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St Vincent and the Grenadines country profile

Map of St Vincent and the Grenadines

The multi-island country of St Vincent and the Grenadines is a land of contrasts. St Vincent - the main population centre - is mountainous and lush. Rainforests thrive in the interior and La Soufriere, an active volcano which last erupted in 1979, dominates the north.

Of the many islands and cays that make up the Grenadines, Mustique, Palm Island and Union Island are haunts of the rich and famous - offering yachting, diving and fine beaches.

Overview

These playgrounds are worlds away from the many Vincentians who are without jobs. High unemployment has prompted many to leave the islands.

Like other countries in the Windwards chain, St Vincent and the Grenadines has tried to reduce its reliance on banana exports after the European Union phased out preferential treatment to producers from former colonies.

Efforts to diversify the economy have been partially successful. Tourism is said to have great potential and there are plans to build an international airport. But the banana crop remains vital, accounting for around a third of export earnings.

Like many other Caribbean countries, St Vincent and the Grenadines has fallen victim to drug-related crime. Efforts have been made to tackle marijuana cultivation.

The country has taken steps to curb money-laundering, and a Paris-based organisation dedicated to tackling the issue has removed St Vincent and the Grenadines from its list of non-cooperative countries.

Facts

  • Full name: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Population: 109,000 (UN, 2011)
  • Capital and largest city: Kingstown
  • Area: 389 sq km (150 sq miles)
  • Major languages: English
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 70 years (men), 75 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 East Caribbean dollar = 100 cents
  • Main exports: Bananas, arrowroot (starch), nutmeg, mace, coconuts
  • GNI per capita: US $6,100 (World Bank, 2011)
  • Internet domain: .vc
  • International dialling code: +1784

Leaders

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor

Prime minister: Ralph Gonsalves

Known by many Vincentians as "Comrade Ralph", Mr Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) won a third straight term in December 2010, in a narrow victory over the opposition New Democratic Party.

Ralph Gonsalves
PM Ralph Gonsalves campaigned on his economic record

The prime minister said he was best suited to lead efforts to recover from the global economic slump. He cited his efforts to reduce poverty and improve access to education.

Under Mr Gonsalves, St Vincent and the Grenadines has forged deeper ties with international partners such as Venezuela, Cuba and Iran.

In 2009, voters rejected a referendum proposal to replace the British monarch as head of state with a president elected by parliament by a 57%-43% margin.

The PM campaigned strongly in favour of a "yes" vote. Both main parties supported abolishing the monarchy, but the opposition New Democratic Party had come out against the plan on offer, saying it did not do enough to reduce the power of the prime minister.

Mr Gonsalves was born in 1945 and practised as a lawyer. He first came to office in 2001, ending 15 years of rule by the New Democratic Party, and won a second term in late 2005.

Media

The Vincentian press is privately-owned. The constitution guarantees a free press and publications openly criticise government policies.

There are several private radio stations and a national radio service which is partly government-funded.

There were 76,000 internet users by June 2010 (via Internetworldstats.com).

The press

Television

  • SVG Television - operated by St Vincent and the Grenadines Broadcasting Corporation

Radio



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Compiled by BBC Monitoring

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