Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Motto: "Pax et Justitia" (Latin)
"Peace and Justice"
Anthem: "Saint Vincent, Land so Beautiful"
and largest city
|Vernacular language||Vincentian Creole|
|Demonym(s)||Saint Vincentian or Vincentian|
|Government||Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
|Legislature||House of Assembly|
|27 October 1969|
o from the United Kingdom
|27 October 1979|
|389 km2 (150 sq mi) (184th)|
o Water (%)
o 2018 estimate
o 2021 census
|307/km2 (795.1/sq mi) (39th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2019 estimate|
o Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2019 estimate|
o Per capita
|HDI (2019)|| 0.738|
high · 97th
|Currency||East Caribbean dollar (XCD)|
|Calling code||+1 784|
|ISO 3166 code||VC|
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines , often simply referred to as Saint Vincent, is an island country in the Caribbean. It is located in the southeast Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, which lie in the West Indies at the southern end of the eastern border of the Caribbean Sea where the latter meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Its 369 km2 (142 sq mi) territory consists of the main island of Saint Vincent and the northern two-thirds of the Grenadines, a chain of 32 smaller islands. Some of the Grenadines are inhabited -- Bequia, Mustique, Union Island, Canouan, Petit Saint Vincent, Palm Island, Mayreau, Young Island -- while others are not: Tobago Cays, Baliceaux, Battowia, Quatre, Petite Mustique, Savan and Petit Nevis. Most of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines lies within the Hurricane Alley.
To the north of Saint Vincent lies Saint Lucia, to the east is Barbados, and Grenada lies to the south. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a population density of over 300 inhabitants/km2, with approximately 110,211 total inhabitants.
Kingstown is the capital and main port. Saint Vincent has a British colonial history, and is now part of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, CARICOM, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
In April 2021, the La Soufrière volcano erupted several times with "explosive events" continuing. By 12 April, 16,000 residents had evacuated the areas of their homes. Assistance and emergency financial support was being provided by several nearby islands, the United Kingdom and agencies such as the United Nations. The first significant offer of long-term funding, of US$20 million, was announced on 13 April 2021 by the World Bank.
Christopher Columbus, the first European to reach the island, named it after St. Vincent of Saragossa, whose feast day it was on the day Columbus first saw it (22 January 1498). The name of the Grenadines refers to the Spanish city of Granada, but to differentiate it from the island of the same name, the diminutive was used. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Carib natives who inhabited the island of St. Vincent called it Youloumain, in honour of Youlouca, the spirit of the rainbows, who they believed inhabited the island.
Before the arrival of Europeans and Africans in the 16th century, various Amerindian groups passed through or settled on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including the Ciboney, Arawak, and Carib people. The island now known as Saint Vincent was originally named Youloumain by the native Island Caribs who called themselves Kalina/Carina ("l" and "r" being pronounced the same in their language).
It is thought that Christopher Columbus sighted the island in 1498, giving it the name St Vincent. The indigenous Garifuna people, who became known as the "Black Caribs", aggressively prevented European settlement on Saint Vincent.
Various attempts by the English and Dutch to claim the island proved unsuccessful, and it was the French who were first able to colonise the island, settling in the town of Barrouallie on the leeward side of St Vincent in 1719. The French brought with them enslaved African prisoners of war to work the plantations of sugar, coffee, indigo, tobacco, cotton and cocoa.
The British captured the island and drove out the French from Barrouallie during the Seven Years' War, a claim confirmed by the Treaty of Paris (1763). On taking control of the island in 1763, the British laid the foundations of Fort Charlotte and also brought with them enslaved African prisoners of war to work on the island plantations. The Black Caribs however, opposed to the British presence, entered into open conflict against the British, starting the First Carib War, which lasted from 1772 to 1773.
The uneasy peace between the British and the Black Caribs led to the Second Carib War, which lasted from 1795 to 1796. The Black Caribs were led by Garifuna Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer and supported by the French, notably the radical Victor Hugues from the island of Martinique. Their revolt and uprising was eventually put down in 1797 by British General Sir Ralph Abercromby; a peace treaty agreement was made which resulted in almost 5,000 Black Caribs being exiled to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras, and to Belize and Baliceaux in the Grenadines.
The British abolished slavery in Saint Vincent (as well as in all other British West Indies colonies) in 1834, and an apprenticeship period followed which ended in 1838. After its end, labour shortages on the plantations resulted, and were initially addressed by the immigration of indentured servants; in the late 1840s, many Portuguese immigrants arrived from Madeira, and between 1861 and 1888 shiploads of Indian labourers arrived. 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. The economy then went into a period of decline; many landowners abandoned their estates, leaving the land to be cultivated by liberated slaves.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines passed through various stages of colonial status under the British. A representative assembly was authorised in 1776, Crown Colony government was installed in 1877, a legislative council was created in 1925 with a limited franchise, and universal adult suffrage was granted in 1951. During the period of its control of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Britain made several attempts to unify the island with other Windward Islands as a single entity, with the aim of simplifying British control in the sub-region through a single unified administration. In the 1960s, the British again tried to unify all of its regional islands, including Saint Vincent, into a single politically unified entity under British control. The unification was to be called the West Indies Federation and was driven by a desire to gain independence from British government. However, the attempt collapsed in 1962.
Saint Vincent was granted "associate statehood" status by Britain on 27 October 1969. This gave Saint Vincent complete control over its own internal affairs but fell short of full independence in law.
On 27 October 1979, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain full independence; the date is now the country's Independence Day, a public holiday. The country opted to remain within the British Commonwealth, retaining Queen Elizabeth as Monarch, represented locally by a Governor-General.
Milton Cato of the centre-left Saint Vincent Labour Party (SVLP) was the country's first Prime Minister (he had been Premier since 1974), ruling until his defeat in the 1984 Vincentian general election by James Fitz-Allen Mitchell of the centre-right New Democratic Party (NDP). During Cato's time in office, there was a brief rebellion on Union Island in December 1979 led by Lennox 'Bumba' Charles. Apparently inspired by the recent revolution on Grenada, Charles alleged neglect of Union by the central government. However, the revolt was swiftly put down and Charles arrested. There were also a series of strikes in the early 1980s. James Mitchell remained Prime Minister for 16 years until 2000, winning three consecutive elections. Mitchell was at the forefront of attempts to improve regional integration. In 1980 and 1987, hurricanes damaged many banana and coconut plantations. Hurricane seasons were also very active in 1998 and 1999, with Hurricane Lenny in 1999 causing extensive damage to the west coast of the island.
In 2000, Arnhim Eustace became Prime Minister after taking over the leadership of the NDP following Mitchell's retirement; he was defeated a year later by Ralph Gonsalves of the Unity Labour Party (successor party to the SVLP). Gonsalves--a left-winger known in the country as "Comrade Ralph"--argued that European nations owe Caribbean nations reparations for their role in the Atlantic slave trade. Gonsalves won a second term in 2005, a third in 2010, and a fourth in 2015.
In 2009, a referendum was held on a proposal to adopt a new constitution that would make the country a republic, replacing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state with a non-executive President, a proposal supported by Prime Minister Gonsalves. A two-thirds majority was required, but the referendum was defeated 29,019 votes (55.64 per cent) to 22,493 (43.13 per cent).
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines lies to the west of Barbados, south of Saint Lucia and north of 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), which are a chain of smaller islands stretching south from Saint Vincent to Grenada. There are 32 islands and cays that make up St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Nine are inhabited, including the mainland St Vincent and the Grenadines islands: Young Island, Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Union Island, Mayreau, Petit St Vincent and Palm Island. Prominent uninhabited islands of the Grenadines include Petit Nevis, used by whalers, and Petit Mustique, which was the centre of a prominent real-estate scam in the early 2000s.
The capital of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is Kingstown, Saint Vincent. The main island of Saint Vincent measures 26 km (16 mi) long, 15 km (9.3 mi) in width and 344 km2 (133 sq mi) in area. From the most northern to the most southern points, the Grenadine islands belonging to Saint Vincent span 60.4 km (37.5 mi), with a combined area of 45 km2 (17 sq mi).
The island of Saint Vincent is volcanic and heavily forested, and includes little level ground. The windward side of the island is very rocky and steep, while the leeward side has more sandy beaches and bays. Saint Vincent's highest peak is La Soufrière volcano at 1,234 m (4,049 ft). Other major mountains on St Vincent are (from north to south) Richmond Peak, Mount Brisbane, Colonarie Mountain, Grand Bonhomme, Petit Bonhomme and Mount St Andrew.
The country is home to three terrestrial ecoregions: Windward Islands moist forests, Leeward Islands dry forests, and Windward Islands dry forests. It had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 6.95/10, ranking it 61st globally out of 172 countries.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, with Elizabeth II as Queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. She does not reside in the islands and is represented as head of state in the country by the Governor-General of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, currently Susan Dougan (since 1 August 2019).
The office of Governor-General has mostly ceremonial functions including the opening of the islands' House of Assembly and the appointment of various government officials. Control of the government rests with the elected Prime Minister and his or her cabinet. The current Prime Minister is Ralph Gonsalves, elected in 2001 as head of the Unity Labour Party.
The legislative branch of government is the unicameral House of Assembly of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, seating 15 elected members representing single-member constituencies and six appointed members known as Senators. The parliamentary term of office is five years, although the Prime Minister may call elections at any time.
The two political parties with parliamentary representation are the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Unity Labour Party (ULP). The parliamentary opposition is made up of the largest minority stakeholder in the general elections, headed by the leader of the opposition. The current opposition leader is Godwin Friday.
Saint Vincent has no formal armed forces, although the Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force includes a Special Service Unit as well as a militia that has a supporting role on the island.
Administratively, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is divided into six parishes. Five parishes are on Saint Vincent, while the sixth is made up of the Grenadine islands. Kingstown is located in the Parish of Saint George and is the capital city and central administrative centre of the country.
Any person, who in public or private, commits an act of gross indecency with another person of the same sex, or procures or attempts to procure another person of the same sex to commit an act of gross indecency with him or her, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for five years.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines maintains close ties to Canada, the United Kingdom and the US, and cooperates with regional political and economic organisations such as the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and CARICOM. The island nation's sixth embassy overseas was opened on 8 August 2019 in Taipei, Taiwan, after Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves' official visit to the Republic of China (Taiwan); the other five are located in London, Washington D.C., Havana, Caracas and Brussels.
On 6 July 1994 at Sherbourne Conference Centre, St Michael, Barbados, as a representative of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, then (James Mitchell, who was subsequently knighted) signed the Double Taxation Relief (CARICOM) Treaties. There were seven other signatories to the agreement on that day. The countries which were represented were Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.
This treaty covered taxes, residence, tax jurisdictions, capital gains, business profits, interest, dividends, royalties and other areas.
On 30 June 2014, St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed a Model 1 agreement with the United States of America with respect to Foreign Account Tax Compliance (Act) or FATCA.
In September 2017, at the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, the Prime Ministers of the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines called for UN action on alleged human rights abuses committed on Western New Guinea's indigenous Papuans. Western New Guinea has been occupied by Indonesia since 1963. More than 100,000 Papuans have died during a 50-year Papua conflict.
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 the unemployment rate remains high at 19.8% in the 1991 census to 15% in 2001. The continuing dependence on a single crop represents the biggest obstacle to the islands' development as tropical storms wiped out substantial portions of bananas in many years.
There is a small manufacturing sector and a small offshore financial sector serving international businesses; its secrecy laws have caused some international concern. There are increasing demands for international financial services like stock exchange and financial intermediaries financial activities in the country. In addition, the natives of Bequia are permitted to hunt up to four humpback whales per year under IWC subsistence quotas.
The tourism sector has considerable potential for development. The filming of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies on the island has helped to expose the country to more potential visitors and investors. Recent growth has been stimulated by strong activity in the construction sector and an improvement in tourism.
Argyle International Airport is the country's new international airport. The new facility opened on 14 February 2017, replacing the existing E.T. Joshua Airport. The airport is on the island's east coast about 8.3 km (5.17 miles) from Kingstown.
In 2010, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had 21,700 telephone land lines. Its land telephone system is fully automatic, covering the entire island and all of the inhabited Grenadine islands. In 2002, there were 10,000 mobile phones. By 2010, this number had increased to 131,800. Mobile phone service is available in most areas of Saint Vincent as well as the Grenadines.
The population as estimated in 2018 was 110,211. The ethnic composition was 66% African descent, 19% of mixed descent, 6% East Indian, 4% Europeans (mainly Portuguese), 2% Island Carib and 3% others. Most Vincentians are the descendants of African people brought to the island to work on plantations. There are other ethnic groups such as Portuguese (from Madeira) and East Indians, both brought in to work on the plantations after the abolishing of slavery by the British living on the island. There is also a growing Chinese population.
English is the official language. Most Vincentians speak Vincentian Creole. English is used in education, government, religion, and other formal domains, while Creole (or 'dialect' as it is referred to locally) is used in informal situations such as in the home and among friends.
According to the 2001 census, 81.5% of the population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines identified themselves as Christian, 6.7% has another religion and 8.8% has no religion or did not state a religion (1.5%).
Anglicanism constitutes the largest religious category, with 17.8% of the population. Pentecostals are the second largest group (17.6%). The next largest group are Methodists (10.9% of the population), followed by Seventh-day Adventists (10.2%) and Baptists (10.0%). Other Christians include Roman Catholics (7.5%), Evangelicals (2.8%), Church of God (2.5%), Brethren Christian (1.3%), Jehovah's Witnesses (0.6%) and the Salvation Army (0.3%).
The country's prime football league is the NLA Premier League, which provides its national (association) football team with most players. A notable Vincentian footballer is Ezra Hendrickson, former national team captain who played at several Major League Soccer clubs in the United States and is now an assistant coach with the Seattle Sounders FC.
The country regularly participates at the Caribbean Basketball Championship where a men's team and a women's team compete. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also has its own national rugby union team which is ranked 84th in the world. Other notable sports played at the regional level include track and field.
Music popular in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines includes big drum, calypso, soca, steelpan and reggae. String band music, quadrille and traditional storytelling are also popular. One of the most successful St Vincent natives is Kevin Lyttle. He was named Cultural Ambassador for the Island 19 September 2013.
The national anthem of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is "Saint Vincent, Land so beautiful", adopted upon independence in 1979.
Saint Vincent has twelve FM radio stations: 88.9 Adoration Fm, 89.1 Jem Radio, 89.7 NBC Radio, 95.7 and 105.7 Praise FM, 96.7 Nice Radio, 97.1 Hot 97, 98.3 Star FM, 99.9 We FM, 103.7 Hitz, 102.7 EZee radio, 104.3 Xtreme FM and 106.9 Boom FM. There are several Internet radio stations including Chronicles Christian Radio. It has one television broadcast station ZBG-TV (SVGTV) and one cable television provider.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Broadcasting Co-operation is the parent company for SVGTV, Magic 103.7.