Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Americas; Countries

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Coat of arms of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Pax et justitia"  (Latin)
"Peace and justice"
Anthem:  St Vincent Land So Beautiful
Location of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
(and largest city)
Official languages English
Demonym Vincentian
Government Parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Queen Elizabeth II
 -  Governor-General Sir Frederick Ballantyne
 -  Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves
 -  from the United Kingdom 27 October 1979 
 -  Total 389 km² ( 201st)
150  sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible
 -  2008 estimate 120,000 ( 182nd)
 -  Density 307/km² ( 39th)
792/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2002 estimate
 -  Total $342 million ( 212nd)
 -  Per capita $7,493 ( 82nd)
HDI (2007) 0.761 (medium) ( 93rd)
Currency East Caribbean dollar ( XCD)
Time zone ( UTC-4)
Internet TLD .vc
Calling code +1 784

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles chain of the Caribbean Sea. Its 389- square-kilometre (150  sq mi) territory consists of the main island of Saint Vincent and the northern two-thirds of the Grenadines. The country has a French and British colonial history and is now part of the Commonwealth of Nations and CARICOM.


Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th century. Enslaved Africans - whether shipwrecked or escaped from Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada and seeking refuge in mainland St. Vincent, or Hairouna as it was originally named by the Caribs - intermarried with the Caribs and became known as Garifuna or Black Caribs. Beginning in 1719, French settlers cultivated coffee, tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugar on plantations worked by enslaved Africans. In 1763, St. Vincent was ceded to Britain. Restored to French rule in 1779, St. Vincent was regained by the British under the Treaty of Paris (1783) in which Great Britain officially recognized the end of the American Revolution. Ancillary treaties were also signed with France and Spain, known as the Treaties of Versailles of 1783, part of which put St. Vincent back under British control. Conflict between the British and the Black Caribs, led by defiant Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer, continued until 1796, when General Sir Ralph Abercromby crushed a revolt fomented by the French radical Victor Hugues. More than 5,000 Black Caribs were eventually deported to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras.

Slavery was abolished in 1834. After the apprenticeship period, which ended prematurely in 1838, labour shortages on the plantations resulted in the immigration of indentured servants. The Portuguese came from Madeira starting in the 1840s and shiploads of East Indian labourers arrived between 1861-1880. Conditions remained harsh for both former slaves and 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 colonies themselves, desirous of freedom from British rule, made a notable attempt at unification called West Indies Federation, which collapsed in 1962. St. Vincent was granted associate statehood status on October 27th, 1969, giving it complete control over its internal affairs. Following a referendum in 1979, under Milton Cato St. Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence on the 10th anniversary of its associate statehood status, October 27th, 1979.

Natural disasters have featured in the country's history. In 1902, La Soufrière volcano erupted, killing 2,000 people. Much farmland was damaged, and the economy deteriorated. In April 1979, La Soufrière erupted again. Although no one was killed, thousands had to be evacuated, and there was extensive agricultural damage. In 1980 and 1987, hurricanes compromised banana and coconut plantations; 1998 and 1999 also saw very active hurricane seasons, with Hurricane Lenny in 1999 causing extensive damage to the west coast of the island.


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a full member of the OECS.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a full member of the OECS.

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. There is a parliamentary opposition made of the largest minority stakeholder in general elections, headed by the leader of the opposition. The current Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is the Honourable Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, affectionately called "Comrade."

The country has no formal armed forces, though Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force includes a Special Service Unit.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are a full & participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).


Map of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines lies between Saint Lucia and Grenada in the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, an island arc of the Caribbean Sea. The islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines include the main island of Saint Vincent (344 km²/133 sq mi) and the northern two-thirds of the Grenadines (45 km²/17 sq mi), a chain of small islands stretching south from Saint Vincent to Grenada.

Administrative divisions

Administratively, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is divided into six parishes, with five on Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines together comprising the sixth. Kingstown is located in the Parish of St. George and is the capital city and central administrative centre of the nation.

  • Charlotte
  • Grenadines
  • Saint Andrew
  • Saint David
  • Saint George
  • Saint Patrick


Agriculture, dominated by banana production, is the most important sector of this lower-middle-income economy. The services sector, based mostly on a growing tourist industry, is also important. The government has been relatively unsuccessful at introducing new industries, and a high unemployment rate of 22% continues. The continuing dependence on a single crop represents the biggest obstacle to the islands' development; tropical storms wiped out substantial portions of crops in both 1994 and 1995. The tourism sector has considerable potential for development over the next decade. The recent filming of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies on the island has also helped to increase tourism and expose the country to the wider world. Recent growth has been stimulated by strong activity in the construction sector and an improvement in tourism. There is a small manufacturing sector and a small offshore financial sector whose particularly restrictive secrecy laws have caused some international concern. In addition, the natives of Bequia are permitted to hunt up to four Humpback Whales per year under IWC subsistence quotas.


Population: 118,149 (July 2007 est). Ethnic groups: Black 56%, Mixed 16%, East Indian 16%, Carib Amerindian 2%, Other 7%. Most Vincentians are the descendants of African people brought to the island to work on plantations. There are other ethnic groups such as Portuguese, East Indian, Pakistani and Syrians living on the island. There is also a growing Chinese population and a sizable minority of mixed race.

St. Vincent has a high rate of emigration. With extremely high unemployment and under-employment, population growth remains a major problem.

Port Elizabeth, Bequia
Port Elizabeth, Bequia


While the official language is English, many of the locals speak a dialect called Vincentian Creole. English is used in education, government, religion, and other formal domains, while Creole (or 'dialect' as it is referred to by locals) is used in informal situations such as in the home and among friends.


In 2005, St. Vincent and the Grenadines had 22,500 telephone land lines. Its land telephone system is fully automatic and covers the entire island and all of the inhabited Grenadine islands. In 2004, there were 57,000 mobile phones. There is mobile phone coverage for most of St. Vincent as well as the Grenadines.

The country has only nine FM radio stations, one of which also operates on an AM frequency. It has one television broadcast station and one cable television provider.

  • NBC
  • Star FM

The country has two ISPs: Cable and Wireless and Karib Kable.

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