U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BACKGROUND NOTES: ST. VINCENT & THE GRENADINES
PUBLISHED BY THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
NOVEMBER 1994

Official Name:  St. Vincent and the Grenadines

PROFILE

Geography
Area:  340 sq. km. (130 sq. mi.); slightly less than twice the size of 
Washington, DC.  The Grenadines include 32 islands, the largest of which 
are Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, and Union.  Some of the smaller islands 
are privately owned.
Cities:  Capital--Kingstown (pop. 29,600).
Terrain:  Volcanic and mountainous; the mountains are almost 
impenetrable, with the highest peak, Soufriere, rising to 1,219 meters 
(4,000 ft.).
Climate:  Tropical.

People
Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Vincentian.
Population:  114,000.
Annual growth rate:  1.4%.
Ethnic groups:  African descent (66%), mixed (19%), East Indian (6%), 
Carib Indian (2%).
Religions:  Anglican (47%), Methodist (28%), Roman Catholic (13%), other 
Protestant denominations, Seventh Day Adventist, Hindu.
Language:  English (official); some French patois spoken.
Education:  Literacy--96%.  Compulsory--up to age 15.
Health (1991):  Infant mortality rate--31/1,000.  Life expectancy--women 
72 yrs., men 68 yrs.
Work force:  About 40,000.  Agriculture--60%.

Government
Type:  Parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the 
Commonwealth.
Independence:  October 27, 1979.
Constitution:  October 27, 1979.
Branches:  Executive--governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II, 
head of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet.  
Legislative--unicameral legislature with 15-member elected House of 
Assembly and six-member appointed Senate.  Judicial--District courts, 
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Supreme Court (High Court and Court of 
Appeals), privy council.
Subdivisions:  6 parishes.
Political parties:  New Democratic Party (incumbent; holds 12 of 15 
seats in parliament), St. Vincent Labor Party, Movement for National 
Unity.
Suffrage:  Universal at 18.

Economy
GDP (1992):  $200 million.
Per capita GDP:  $1,730.
Natural resources:  Timber, beaches.
Industry:  Plastic products, detergents.
Trade:  Exports--(bananas, eddoes and dasheen, arrowroot starch):  $75 
million.  Major markets--U.K. 54%, CARICOM 34%, U.S. 10%.  Imports--
(foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, chemicals and fertilizers):  $128 
million.  Major suppliers--U.S. 36%, CARICOM 21%, U.K. 18%, Japan 3%.
Official exchange rate:  St. Vincent and the Grenadines uses the Eastern 
Caribbean (EC) dollar, which is tied to the U.S. dollar at the rate of 
EC $2.70=U.S. $1.   


PEOPLE

Most Vincentians are the descendants of African slaves brought to the 
island to work on plantations.  There are also a few white descendants 
of English colonists, as well as some East Indians, Carib Indians, and a 
sizable minority of mixed race.  The country's official language is 
English, but a French patois may be heard on some of the Grenadine 
islands.  St. Vincent has a high rate of emigration.  With extremely 
high unemployment and under-employment, population growth remains a 
major problem.


HISTORY

Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent 
until the 18th century, although African slaves--whether shipwrecked or 
escaped from St. Lucia and Grenada and seeking refuge in St. Vincent--
intermarried with the Caribs and became known as "black Caribs."  
Eventual tensions between the Caribs and the black Caribs led to a civil 
war in 1700.

The French settled on the island in 1719 and lived peaceably with the 
Caribs, growing coffee, tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugar on 
plantations worked by slaves.  Shortly afterward, the British tried to 
seize control of the island.  Possession was hotly disputed until 1763, 
when the island was ceded to Britain.  It was lost to the French again 
in 1779 but regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles in 
1783.

Battles known as the Carib Wars continued between the British and the 
black Caribs until the British subdued the black Caribs in 1796.  That 
year, General Abercrombie crushed a revolt fomented by the French 
radical Victor Hugues.  Over 5,000 black Caribs were eventually deported 
to Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras.

Slavery was abolished in 1834, and the resulting labor shortages on the 
plantations attracted Portuguese immigrants in the 1840s and East 
Indians in the 1860s.  Conditions remained harsh for the former slaves 
and for the immigrant agricultural workers, as depressed world sugar 
prices kept the economy stagnant until the turn of the century.

From 1763 until independence, St. Vincent passed through various stages 
of colonial status under the British.  A representative assembly was 
authorized in 1776, crown colony government installed in 1877, a 
legislative council created in  1925, and universal adult suffrage 
granted in 1951.

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

Natural disasters have plagued the country throughout the 20th century.  
In 1902, La Soufriere volcano erupted, killing 2,000 people, just two 
days before the Mt. Pelee eruption killed 30,000 on Martinique.  Much 
farmland was damaged and the economy deteriorated.  In April 1979, La 
Soufriere erupted again.  Though no one was killed, thousands had to be 
evacuated, and there was extensive agricultural damage.  In 1980, a 
hurricane devastated the banana and coconut plantations.  In 1987, 
Hurricane Emily destroyed as much as 70% of the banana crop.


GOVERNMENT

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy within the 
British Commonwealth.  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 five years, although the prime minister may call elections at 
any time.

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

There is no local government in St. Vincent, and all 6 parishes are 
administered by the central government.

Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir David Jack
Prime Minister--James F. Mitchell
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism--Alpian Allen
Ambassador to the U.S. and the OAS--Kingsley C. A. Layne
Ambassador to the UN--Herbert George Young

St. Vincent and the Grenadines maintains an embassy at 3216 New Mexico 
Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20016 (tel. 202-462-7806).  St. Vincent's 
ambassador to the U.S. also is accredited to the OAS.  St. Vincent also 
has a consul resident in New York.


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

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

Founded in 1955, the St. Vincent Labor Party (SVLP), under R. Milton 
Cato, gained the support of the middle class.  With a conservative law-
and-order message and a pro-Western foreign policy, it had gained enough 
strength by the mid-1960s to become the most powerful political force 
for the next 20 years.  Following victories in the 1967 and 1974 
elections, the SVLP led the island to independence, winning the first 
post-independence election in  1979.  Expecting an easy victory for the 
SVLP in 1984, Cato called early elections.  The results were surprising:  
with a record 89% voter turnout, James F. Mitchell's New Democratic 
Party (NDP) won nine seats in the House of Assembly.  

Since the 1984 election, politics in St. Vincent have been dominated by  
the NDP.  With a reputation for sound fiscal management and bolstered by 
a resurgent economy in the mid-1980s, Mitchell led his party to an 
unprecedented sweep of all 15 House of Assembly seats in the 1989 
elections.  The opposition emerged from the election weakened and 
fragmented but was able to win three seats during February 1994 
elections under a "Unity" coalition.


ECONOMY

The economy expanded at a healthy pace in late 1980s, with growth 
averaging about 7%, principally due to strong performances by the 
manufacturing and construction sectors and favorable banana prices.  The 
country has been able to maintain access to foreign capital, both 
multilateral and bilateral aid, and credit.  The government wants 
economic diversification and infrastructure improvement.  

The St. Vincent economy is heavily dependent on agriculture.  Bananas 
alone account for 60% of the work force and 20% of GDP.  Despite its 
good performance of late, such reliance on a single crop makes the 
economy vulnerable to external factors.  More than 60% of foreign 
exchange earnings are from banana exports; possible loss of this 
protected market with the establishment of a single European market--
which had been planned for 1992--poses a serious challenge to the 
Vincentian economy.  Indeed, banana exports have fallen sharply in the 
last two years due to a combination of lower prices and drought.

Since 1984, an agricultural diversification program and modest land 
reforms have helped strengthen the agricultural sector.  St. Vincent now 
exports a number of agricultural commodities--including arrowroots, 
coconuts, sweet potatoes, tannias, and eddoes, primarily to Caribbean 
Community and Common Market (CARICOM) countries.  St. Vincent used to be 
the world's largest producer and exporter of arrowroot, a crop used in 
the manufacture of baby food and computer paper.  But increased 
competition has reduced production by more than 80% from its peak in 
1984.

The tourism sector remains small, but it is robust and is assuming 
greater importance.  There were 157,532 visitors in 1990, an increase of 
23% over the previous year, with cruise ship visitors up 58% and 
stayover visitors up 8%.  The tourist appeal of the country lies in the 
privacy and the unspoiled and diverse beauty of the Grenadine islands.  
Fine sailing waters amid these islands attract affluent visitors.  
Efforts are underway to broaden this appeal, although development of 
tourism is limited by airports that only handle small aircraft.

The government has sought to attract investment with liberal tax and 
currency exchange regulations, revision of the tax code to promote 
savings, and reduction of the fiscal deficit through government 
expenditure control.  The government has funded the wide-ranging 
Development Corporation to locate foreign investors for joint ventures 
in manufacturing and agriculture.  St. Vincent's maritime laws have 
resulted in a lucrative ship registry business.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines are beneficiaries of the U.S. Caribbean 
Basin Initiative.  The country belongs to the 13-member CARICOM, which 
has signed a framework agreement with the United States to promote trade 
and investment in the region.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

St. Vincent's foreign relations were administered by the U.K. until 
independence in 1979.  It maintains close ties to the U.S., Canada, and 
the U.K. and cooperates with regional political and economic 
organizations such as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States 
(OECS) and CARICOM.

As a member of CARICOM, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 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 1994.


U.S.-ST. VINCENT RELATIONS

The United States and St. Vincent have good bilateral relations.  The 
U.S. supports the government's economic policies.  The U.S. Agency for 
International Development (USAID) contributes to the island in such 
areas as agricultural diversification, small business development and 
infrastructure improvement.  Most of this assistance will end when the 
regional USAID office in Barbados closes in FY 1996.  The Peace Corps 
has about 20 volunteers in St. Vincent working primarily in education 
and health.  The U.S. also actively supports the efforts of the St. 
Vincent Government to control drug cultivation and trans-shipment on the 
island.

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. Vincent.  The 
ambassador and embassy officers are resident in Barbados and frequently 
travel to St. Vincent.

The U.S. embassy in Barbados is located in the Canadian Imperial 
Bank of Commerce Building, Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel:  809-436-4950; 
fax:  809-429-5246).  

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