U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Bermuda, May 1996
Released by the Bureau of Public Affairs

Official Name: Bermuda



Area: 58.8 sq. km. (22.7 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Hamilton (pop. 1,100). Other city--St. George (pop. 
Terrain: Hilly islands.
Climate: Subtropical.


Nationality: Noun and adjective--Bermudian(s).
Population: 56,600.
Annual growth rate: 0.7%.
Ethnic groups: Black 58%, white 36%, other 6%.
Religions: Non-Anglican Protestant 39%, Anglican 27%, Roman 
Catholic 15%, other 19%.
Language: English.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 16. There is no formal measure 
of literacy.
Health: Infant mortality rate--10/1,000. Life expectancy--men 70 yrs., 
women 78 yrs.
Work force: Clerical--23.5%. Services--23%. Laborers--18%. 
Professional and technical--14.5%. Administrative and managerial--
11.5%. Sales--7%. Agriculture and fishing--2.5%.


Type: Parliamentary British colony with internal self-government since 
Constitution: June 8, 1968; amended 1989.
Branches: Executive--British monarch (chief of state, represented by a 
governor). Legislative--Senate (upper house), House of Assembly 
(lower house). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Subdivisions: Nine parishes.
Political parties: United Bermuda Party (UBP), Progressive Labor 
Party (PLP), National Liberal Party (NLP).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy (1993)

GDP: $1.8 billion; 34% of GDP comes from tourism and 28% from 
international companies.
GDP growth rate: 2.4%.
Per capita GDP: $26,600.
Inflation rate: 2.5%.
Natural resource: Limestone, used primarily for building.
Agriculture: Products--semitropical produce, dairy products, flowers.
Industry: Types--finance, insurance, structural concrete products, 
paints, perfumes, furniture.
Trade: Exports (includes re-exports)--$35 million: semitropical 
produce, light manufactures. Imports--$535 million: chemicals, food 
and live animals, machinery/transport, miscellaneous manufactures. 
Major suppliers--U.S. 70%, U.K. 7%, Canada 4%, Caribbean countries 
4% (mostly oil from Netherlands Antilles).
Official exchange rate: Bermuda $1= U.S.$1.


Because Bermuda is a British colony, U.S. policy toward the United 
Kingdom is the basis of U.S.-Bermudian relations. In the early 20th 
century, as modern transportation and communication systems 
developed, Bermuda became a popular destination for wealthy U.S., 
British, and Canadian tourists. In addition, the tariff enacted by the 
U.S. against its trading partners in 1930 cut off Bermuda's once-
thriving agricultural export trade--primarily fresh vegetables to the 
United States--and helped spur the colony to develop its tourist 
industry, which has grown to become its principal economic asset.

During World War II, Bermuda became important as a military base 
because of its location in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1941, the United 
signed a lend-lease agreement with the United Kingdom giving the 
British surplus U.S. Navy destroyers in exchange for 99-year lease 
rights to establish naval and air bases in Bermuda.

The bases consisted of 5.8 square kilometers (2.25 sq. mi.) of land 
largely reclaimed from the sea. The U.S. Naval Air Station was on St. 
David's Island, while the U.S. Naval Air Station Annex was at the 
western end of the island in the Great Sound. Effective September 1, 
1995, both bases were closed and the land returned to the Government 
of Bermuda. Only a tracking facility of the National Aeronautics and 
Space Administration (NASA) remains in Bermuda, at Copper's Island 
in St. David's.

An estimated 3,000 U.S. citizens lived in Bermuda in 1991, but that 
figure has been substantially reduced following the 1995 closure of the 
U.S. military bases there. Nearly 350,000 American tourists visited 
Bermuda in 1995.

In 1994, some 70% of Bermuda's imports came from the United States. 
Bermuda has heavy import duties, but no income, sales, or profit taxes; 
there is a small real estate tax. Foreign, including U.S.-owned, 
companies are exempt from Bermuda's stringent ownership and 
employment regulations. Areas of opportunity for U.S. investment are 
principally in the re-insurance and financial services industries, 
although the former U.S. base lands also may present long-term 
investment opportunities.

Principal U.S. Officials

Consul General--Robert A. Farmer
Director, NASA--Steven Stompf
Customs Officer--Robert Colbert
USINS Officer--Pat Moore
Agricultural Officer--Alexis Agostini

The U.S. consulate general is located at "Crown Hill," 16 Middle Road, 
Devonshire, just outside Hamilton; tel: 441-295-1342; fax: 441-295-

Historical Highlights

Bermuda is an archipelago consisting of seven main islands and many 
smaller islands and islets lying about 1,050 kilometers (650 mi.) east 
of North Carolina. The main islands--with hilly terrain and subtropical  
climate--are clustered together and connected by bridges; they are 
considered to be a geographic unit and are referred to as the Island of 

Bermuda was discovered in 1503 by a Spanish explorer, Juan de 
Bermudez, who made no attempt to land because of the treacherous 
reef surrounding the uninhabited islands. In 1609, a group of British 
colonists led by Sir George Somers was shipwrecked and stranded on 
the islands for 10 months.

Their reports aroused great interest about the islands in England, and 
in 1612 King James extended the Charter of the Virginia Company to 
include them. Later that year, about 60 British colonists arrived and 
founded the town of St. George, the oldest continuously inhabited 
English-speaking settlement in the Western Hemisphere. 
Representative government was introduced to Bermuda in 1620, and it 
became a self-governing colony.

Due to the islands' isolation, for many years Bermuda remained an 
outpost of 17th-century British civilization, with an economy based on 
the use of the islands' cedar trees for shipbuilding and the salt trade. 
Hamilton, a centrally located port founded in 1790, became the seat of 
government in 1815.

Slaves from Africa were brought to Bermuda soon after the colony was 
established. The slave trade was outlawed in Bermuda in 1807, and all 
slaves were freed in 1834. Today, about 60% of Bermudians are of 
African descent.

In the early 20th century, Bermuda's tourism industry began to develop 
and thrive; Bermuda has prospered economically since World War II. 
Internal self-government was bolstered by the establishment of a 
formal constitution in 1968; debate about independence has ensued, 
although a 1995 independence referendum was defeated.


Bermuda has enjoyed steady economic prosperity since the end of 
World War II. Most Bermudians derive their livelihood, directly or 
indirectly, from tourism. In 1994, more than 588,000 tourists--of whom 
nearly 60% were from the United States--contributed an estimated 
$524 million to the economy. A further source of foreign exchange for 
Bermuda is the roughly 1,700 foreign companies there, many U.S.-

Bermuda has little in the way of exports or manufactures. Between 
them, tourism and international companies account for more than 60% 
of GDP. Job opportunities in these sectors plus retailing ensure 
minimal unemployment (4.5% in late 1994), and many Bermudians 
hold more than one job.

In 1991, about 25% of workers were union members. The influence of 
unions extends beyond their membership because, under the Agency-
Shop Act, a majority of a company's employees may vote to have a 
union represent them without a majority of the employees being union 
members. The major companies have union contracts. The Bermuda 
Industrial Union, Bermuda's largest labor organization, is an affiliate 
of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

Because of a lack of domestic production, almost all manufactured 
goods and foodstuffs must be imported. Excluding imports into the 
small free port--which are subsequently re-exported--1994 imports 
were $551 million, up from $535 million in 1993. Imports from the 
U.S. in 1994 were about $400 million. The United Kingdom, Canada, 
and the Caribbean countries (mostly the Netherlands Antilles) also 
were major trading partners. Exports amounted to just over $35 million 
in 1993; revenue from tourism and other expenditures by foreigners 
more than offset imports.

In fiscal year 1994, the government obtained slightly more than $128 
million, or about 34% of its revenue, from import duties. As noted, 
although it imposes no income, sales, or profit taxes, a small real 
estate tax is levied. Heavy import duties are reflected in retail prices, which 
by 1994 had risen by almost 50% since 1984 and by 150% since 1978. 
Even though import duties remain high, wages have kept up with the 
cost of living, and poverty--by U.S. standards--appears to be 

In addition to resident Americans, nearly 4,800 immigrants from the 
British Isles live in Bermuda, along with some 1,500 people from the 
British Commonwealth Caribbean nations, about 1,600 from Canada, 
and more than 2,100 from Portugal and the Azores. Of the total 1991 
population, about 73% were born in Bermuda and 27% were foreign-

In February 1970, Bermuda converted from its former currency, the 
pound, to a decimal currency of dollars pegged to the U.S. dollar.

Bermuda has 140 miles of private paved roads; 136 miles of public 
paved roads; 25 miles of historic, unpaved railroad trail, used as 
scenic trails; three ports, including the former U.S. Naval Air Station and 
Naval Air Station Annex; and one airport, located at the former U.S. 
Naval Air Station. It has seven radio stations, three television 
stations, and a small cable microwave system.


Bermuda is the oldest self-governing colony in the British 
Commonwealth and has a great degree of internal autonomy. Its 1968 
constitution provided the island with formal responsibility for internal 
self-government, while the British Government retained responsibility 
for external affairs, defense, and security. The Bermudian Government 
is always consulted on any international negotiations affecting the 
colony. Bermuda participates, through British delegations, in the UN 
and some of its specialized and related agencies.

Government Structure

Queen Elizabeth II is chief of state and is represented in Bermuda by a 
governor, whom she appoints. Internally, Bermuda has a parliamentary 
system of government.

The premier is head of government and leader of the majority party in 
the House of Assembly. The cabinet is composed of 14 members 
selected by the premier from among members of the House of 
Assembly and the Senate.

The 40-member House is elected from 20 electoral districts (two 
representatives from each district) for a term not to exceed five years. 
The Senate, or reviewing house, serves concurrently with the House 
and has 11 members--five appointed by the governor in consultation 
with the premier, three by the opposition leader, and three at the 
governor's discretion.

The judiciary is composed of a chief justice and associate judges 
appointed by the governor. For administrative purposes, Bermuda is 
divided into nine parishes, with Hamilton and St. George considered 
autonomous corporations.

Political Conditions

Bermuda's first political party, the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), was 
formed in May 1963 with predominantly black adherents. In 1965, the 
two-party system was launched with the formation of the United 
Bermuda Party (UBP), which had the support of the majority of white 
voters and of some blacks. A third party, the Bermuda Democratic 
Party (BDP), was formed in the summer of 1967 with a splinter group 
from the PLP as a nucleus; it disbanded in 1970. It was later replaced 
by the National Liberal Party (NLP).

Bermuda's first election held on the basis of universal adult suffrage 
and equal voting took place on May 22, 1968; previously, the franchise 
had been limited to property owners. In the 1968 election, the UBP 
won 30 House of Assembly seats, while the PLP won 10 and the BDP 
lost the three seats it had previously held. In the elections of 1972, 
1976, and 1980, the UBP continued to maintain control of the 
government, although by decreasing margins in the Assembly.

Unsatisfied aspirations, particularly among young blacks, led to a brief 
civil disturbance in December 1977, following the execution of two 
men found guilty of the 1972-73 assassinations of Governor Sir 
Richard Sharples and four others. In the 1980s, the increasing 
prosperity of Bermudians, combined with limited land area, caused 
severe pressure in housing. Despite a general strike in 1981 and poor 
economic conditions worldwide during 1981-83, Bermuda's social, 
political, and economic institutions showed resilience and stability.

John Swan replaced David Gibbons as premier in January 1982. The 
1983 election issues centered on housing and social problems and 
Swan's leadership. The UBP reversed the trend of prior elections, 
increasing its majority in the House. In the October 1985 election, the 
UBP again increased its majority; 1989 saw a sharp increase in PLP 
power, although the UBP still dominated. In the most recent elections 
in 1993, the UBP retained its 22 seats, while the NLP and independents 
combined with the PLP for 18 seats.

Bermuda's positive experience with internal self-government has led to 
discussions of possible complete independence or a more flexible type 
of association. However, an independence referendum held in the 
summer of 1995 was resoundingly defeated, due primarily to division 
within the UBP and to the boycott called by the opposition PLP. 
Premier and UBP leader John Swan was the major casualty of the 
referendum, as he fulfilled his promise to resign should the referendum 

Following Swan's resignation, David Saul was elected by UBP 
members as the new party leader and premier. The opposition PLP has 
put the island on notice that independence continues to be a major 
priority on its agenda. Bermuda's current government can be 
characterized as politically moderate and fiscally conservative.

Principal Government Officials

Chief of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor--Lord Waddington
Premier--David Saul

Bermuda's interests in the United States are represented by the United 
Kingdom, whose embassy is at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, 
Washington, DC 20008; tel: 202-462-1340; fax: 202-898-4255.

The Bermudian Government's Department of Tourism has offices in 
New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston.


The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program 
provides Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel 
Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that 
Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information 
Sheets exist for all countries and include information on immigration 
practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of 
crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the 
posts in the subject country. They can be obtained by telephone at 
(202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the Consular 
Affairs Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a modem 
with standard settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications on 
obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad are available from 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800. 

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may 
be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking 
water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health 
Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-
95-8280, price $14.00) is available from the U.S. Government Printing 
Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800. 

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). 

Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to 
register at the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Officials" listing in this 
publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an 

Further Electronic Information:

Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the 
CABB provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and 
helpful information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of 
charge to anyone with a personal computer, modem, 
telecommunications software, and a telephone line.

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the 
Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. 
foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes 
Background Notes; Dispatch, the official weekly magazine of U.S. 
foreign policy; daily press briefings; directories of key officers of 
foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at 
http://www.state.gov; this site has a link to the DOSFAN Gopher 
Research Collection, which also is accessible at 

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly 
basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on 
the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an 
array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. 
Priced at $80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs 
(MSDOS and Macintosh compatible) and are available from the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 
or fax (202) 512-2250.

Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy 
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. 
Government Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. 
For general BBS information, call (202) 512-1530.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department 
of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related 
information, including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on 
the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB 
Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.
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