British Virgin Islands |
GDP: $1.03 billion, GDP per head $38,000
Key industries: financial services, tourism
Associate member of CARICOM and OECS
465. The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are adjacent
to the US Virgin Islands (USVI) and 60 miles east of Puerto Rico.
The BVI comprises over 40 islands, islets and cays (some little
more than rocks) with a total land area of only 59 square miles
scattered over some 1,330 sq miles of sea. Sixteen of the islands
are inhabited, the largest being Tortola (21 square miles), Anegada
(15 square miles), Virgin Gorda (8 square miles) and Jost van
Dyke (3.4 square miles). Lush vegetation, sandy beaches, numerous
yachting marinas and fine coral reefs make the islands a natural
466. Discovered by Columbus in 1493, the islands
came into British possession in 1666 when planters took control
from the original Dutch settlers. The islands were annexed by
the British in 1672. In 1872 they were incorporated into the British
colony of the Leeward Islands. These islands were administered
under a federal system until 1956 when the Federation was dissolved.
The Governor of the Leeward Islands continued to run BVI until
1960 when an appointed Administrator (later a Governor) assumed
467. A new constitution came into force on 15
June 2007. The BVI is an Overseas Territory with a large measure
of internal self-government. The Governor has direct responsibility
for external affairs, defence and internal security (including
the police), the public service and the administration of the
courts. The constitution provides for a ministerial system of
government. The Governor is the head of the government, and the
Premier, a locally elected politician, is appointed by the Governor.
The position of Premier replaced that of Chief Minister under
the new constitution. The House of Assembly comprises 13 elected
members plus the Attorney General and the Speaker. Nine members
are elected to represent one district each, and the remaining
four by territory-wide vote. The Premier and the four other ministers
must be elected members of the House of Assembly.
468. Elections were held on 20 August 2007. The
Virgin Islands Party (VIP) won seven District seats and three
at-large seats, defeating the National Democratic Party (NDP)
which had been in power since 2003. Ralph Telford O'Neal, OBE
became the first Premier. Elections are held at least every 4
years. The next election should take place in 2011.
469. The Committee received two written submissions
from the British Virgin Islands: one from the Premier and one
from the Financial Services Commission.
470. We heard oral evidence from the Premier
of the British Virgin Islands in December 2007.
- We conclude that although extending
voting rights to non-Belongers will be politically difficult for
Overseas Territory governments, the Government should at least
encourage local administrations to review this issue with regard
to non-Belongers who have resided in an Overseas Territory for
a reasonable period. We recommend that the Government should propose
that non-Belongers' rights be an agenda item for the next OTCC.
- We recommend that the FCO should encourage Bermuda,
the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and Gibraltar
to continue to make progress in improving financial regulation,
in particular in arrangements for investigating money laundering.