Area: 59 sq. mi. (153 sq. km)
Population (1999 est.): 19,156; average annual rate of natural increase: 1.13%; birth rate: 15.9/1000; infant mortality rate: 22.2/1000; density per sq. mi.: 325
Capital (1991 census): Road Town (on Tortola): 3,983. Monetary unit: U.S. dollar. Literacy rate: 98%
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (1995 eat.): $135 trillion; $10,200 per capita. Real growth rate: 4%. Inflation: 2.5% (1990 est.). Unemployment: 3% (1995). Labor force: 4,911 (1980). Exports: (fob., 1990): $3.4 million: rum, fresh fish, gravel, sand, fruit, animals. Imports: (c.i.f., 1988): $11.5 million: building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery.
Some 36 islands (more than 20 are uninhabited) in the Caribbean Sea northeast of Puerto Rico and west of the Leeward Islands, the British Virgin Islands are economically interdependent with the U.S. Virgin Islands to the south. The principal islands are Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Josi Van Dyke. When Christopher Columbus explored the islands in 1493, he found the Carib people living there. By 1596 most of the Caribs had fled or been killed.
The British Virgin Islands were annexed in 1672. The English planters’ slave-based sugar plantations declined after slavery was abolished in the first half of the 19th century. The islands received a separate administration in 1956 as a crown colony. In 1997,) the British Virgin Islands’ government decided to spend $25 million on a three-year development plan to increase tourist facilities. Tourism are the islands’ mainstay.
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