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Virgin Islands Country Information

Background:
During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.

Geography
Location: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico

Area: total: 352 sq km
Water: 3 sq km
Land: 349 sq km
Area - comparative: twice the size of Washington, DC

Climate: subtropical, tempered by easterly trade winds, relatively low humidity, little seasonal temperature variation; rainy season September to November
Terrain: mostly hilly to rugged and mountainous with little level land

Elevation extremes:
Lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
Highest point: Crown Mountain 474 m
Natural resources: sun, sand, sea, surf

People
Population: 108,708 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23.1% (male 12,676/female 12,421)
15-64 years: 61.2% 66.2% (male 34,069/female 37,918)
65 years and over: 10.7% (male 5,125/female 6,499) (2005 est.)
Median age: 36.52 years
Population growth rate: -0.07% (2005 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: male: 75.08 years
female: 82.96 years (2004 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 76.2%, white 13.1%, Asian 1.1%, other 6.1%, mixed 3.5% (2000 census)
Religions: Baptist 42%, Roman Catholic 34%, Episcopalian 17%, other 7%

Languages: English 74.7%, Spanish or Spanish Creole 16.8%, French or French Creole 6.6%, other 1.9% (2000 census)

Government
Country name: United States Virgin Islands
Government type: organized, unincorporated territory of the US with policy relations between the Virgin Islands and the US under the jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department of the Interior
Capital: Charlotte Amalie
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal; note - island residents are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections

Executive branch: chief of state: President George W. BUSH of the US (since 20 January 2001)
Head of government: Governor Dr. Charles Wesley TURNBULL (since 5 January 1999)
Legislative branch: unicameral Senate (15 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
Judicial branch: US District Court of the Virgin Islands (under Third Circuit jurisdiction); Territorial Court (judges appointed by the governor for 10-year terms)

Diplomatic representation in the US: none (territory of the US)

Economy
Overview: Tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for 80% of GDP and employment. The islands normally host 2 million visitors a year. The manufacturing sector consists of petroleum refining, textiles, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and watch assembly. The agricultural sector is small, with most food being imported. International business and financial services are a small but growing component of the economy. One of the world's largest petroleum refineries is at Saint Croix. The islands are subject to substantial damage from storms. The government is working to improve fiscal discipline, to support construction projects in the private sector, to expand tourist facilities, to reduce crime, and to protect the environment.

Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 1%, industry 19%, services 80% (2003 est.)
Unemployment rate: 9.3% (2003 est.)

Agriculture - products: fruit, vegetables, sorghum; Senepol cattle
Industries: tourism, petroleum refining, watch assembly, rum distilling, construction, pharmaceuticals, textiles, electronics

Exports - commodities: refined petroleum products

Currency: US dollar (USD)

Communications
Telephone system: modern system with total digital switching, uses fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay
domestic: full range of services available
international: country code - 1-340



All information on this page provided by The World Factbook. See http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html.
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