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The Commonwealth
St Vincent and The Grenadines


Caribbean and Americas

Did you know:

Most of St Vincent is rugged and mountainous, volcanic in origin and with an active volcano, La Soufrière, which rises to 1,234 metres and is the island’s highest point; its last violent eruption was in April 1979.

Some 69 per cent of the country’s land area is forested.

Many of St Vincent’s beaches are of black volcanic sand, while the Grenadine beaches are of fine white sand.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1979
Population: 109,000 (2013)
GDP: 2.5% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: World ranking 91
Official language: English
Timezone: GMT minus 4hr
Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$)


Area: Total land area 389.3 sq km: St Vincent 344 sq km, and the Grenadines 45.3 sq km.
Coastline: 84km
Capital city: Kingstown
Population density (per sq. km): 280

St Vincent and the Grenadines, one of the Windward Island countries of the Eastern Caribbean, lies near the southern end of the Caribbean chain, about 97 km north of Grenada. The country comprises six parishes, one of these being Grenadines.

Main towns:

Kingstown (capital, pop. 16,500 in 2010), Georgetown (1,400), Byera (1,200), Biabou (900) and Chateaubelair (630) on St Vincent; Port Elizabeth (770) on Bequia in the Grenadines.


There are 829 km of roads, 70 per cent paved. Cruiseships call at St Vincent. A mail boat runs several times a week through the Grenadines and ferries operate between the islands.

E. T. Joshua International Airport is at Arnos Vale, 3 km south-east of Kingstown. There are small airports/airstrips on Bequia, Union Island, Canouan and Mustique. A new international airport was due to be opened at Argyle in the east of St Vincent in 2012.

International relations:

St Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.


The country comprises the island of St Vincent and the northern Grenadines, a series of 32 islands and cays, stretching south-west towards Grenada. (The southern Grenadine islands are part of Grenada.) The larger northern Grenadines are Bequia (pronounced Beck-way), Canouan, Mayreau, Mustique, Isle D’Quatre and Union Island. St Vincent is volcanic in origin, and has an active volcano, La Soufrière, which erupted violently in 1812, and again in 1902. A mild eruption in 1971–72 created a volcanic dome in the crater lake, forming an island. This exploded in another eruption in 1979, blasting ash, steam and stones high into the air. A rugged mountain range runs from La Soufrière in the north to Mt St Andrew (750 metres) above the Kingstown Valley in the south. This mountainous backbone sends off lateral spurs which are intersected by wooded valleys and numerous streams. Many of the beaches of St Vincent are of black volcanic sand; there are some white-sand beaches. The Grenadines have been much celebrated for their beaches of fine white sand and clear waters.


Tropical, moderated by trade winds in June/July. The dry season is January to May, the rainy season May/June to September. There is significantly heavier rainfall in the mountainous interior. Tropical storms and hurricanes may occur June–November.


The most significant environmental issue is pollution of coasts and coastal waters by discharges from yachts and from industrial plants on shore.


The mountains of St Vincent support a luxuriant growth of tropical forest; coconuts and the more typical tropical coral island vegetation occur on the Grenadines and coastal fringes of St Vincent island. Forest covers 69 per cent of the land area, having increased at 0.4 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. The botanical gardens, founded in 1765, conserve rare species, including the mangosteen fruit tree, and a descendant from Captain Bligh’s original breadfruit tree.


The Buccament Valley east of Layou is a tropical rainforest reserve, home to the endangered St Vincent parrot, as well as many other species such as the unique whistling warbler. Bequia’s rich marine flora and fauna make it a popular resort for divers.


The country’s first known inhabitants were Arawaks, who were later driven out by Caribs; the latter put up a strong resistance to European colonisation. Christopher Columbus sighted the principal island on 22 January 1498, and named it after the saint whose feast falls on that day. No immediate European immigration followed this discovery. In 1627 Charles I of England granted the island to Lord Carlisle, but no settlers arrived. Charles II granted it to Lord Willoughby in 1672; possession was disputed by the British, French and Spanish. All these claims were resisted by the Caribs. The Caribs did not, however, oppose the settlement of a shipload of enslaved Africans who escaped after a shipwreck in 1673, and in due course seem to have merged with the Carib community through intermarriage. In 1773, under an Anglo/Carib treaty, the Caribs were allowed to continue to live independently in the north of the island. France took the island in 1779, but restored it to Britain in 1783, under the Treaty of Versailles. In 1795–96, the Caribs rebelled, aided by the French in Martinique; when this had been crushed, the rebels were deported to the island of Roatan in the Bay of Honduras. A plantation economy, based on slave labour, developed, producing sugar, cotton, coffee and cocoa. But in 1812 La Soufrière erupted and devastated much of the island. After the emancipation of slaves by Britain in 1834, indentured labour from the East Indies and Portugal was brought in to remedy the labour shortage.

In the second half of the 19th century sugar slumped and the economy remained very depressed for the rest of the century. In the early 20th century, a series of natural disasters further damaged the society: with a severe hurricane, and a further eruption of La Soufrière in 1902 which devastated the northern half of the island and killed 2,000 people.

St Vincent and the Grenadines was a member of the Federation of the West Indies. After its dissolution in 1962, and the move of larger Caribbean countries to independence individually, the transition towards independence began in St Vincent. At first, the smaller Eastern Caribbean countries attempted to set up a federation of their own, but negotiations among them were unsuccessful. Universal adult suffrage had already been established (and the executive council became partly elective) in 1951. Internal self-government was achieved in 1969 and full independence in October 1979.

Elections held two months after independence in 1979 gave overwhelming victory to Milton Cato’s St Vincent Labour Party (SVLP), the party which had campaigned most vigorously for independence.

The newly independent country faced a series of political difficulties with, first, an armed rebellion on Union Island by a Rastafarian minority led by Bumba Charles, and then protests early in the 1980s, which led to special ‘public order’ legislation. Cato called an early general election in mid-1984, but was defeated by James Fitz-Allen Mitchell’s New Democratic Party (NDP), formed in 1975. Mitchell, then standing as an independent, had been Premier between 1972–74.

Mitchell’s NDP came to power in 1984 advocating policies of closer economic and ultimately political union with the neighbouring Eastern Caribbean countries. The country had played an active part in the establishment of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States in 1981, which achieved several of the aims the countries had failed to achieve through the aborted plan for an East Caribbean Federation.

The NDP was returned to power at the 1989 elections, and at the 1994 elections, when it took 12 seats, the remaining three seats going to the SVLP and Movement for National Unity coalition, which later merged to become the Unity Labour Party (ULP). In the general election in June 1998 the NDP narrowly won a fourth successive election taking eight of the House of Assembly’s 15 seats, with only 45 per cent of the votes cast.

Following public protests at the raising of MPs’ remuneration and pensions, in May 2000, through the offices of OECS and CARICOM, the government agreed with the ULP that there would be a general election by end March 2001. In August 2000, Mitchell stepped down from the presidency of the ruling NDP and was replaced by Finance Minister Arnhim Eustace, who became Prime Minister in October.

History Of Saint Vincent And The Grenadines

Events that crippled the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines

Learn more about St. Vincent and Grenadines on The Commonwealth site Society, Economy, Constitution & politics, History and Travel.

A Tourist's Guide to St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Travel

Business in the Commonwealth
Web site of the Country

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