U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BACKGROUND NOTES: SAINT LUCIA
PUBLISHED BY THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Official Name: Saint Lucia
Area: 619 sq. km. (238 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Castries (1992 pop. 53,883). Other cities--Micoud,
Gros-Islet, Vieux Fort, Soufriere.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--St. Lucian(s).
Population (1992): 138,150.
Annual growth rate (1992): 1.6%.
Ethnic groups: African descent 90%, mixed 6%, East Indian 3%, Caucasian
Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Church of England 3%, remainder
Languages: English (official); a French patois is common throughout the
Education: Years compulsory--ages 5-15. Attendance--more than 80%
urban, 75% rural. Literacy--82%.
Health (1992): Infant mortality rate--20/1,000. Life expectancy--males
69 yrs., females 74 yrs.
Work force (58,000): Agriculture--37%. Industry and commerce--20%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state
within the Commonwealth.
Independence: February 22, 1979.
Branches: Executive--governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II,
head of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet.
Legislative--bicameral parliament. Judicial--district courts, Eastern
Caribbean Supreme Court (high court and court of appeals), Privy
Administrative subdivisions: 16 parishes.
Political parties: United Workers Party (ruling), St. Lucia Labor Party
(official opposition--designated by the number of representatives in
parliament), Progressive Labor Party (opposition).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP: $476 million.
Annual growth rate: 6.5%.
Per capita GDP: $3,500.
Natural resources: Forests, beaches, minerals (pumice), mineral
Agriculture (13% of GDP): Products--bananas, cocoa, coconut, citrus
Manufacturing (14% of GDP, including construction): Types--garments,
electronic components, beverages, corrugated boxes.
Tourism: 9% of GDP.
Mining: 1.3% of GDP.
Trade: Exports--$126 million: bananas, other agricultural products,
oils and fats, manufactured goods. Partners--U.K., U.S., CARICOM
countries, Italy. Imports--$311 million: food, fuel, manufactured
goods, machinery and transport equipment. Partners--U.S., CARICOM
countries, U.K., Japan.
Official exchange rate: Eastern Caribbean $2.70=U.S. $1.
St. Lucia's population is primarily African and mixed African-European,
with small Caucasian and East Indian minorities. English is the
official language, although many St. Lucians speak a French patois.
Between 85% and 90% of the people are Roman Catholic, a further
reflection of early French influence on the island. The population of
just over 138,000 is evenly divided between urban and rural areas,
although the capital, Castries, contains over one-third of the
population. Despite a high emigration rate, the population is growing
rapidly, about 1.6% per year.
St. Lucia's first known inhabitants were Arawaks, believed to have come
from northern South America to settle around 200-400 AD. Numerous
archaeological sites on the island have produced specimens of the
Arawaks' well-developed pottery. Caribs gradually replaced Arawaks
during the period 800-1000.
Europeans first landed on the island in either 1492 or 1502, during one
of the New World voyages of navigator and cartographer Juan de las
Casas, who explored the Windward Islands south to the South American
mainland. The Dutch, English, and French all tried to establish trading
outposts on St. Lucia in the 17th century but faced opposition from
The English, with their headquarters in Barbados, and the French,
centered on Martinique, found St. Lucia even more attractive when the
sugar industry developed in 1765. British influence gradually spread.
English commercial law was introduced in 1827 and criminal procedures in
1833, and in 1838, the French language was officially abolished. In
that year, St. Lucia was incorporated into the British Windward Islands
administration, headquartered in Barbados. This lasted until 1885, when
the capital was moved to Grenada.
St. Lucia's 20th century history has been marked by increasing self-
government. A 1924 constitution gave the island its first form of
representative government, with a minority of elected members provided
for the previously all-nominated legislative council. Universal adult
suffrage was introduced in 1951, and elected members became a majority
of the legislative council. Ministerial government was introduced in
1956, and in 1958, St. Lucia joined the short-lived West Indies
Federation, a semi-autonomous dependency of the United Kingdom. When
that collapsed in 1962, following Jamaica's withdrawal, a smaller
federation was briefly attempted. After the second failure, the United
Kingdom and the six Windward and Leeward Islands--Grenada, St. Vincent,
Dominica, Antigua, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, and St. Lucia--developed a
novel form of cooperation called associated statehood.
As an associated state of the United Kingdom from 1967 to 1979, St.
Lucia had full responsibility for internal self-government but left its
external affairs and defense responsibilities to the United Kingdom.
This interim arrangement ended on February 22, 1979, when St. Lucia
achieved full independence. Ties to the U.K. remain, as the nation
recognizes Queen Elizabeth II as titular head of state and is an active
member of the Commonwealth. The island continues to cooperate with its
neighbors through the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM),
the East Caribbean Common Market (ECCM), and the Organization of Eastern
Caribbean States (OECS).
St. Lucia is a parliamentary democracy modeled on the Westminster
system. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the
governor general. The governor general exercises basically ceremonial
functions, but residual powers under the constitution can be used at the
governor general's discretion. The actual power in St. Lucia lies with
the prime minister and the cabinet, usually representing the majority
party in parliament.
The bicameral parliament consists of a 17-member House of Assembly
elected by universal adult suffrage for five-year terms and an 11-member
Senate appointed by the governor general (of whom six are on the
recommendation of the leader of the opposition and two entirely at the
governor general's discretion). The parliament may be dissolved by the
governor general at any point during its five-year term, either at the
request of the prime minister--in order to take the nation into early
elections--or at the governor general's own discretion--if the House
passes a vote of no confidence in the government.
St. Lucia has an independent judiciary composed of district courts and a
high court. Cases may be appealed to the Eastern Caribbean Court of
Appeals and, ultimately, to Elizabeth II's Privy Council.
The island is divided into 10 administrative divisions, including the
capital, Castries. Popularly elected local governments in most towns
and villages perform such tasks as regulation of sanitation and markets
and maintenance of cemeteries and secondary roads.
St. Lucia has no army but maintains a special defense unit within its
police force and is training a coast guard.
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir Stanislaus James
Prime Minister--John G.M. Compton
Minister of Foreign Affairs--William George Mallet
Ambassador to the UN--vacant
Ambassador to the U.S. and the OAS--Joseph Edsel Edwards
St. Lucia maintains an embassy at 3216 New Mexico Ave., NW, Washington,
DC 20016 (tel. 202-364-6792).
Politics in St. Lucia is dominated by John Compton and his United
Workers Party (UWP), which has governed the country for all but three
years since independence. Compton was Premier of St. Lucia from 1964
until independence in February 1979 and remained Prime Minister until
elections later that year.
The St. Lucia Labor Party (SLP) won the first post-independence
elections in July 1979, taking 12 of 17 seats in parliament. A period
of turbulence ensued, in which squabbling within the party led to
several changes of prime minister. Pressure from the private sector and
the unions forced the government to resign in 1982. New elections were
then called and were won resoundingly by Compton's UWP, which took 14 of
The UWP was elected for a second time on April 16, 1987, but with only
nine of 17 seats. Seeking to increase his slim margin, Prime Minister
Compton suspended parliament and called new elections on April 30. This
unprecedented snap election, however, gave Compton the same results as
before--the UWP retained nine seats and the SLP eight. In April 1992,
Prime Minister Compton's government again defeated the SLP, led by
businessman Julian Hunte. In this election, the government increased
its majority in parliament to 11 seats.
The UWP has a reputation for being the more conservative of the two
major political parties, but they are similar ideologically. While past
campaigns have been marked by occasional acrimony and violence, the
elections themselves are generally considered to be free and fair.
The economy has evolved from its historic reliance on sugar. It has
diversified somewhat, including in the agriculture, industry, and
Agriculture now is dominated by banana cultivation. There are a large
number of small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises. This sector
has been largely responsible for the extensive socio-economic changes
that have taken place in St. Lucia since the 1960s. Its effects are
felt in a number of areas, particularly transport, distribution, and
More than 60% of foreign exchange earnings are from banana exports to
the United Kingdom; possible loss of this protected market under the
establishment of a single European market--which had been planned for
1992--has posed a serious challenge to St. Lucia's economy. An attempt
is being made to expand agriculture by encouraging the establishment of
tree crops such as mangos and avocados; a variety of vegetables are
produced for local consumption.
Manufacturing, a small but robust sector, has been encouraged by
generous regulatory and tax relief, waiver of import duties, provision
of factory shells, and other government incentives. A relatively
ambitious diversification program has stimulated production of paper,
metal products, textiles, beer, furniture, chemicals, and electronic
components. Local manufacturers export mainly to the CARICOM countries,
but a number of U.S.-based firms have plants that export back to the
Improvements in roads, communications, and port facilities have created
a more suitable investment climate for manufacturing as well as tourism
and agriculture. Foreign investors have also been lured by an educated
and skilled work force and relatively stable political conditions. The
largest investment is a petroleum storage and transshipment terminal
built by Hess Oil. A Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)-funded airport
expansion project has been completed. A new deepwater harbor has been
drawing transshipment trade away from Barbados. A major manufacturing
"free zone" has been established in Vieux Fort in the south.
The tourism sector has made significant gains, experiencing a boom
during the last few years despite some unfavorable external factors.
Visitors--both stayover as well as cruise ship passengers to the island-
-totaled almost 350,000 in 1992, up from about 310,000 the year before.
Not only has St. Lucia benefited from an expansion of the Caribbean
tourist market as a whole, it has also been able to attract tourists
away from alternative Caribbean destinations. St. Lucia has beautiful
beaches and spectacular mountain scenery.
The development of the tourism sector has been greatly helped by the
government's commitment to providing a favorable investment environment.
Incentives are available for building and upgrading tourism facilities,
there has been liberal use of public funds to improve the physical
infrastructure of the island, and the government has made efforts to
attract cultural and sporting events and develop historical sites. The
Tourism Board hopes to maintain momentum in the industry through
coordinating businesses' approach to the market, emphasizing quality of
service, and undertaking a publicity campaign to promote hospitality,
support for the tourist industry, and public awareness of the importance
of tourism to St. Lucia's economy.
St. Lucia is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative. It
is also a member of the 13-member CARICOM, which has signed a framework
agreement with the United States to promote trade and investment in the
The major thrust of foreign affairs for St. Lucia is economic
development. The government is seeking balanced international relations
with emphasis on mutual economic cooperation and trade and investment.
It seeks to conduct its foreign policy chiefly through its membership in
the OECS. St. Lucia participated in the 1983 Grenada mission, sending
members of its special services unit into active duty.
St. Lucia is a member of the Commonwealth, the Organization of American
States, and the United Nations. It seeks pragmatic solutions to major
international issues. While maintaining good relations with its
traditional friends--the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and
many others--it also maintains diplomatic relations with Third World
countries. St. Lucia has relations with both North and South Korea and
with Cuba and has been active in Eastern Caribbean regional affairs
through the OECS and CARICOM.
As a member of CARICOM, St. Lucia strongly backed efforts by the United
States to implement UN Security Council Resolution 940, designed to
facilitate the departure of Haiti's de facto authorities from power.
The country agreed to contribute personnel to the Multinational Force,
which restored the democratically elected Government of Haiti in October
Only four diplomatic missions exist in St. Lucia--those of Taiwan,
France, and Venezuela and an office of the Barbados-based British High
Commission. Some countries with which St. Lucia has diplomatic
relations have representatives resident in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad,
St. Lucia has no major outstanding disputes with other nations. It
claims an exclusive economic zone for a distance of 320 kilometers (200
mi.) from its coasts.
U.S.-ST. LUCIAN RELATIONS
The United States and St. Lucia enjoy excellent bilateral relations.
The United States supports the St. Lucian Government's efforts to expand
its economic base and improve the lives of its citizens.
U.S. assistance is usually channeled through multilateral organizations
such as the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Agricultural
Research and Development Institute, and the Organization of Eastern
Caribbean States. In recent years, the U.S. Government has worked
through those agencies and bilaterally to assist:
-- The Eastern Caribbean Investment Promotion Service (ECIPS);
-- A project to diversify the agricultural sector called TROPRO;
-- A project to rationalize the East Caribbean Drug Service;
-- A health care management and planning project;
-- An environmental coastal resources project (ENCORE); and
-- A small enterprise assistance project (SEAP).
The Peace Corps has 25-30 volunteers in the country, working primarily
in education, agriculture, and health.
U.S. security assistance programs provide limited military training to
the special services unit and coast guard.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Jeanette W. Hyde
Deputy Chief of Mission--Tain P. Tompkins
Political/Economic Counselor--Thomas R. Hutson
Consul General--Dale Shaffer
Regional Labor Attache--Peggy Zabriskie
Economic-Commercial Officer--Carole Jackson
Public Affairs Officer--Tyrone Kemp
USAID Regional Director--Mosina Jordan
Peace Corps Director--James Scanlon (resident in St. Lucia)
The United States maintains no official presence in St. Lucia. The
ambassador and embassy officers are resident in Barbados and frequently
travel to St. Lucia.
The U.S. embassy in Barbados is located in the Canadian Imperial
Bank of Commerce Building, Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel: 809-436-4950;
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