading of teaching staff, while the United States has provided funds through its USAID/UWI Windward Islands Training Project to develop specialists to train farmers to produce bananas of the highest quality, said fruit being a major part of the Vincentian economy, as well as to train agricultural assistance officers in the best methods of managing a farm in the coming decade and decades.

In order for the Windward Islands in general, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in particular, to remain competitive in the emerging sectors of Caribbean economy such as tourism, information processing, and banking, retraining is and must continue to be conducted through a well-structured and coherent approach. Planning will be required for the year 2010 and beyond.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from

Figueroa, John J. Society, Schools, and Progress in the West Indies. New York: Pergamon Press, 1971.

Kurian, George Thomas. Illustrated Book of World Rankings. Sharpe Reference, 1997.

Mukweyi, Alison Isaack. "The West Indies College and Its Educational Activities in Jamaica, 1961-1987." Ph.D. diss. Ann Arbor: UMI Press, 1988.

Rubenstein, Hymie. Coping with Poverty: Adaptive Strategies in a Caribbean Village. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987.

Statistical Yearbook (43rd Issue). New York: United Nations, 1999.

Statistical Yearbook for Latin America. Comision Economica. Chile: Para America Latina, 2000.

Whittington, L. Alfons. "Workforce Development for Communities in Crisis and Transition: A Case Study of the Windward Islands." Paper presented at the Africa-America Institute's Advanced Training for Leadership and Skills Conference (Zimbabwe, September 21-25, 1998).

Ronald E. Sheasby

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

views updated May 21 2018

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

  • Area: 150 sq mi (389 sq km) / World Rank: 190
  • Location: Islands in the Caribbean Sea, Northern and Western Hemispheres, part of the Windward Islands group of the Lesser Antilles, north of Grenada
  • Coordinates: 13°15′N, 61°12′W
  • Borders: None
  • Coastline: 52 mi (84 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 12 NM
  • Highest Point: Soufrière, 4,049 ft (1,234 m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest Distances: Saint Vincent Island, 18 mi (29 km) N-S; 11 mi (18 km) W-E
  • Longest River: None of significant length
  • Natural Hazards: Hurricanes, active volcanoes
  • Population: 115,942 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 183
  • Capital City: Kingstown, located on the southwest coast of St. Vincent
  • Largest City: Kingstown, 27,000 (2000 est.)


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (often simply called St. Vincent) is part of the Windward Islands group of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. Saint Vincent itself is a large volcanic island at the northern part of the country. The Grenadines are a chain of islets between Saint Vincent and Grenada, with half belonging to St. Vincent and the other to Grenada.

An active volcano, Soufrière, sits in the mountains in the north on Saint Vincent. The remainder of the island contains rugged land, except for lowlands in the interior and a valley that are home to tropical rainforests and Saint Vincent's best farmland, respectively. The Grenadines are generally rugged but low-lying.



Down its whole length, Saint Vincent is dominated by a volcanic range of mountains with four peaks at almost equal distance from each other: Soufrière (the highest point), Richmond, Grand Bonhomme, and St. Andrew. The Soufrière volcano also contains a crater lake that is 1 mi (1.6 km) wide. A rugged landscape with steep slopes comprises most of the remaining areas of Saint Vincent.

The Grenadines are formed by a volcanic ridge between Saint Vincent and Grenada that runs north to south. Mt. Tobaoi (1,010 ft / 308 m), the highest point in the Grenadines, is found on Union Island.


Oceans and Seas

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is located between the Caribbean Sea to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Coral reefs surround the Grenadines. The Saint Vincent Passage is found north of that island; Martinique Channel separates the country from Grenada.

Major Islands

The island of Saint Vincent itself is by far the largest in the country, with an area of 133 sq mi (344 sq km). The Grenadines are a group of low-lying islands south of Saint Vincent, with wide beaches and coral reefs surrounding them. Union Island, Mayreau, Mustique, Canouan, Bequia, and many other unihabited rocks, reefs, and cays are part of the Grenadines that belong to St. Vincent.

The Coast and Beaches

Saint Vincent's east and west coasts are comprised of alternating rock cliffs and stretches of black sand beaches. The Grenadines have low-lying land, wide beaches, and shallow harbors and bays.



A tropical country, the average temperature for St. Vincent and the Grenadines is 79°F (26°C). September is

Population Centers – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Kingstown (capital)28,000
SOURCE : "World Urbanization Prospects: The 2001 Revision." United Nations Population Division.
Census Divisions – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
NameArea (sq mi)Area (sq km)
Kingstown (city)1.94.9
Kingstown (suburbs)6.416.6
Northern Grenadines9.023.3
Sandy Bay5.313.7
Southern Grenadines7.519.4
SOURCE : Geo-Data: The World Geographical Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989.

the warmest month, with an average temperature of 81°F (27°C), and January is the coolest, with an average temperature of 77°F (25°C).


On Saint Vincent, yearly rainfall averages 91 in (231 cm), and in the mountainous regions, it averages more than 150 in (380 cm). The rainy season occurs between May or June through December. In most of the Grenadines, rainfall is the only source of fresh water.


The lowlands on Saint Vincent are covered with coconut and banana trees, and arrowroot. Some of the island's most fertile farmland is housed in the Mesopotamia Valley, which is northeast of Kingstown, the capital city.

Forests and Jungles

Forests and woodlands comprise 36 percent of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with most of Saint Vincent's interior housing tropical rainforest.


The majority of the population lives on Saint Vincent, the main island, and a little over half lives in urban areas. The Grenadines are sparsely populated, with many of the islands being completely uninhabited.


Cropland and hydropower are St. Vincent and the Grenadines' natural resources. Agriculture, especially bananas, is an important part of the economy. Arrowroot starch, eddoes and taro, vegetables, and tennis rackets are other exports. Tourism is also important to the country's economy.


Lonely Planet Guides. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. (accessed March 19, 2002).

Philpott, Don. St. Vincent & Grenadines. Lincolnwood, Ill.: Passport Books, 1996.

Scuba St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Visions of Paradise. (accessed March 19, 2002).

Walton, Chelle Koster. Caribbean Ways: A Cultural Guide. Westwood, Mass.: Riverdale, 1993.

WorldTravelGuide.Net. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. (accessed March 20, 2002).

Young, Virginia Heyer. Becoming West Indian: Culture, Self, and the Nation in St.Vincent. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

views updated May 17 2018

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Type of Government

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy. The prime minister is the head of government, while a governor general acts as head of state on behalf of the British Crown. The legislature is unicameral, with both elected and appointed members.


A part of the Lesser Antilles island chain, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines lies about one hundred miles west of Barbados and north of Grenada. The country is made up of the larger island of Saint Vincent, where the capital, Kingstown, is located, and a chain of some six hundred islands and islets of the Grenadines, including Bequia, Petit Saint Vincent, Union Island, and Mayreau.

Though Saint Vincent was originally settled by the Arawak people from South America, by the time the Spanish explorers arrived in 1498, Carib tribes had taken control of the island and prevented European occupation until the eighteenth century. With the advent of the slave trade to the Caribbean, shipwrecked African slaves found their way to the islands, where they blended with the Carib tribes through intermarriage to create a group later known to Europeans as the Black Caribs or “Garifuna.”. When the French established tobacco, cotton, and sugar plantations on the island in the early eighteenth century, the Garifuna were put to work as laborers.

During the eighteenth century, the islands were handed back and forth between Britain and France several times. Under the 1763 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Seven Years’ War, the British gained control of Saint Vincent. The British were initially content to share control of the island but were forced to contend with frequent raids by the Caribs, led by the Black Carib chieftain Joseph Chatoyer (d. 1795). The British finally defeated the Caribs in 1795, with Chatoyer dying in battle. The British deported many of the remaining Black Caribs to an island off of Honduras, and most of those who remained were killed during the eruption of the volcano Mount Soufrière in 1812. Their role as laborers was taken over by African slaves, and when slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834, Madeiran Portuguese and East Indians were brought in as indentured laborers to work the sugar cane and later the banana plantations.

The British administrated Saint Vincent as a Crown colony within the Windward Islands group from 1833 until 1960. The British slowly implemented reforms that granted increased autonomy to the native population, including universal suffrage in 1951. The first important political party, the People’s Political Party (PPP), was founded in 1952. It grew out of the labor union movement and was strong throughout the 1960s, but dissolved in 1984. The rival Saint Vincent Labour Party (SVLP) was founded in 1955, and under the leadership of Robert Milton Cato (1915–1997), it built up a strong middle-class following.

In 1958 Saint Vincent became part of the short-lived West Indies Federation, and that federation’s dissolution led to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines becoming a self-governing state in association with the United Kingdom in 1969. At that point the country had complete control over internal policies, leaving defense and foreign policy decisions to London. A decade later, on October 27, 1979, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines achieved full independence, one of the last of the Windward Islands to do so.

Government Structure

With the 1979 constitution, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines became a parliamentary democracy within the British Commonwealth of Nations. As such, it recognizes the British monarch as head of state, represented locally by a governor general. This position is largely ceremonial, and real executive power rests with the prime minister and cabinet, whose members are chosen from the majority party in the legislature.

The legislature consists of the unicameral House of Assembly, which has twenty-one members. Fifteen of these are elected by popular vote every five years, though the prime minister can call for earlier elections. A further six senators are appointed by the governor general, four on the advice of the prime minister and two on the advice of the leader of the opposition.

Based on English common law and on laws passed by the House of Assembly, the judicial branch is divided into three judicial or magisterial districts with eleven lower courts and three magisterial courts. The constitution guarantees a public trial before an independent and impartial court. In cases involving capital punishment, legal counsel is provided to defendants who cannot otherwise afford counsel. Appeals are taken to the East Caribbean Supreme Court, based in Saint Lucia, and known on Saint Vincent as the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Supreme Court. The last court of appeal is the Caribbean Court of Justice, which was inaugurated in 2005.

There is no local government in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; instead the central government deals with such matters as local taxation, education, and roads. The country is divided into six parishes (five of them on Saint Vincent) and fifteen legislative districts.

Political Parties and Factions

Political life in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is dominated by the two major parties, making it difficult for a third party to win seats in the House of Assembly. The two main parties are the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Unity Labour Party (ULP).

Founded and led by James F. Mitchell (1931–), the centrist NDP initially came to power in 1972, held the majority for only two years. Then, in the first election after independence, in 1984, it won nine seats in the House of Assembly, and remained in power until 2000.

The ULP was formed by a coalition of the moderately leftist Movement for National Unity and the Saint Vincent and Grenadines Labour Party (SVGLP). By 1998 it was able to win 55 percent of the popular vote but secured only seven seats in the House of Assembly. However, in the 2001 elections, the ULP won twelve seats, and its leader, Ralph Gonsalves (1946–), became prime minister. The ULP also won the 2005 election, though it was contested by the NDP for alleged irregularities.

Major Events

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines faced a crisis when Mount Soufrière erupted in April 1979. Though there were no fatalities, much of St. Vincent’s farmland was destroyed, leading to severe economic hardship that lasted several months after independence was declared and exacerbated old grievances between islands in the new country. On December 8, 1979, a secessionist rebellion broke out on Union Island. Prime Minister Milton Cato’s government moved quickly to put down the rebellion, with support from Barbados. Aside from this incident, the political situation on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has been stable.

The country’s economic reliance on banana exports has also led to weather-induced hardship, as hurricanes have seriously damaged the islands and the banana crop in 1980, 1987, 1998, and 1999.

Twenty-First Century

One of the main challenges facing Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the twenty-first century is diversification of its economy to lessen its reliance on bananas. Currently the government is attempting to develop tourism as a major industry. The islands have begun to attract yachting tourists and can now also accommodate cruise ships. In 2005 Prime Minister Gonsalves also reported that the country had reached its goal of universal high school education.

Shephard, Charles. An Historical Account of the Island of St. Vincent. Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1997.

Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “Official Website of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,”

Fraser, Adrian. Chatoyer: the First National Hero of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Saint Vincent: Galaxy Print, 2002.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Official name: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Area: 389 square kilometers (150 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Soufrière (1,234 meters/4,049 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 8 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: Saint Vincent Island: 29 kilometers (18 miles) from north to south; 18 kilometers (11 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 84 kilometers (52 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (often simply called Saint Vincent) is part of the Windward Islands group of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, north of the island of Grenada. With an area of about 389 square kilometers (150 square miles), the country is twice the size of Washington, D.C. Saint Vincent is divided into six parishes. The island of Saint Vincent itself is by far the largest of these; with an area of 344 square kilometers (133 square miles), it accounts for almost 90 percent of the country's total area.


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has no outside territories or dependencies.


Saint Vincent has a tropical climate with an average temperature of 26°C (79°F). September is the warmest month, with an average temperature of 27°C (81°F), and January is the coolest, with an average temperature of 25°C (77°F). On Saint Vincent, yearly rainfall averages 231 centimeters (91 inches); in the mountainous regions, however, rainfall averages more than 380 centimeters (150 inches). The rainy season occurs from May or June through December. In most of the Grenadines, rainfall is the only source of fresh water.


Saint Vincent is a volcanic island that still has the active volcano, Soufrière, in its northern mountains. The remainder of the island contains rugged land, except for the lowlands and a valley in the interior, which are home, respectively, to tropical rainforests and Saint Vincent's best farmland. The Grenadines are generally rugged but low-lying.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is located between the Caribbean Sea to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Coral reefs surround the Grenadines. An underwater depression called the Tobago Basin lies to the east of the islands.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Saint Vincent Passage is found north of that island. The Martinique Channel is situated to the south and separates the country from Grenada. The North Mayreau Channel lies between the Grenadine islands of Mayreau and Canouan.

Greathead Bay is located on the southern coast of Saint Vincent Island. The capital city of Kingstown is located on the shores of Kingstown Bay, also on the southern coaSaint

Islands and Archipelagos

The island of Saint Vincent itself is by far the largest in the country, with an area of 344 square kilometers (133 square miles). The Grenadines are a group of low-lying islands south of Saint Vincent, with wide beaches and coral reefs surrounding them. Union Island, Mayreau, Mustique, Canouan, Bequia, and many other uninhabited rocks, reefs, and cays are part of the Grenadines that belong to Saint Vincent. The remaining islands of the Grenadines belong to Grenada.

Coastal Features

Saint Vincent's eastern and western coasts are comprised of alternating rock cliffs and stretches of black sand beaches. The Grena-dines have low-lying land, wide beaches, and shallow harbors and bays.


The Soufrière volcano on Saint Vincent contains a crater lake that is 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) wide.


Rivers in Saint Vincent tend to be short and straight. The longest river is the Colonarie. It lies slightly northeast of Kingstown and is the site of a hydroelectric power plant.

The Falls of Baleine, located on the northern end of Saint Vincent, can be reached only by boat. These freshwater cascades drop about 18 meters (60 feet) to a natural pool. The area is a designated wildlife reserve.


There are no desert regions in Saint Vincent.


The lowlands on Saint Vincent are covered with coconut and banana trees and arrowroot. Some of the island's most fertile farmland is housed in the Mesopotamia Valley, which is northeast of Kingstown. Forests and woodlands comprise 36 percent of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, with most of Saint Vincent's interior containing tropical rainforest.


Saint Vincent is dominated by a central volcanic range of mountains with four peaks: Soufrière, Richmond, Grand Bonhomme, and Saint Andrew. The Soufrière volcano is the country's highest peak. It is 1,234 meters (4,049 feet) high. A rugged landscape with steep slopes comprises most of the remaining areas of Saint Vincent. A volcanic ridge between Saint Vincent and Grenada that runs north to south forms the Grenadines. Mount Tobaoi (308 meters/1,010 feet), the highest point in the Grenadines, is found on Union Island.


There are no significant caves or canyons in Saint Vincent.


There are no major plateau regions in Saint Vincent.


Black Point Tunnel is a passage of about 107 meters (350 feet) that links Grand Sable with Byrea Bay. British slaves constructed the tunnel to provide a transportation route for sugar exports.


The Windward and Leeward Islands of the eastern Carribean are named for their relationship to the prevailing eastern blowing winds. "Windward" is the direction from which the wind blows, or the side that is most exposed to the wind. "Leeward" indicates the direction toward which the wind is blowing.



Philpott, Don. Saint Vincent & Grenadines. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1996.

Potter, Robert B. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio, 1992.

Walker, Cas. Focus on the Carribean. London: Evans Brothers, 1992.

Walton, Chelle Koster. Caribbean Ways: A Cultural Guide. Westwood, MA: Riverdale, 1993.

Web Site

Welcome to St. Vincent & The Grenadines. (accessed June 13, 2003).

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a small group of islands in the Lesser Antilles north of Trinidad and Tobago and west of Barbados. Saint Vincent is the largest of the thirty-three islands that constitute the country. The remaining islands in the northern Grenadines (the southern Grenadines are part of Grenada) are primarily small islands and cays. The population of approximately 120,000 resides primarily on the island of Saint Vincent and is predominantly of African and mixed-race descent (85%), with some European, Asian, and Caribbean residents.

Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) was the first European to visit the central island, arriving on Saint Vincent's Day, January 22, 1498. The island's name derives from that event. In the eighteenth century both France and Great Britain claimed Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The islands were ceded to Great Britain in 1783 in the Treaty of Versailles. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines remained part of the British colony of the Windward Islands from 1871 to 1969. It was also a member of the West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962. In 1969 Great Britain granted the islands associated state status, giving them internal self-government. The islands gained full independence in 1979. As a member of the British Commonwealth, the islands recognize the queen of England as their chief of state. Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926) has been represented by Governor-General Sir Fredrick Nathaniel Ballantyne since September 2, 2002.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines qualifies as a constitutional parliamentary democracy, with a House of Assembly. The House of Assembly has fifteen members elected from single-member districts by universal adult suffrage; it is led by a prime minister. There are also six appointed senators. Four of these representatives are appointed on the recommendation of the prime minister, and two on the recommendation of the opposition's leader. Elections are held every five years. Universal suffrage for adults over age eighteen was granted in 1951.

In Saint Vincent's political system two parties dominate. In 2004 the Unity Labor Party (ULP) held twelve of the elected seats in parliament, with the New Democratic Party (NDP) filling the remaining three. The NDP governed the islands, under Prime Ministers James Mitchell and Arnhim Eustace, from 1984 to 2001. In 2000 antigovernment protests arose over an increase in parliamentary pensions. This led to early elections and the victory of the ULP, led by Ralph Gonsalves (b. 1945), in March 2001.

Saint Vincent, as a member of the British Commonwealth, follows the common law tradition. As a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States it uses the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court as its court of last resort.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a lower-middle-income country with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately $3,000. The economy lacks diversification, and unemployment is high. Saint Vincent historically had a plantation economy, based on slave labor, that produced sugar, cotton, coffee, and cocoa. In the early twenty-first century Saint Vincent's main source of income was bananas and other agricultural products, with a small tourism sector.

See also: Caribbean Region.


BBC News. Timeline: St. Vincent and the Grenadines.<>.

Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. Island Information. <>.

"Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." CIA World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2005. <>.

Scott A. Dittloff

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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines