For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis
Area: St. Kitts 168 sq. km. (65 sq. mi.); Nevis 93 sq. km. (36 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Basseterre (pop. about 15,000).
Terrain: Generally mountainous; highest elevations are 1,156 m. (3,792 ft.) at Mt. Liamuiga on St. Kitts and 985 m. (3,232 ft.) at Nevis peak on Nevis.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Kittitian(s), Nevisian(s).
Population (2002 est.): 46,710.
Annual growth rate (2000): 4.8%.
Ethnic groups: Predominantly of African origin; some of British, Portuguese, and Lebanese descent.
Religions: Principally Anglican, with Evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic minorities.
Languages: English (official).
Education (2001): Years compulsory--9. Literacy--98%.
Health (2000): Infant mortality rate--12.7/1,000. Life expectancy--70 yrs.
Unemployment (2001): 5%.
Type: Constitutional monarchy with Westminster-style Parliament.
Independence: September 19, 1983.
Branches: Executive--governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II, head of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative--an 11-member senate appointed by the governor general (mainly on the advice of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition) and an 11-member popularly elected house of representatives. Judicial--magistrate's courts, Eastern Caribbean supreme court (high court and court of appeals), final appeal to privy council in London.
Administrative subdivisions: 14 parishes.
Political parties: St. Kitts and Nevis Labor Party (ruling), People's Action Movement (PAM), Concerned Citizens Movement (a Nevis-based party), and Nevis Reformation Party.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2001): $342.7 million.
GDP growth rate (2002): 0.75%.
Per capita GDP (2001 est.): $6,500.
Natural resources: Negligible.
Agriculture: Products--sugarcane, cotton, peanuts, vegetables.
Industry (2001): Financial and business services, tourism, construction, sugar processing, cotton, salt, copra, clothing, beverages, and tobacco.
Trade (2001): Exports--$50.8 million. Major markets--U.K., U.S. and CARICOM. Imports--$171.5 million.
Exchange rate: Eastern Caribbean $2.70=U.S.$1.
At the time of European discovery, Carib Indians inhabited the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis. Christopher Columbus landed on the larger island in 1493 on his second voyage and named it after St. Christopher, his patron saint. Columbus also discovered Nevis on his second voyage, reportedly calling it Nevis because of its resemblance to a snowcapped mountain (in Spanish, "nuestra senora de las nieves" or our lady of the snows). European colonization did not begin until 1623-24, when first English, then French colonists arrived on St. Christopher's Island, whose name the English shortened to St. Kitt's Island. As the first English colony in the Caribbean, St. Kitts served as a base for further colonization in the region.
The English and French held St. Kitts jointly from 1628 to1713. During the 17th century, intermittent warfare between French and English settlers ravaged the island's economy. Meanwhile Nevis, settled by English settlers in 1628, grew prosperous under English rule. St. Kitts was ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The French seized both St. Kitts and Nevis in 1782.
The Treaty of Paris in 1783 definitively awarded both islands to Britain. They were part of the colony of the Leeward Islands from 1871-1956, and of the West Indies Federation from 1958-62. In 1967, together with Anguilla, they became a self-governing state in association with Great Britain; Anguilla seceded late that year and remains a British dependency. The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis attained full independence on September 19, 1983.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
As head of state, Queen Elizabeth II is represented in St. Kitts and Nevis by a governor general, who acts on the advice of the prime minister and the cabinet. The prime minister is the leader of the majority party of the house, and the cabinet conducts affairs of state. St. Kitts and Nevis has a bicameral legislature: An 11-member senate appointed by the governor general (mainly on the advice of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition); and an 11-member popularly elected house of representatives which has eight St. Kitts seats and three Nevis seats. The prime minister and the cabinet are responsible to the Parliament.
St. Kitts and Nevis has enjoyed a long history of free and fair elections, although the outcome of elections in 1993 was strongly protested by the opposition and the Eastern Caribbean Regional Security System (RSS) was briefly deployed to restore order. The elections in 1995 were contested by the two major parties, the ruling People's Action Movement (PAM) and the St. Kitts and Nevis Labor Party. Labor won seven of the 11 seats, with Dr. Denzil Douglas becoming prime minister. In the March 2000 elections, Denzil Douglas and the Labor Party were returned to power, winning eight of the 11 seats in Parliament. The Nevis-based Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) won two seats and the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) won one seat. The PAM party was unable to obtain a seat. Under the constitution, Nevis has considerable autonomy and has an island assembly, a premier, and a deputy governor general.
Under certain specified conditions, it may secede from the federation. In accordance with its rights under the Constitution, in 1996 the Nevis Island Administration under the Concerned Citizens' Movement (CCM) of Premier Vance Amory initiated steps towards secession from the Federation, the most recent being a referendum in 1998 that failed to secure the required two-thirds majority for secession. The March 2000 election results placed Vance Armory, as head of the CCM, the leader of the country's opposition party. In September 7, 2001 elections in Nevis for the Nevis Island Administration, the CCM won four of the five seats available, while the NRP won one. In 2003, the Nevis Island Administration again proposed secession and initiated formal constitutional procedures to hold a referendum on the issue, which will be held in early 2004. While opposing secession, the Government acknowledged the constitutional rights of Nevisians to determine their future independence. Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association.
Like its neighbors in the English-speaking Caribbean, St. Kitts and Nevis has an excellent human rights record. Its judicial system is modeled on British practice and procedure and its jurisprudence on English common law. The Royal St. Kitts and Nevis police force has about 370 members.
Principal Government Officials
Chief of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir Cuthbert M. Sebastian
Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, and Finance--Dr. Denzil Douglas
Ambassador to the U.S. and Permanent Representative to the OAS--Dr. Izben Williams
Ambassador to the UN-- Joseph Christmas.
Principal Nevis Island Government Official, Premier--Vance Amory
The embassy of St. Kitts and Nevis is located at 3216 New Mexico Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20016 (tel. 202-686-2636).
St. Kitts and Nevis was the last sugar monoculture in the Eastern Caribbean. Faced with a sugar industry that was finding it increasingly difficult to earn a profit, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis embarked on a program to diversify the agricultural sector and stimulate the development of other sectors of the economy.
The government instituted a program of investment incentives for businesses considering the possibility of locating in St. Kitts or Nevis, encouraging both domestic and foreign private investment. Government policies provide liberal tax holidays, duty-free import of equipment and materials, and subsidies for training provided to local personnel. Tourism has shown the greatest growth. By 1987, tourism had surpassed sugar as the major foreign exchange earner for St. Kitts and Nevis.
The economy of St. Kitts and Nevis experienced strong growth for most of the 1990s but hurricanes in 1998 and 1999 contributed to a sharp slowdown. Real economic growth was 0.75 % in 2002 after a decline of 4.3 % in 2001. The economy experienced a mixed performance during 2002, with some sectors experiencing positive growth while others experienced varying levels of decline. The construction sector recorded a 4.51 % decline, manufacturing and hotels and restaurants also recorded significant declines of 4.01 and 9.89 % respectively, and sugar production fell by 5.1 %. Significant new investment in tourism, including a 648-room Marriott hotel and convention center that opened in December 2002, as well as continued government efforts to diversify the economy, are expected to improve economic performance. Consumer prices have risen marginally over the past few years. The inflation rate was 3%-4% for most of the 1990s.
St. Kitts and Nevis is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues a common currency for all members of the ECCU. The ECCB also manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries.
St. Kitts is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications (ECTEL) authority, which is developing the regulations to liberalize the telecommunications sector in the region by 2004.
St. Kitts and Nevis maintains diplomatic relations with the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Taiwan, Cuba and South Korea, as well as with many Latin American countries and neighboring Eastern Caribbean states. It is a member of the Commonwealth, the United Nations and several of its specialized and related agencies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the Eastern Caribbean Regional Security System (RSS), and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank is headquartered in St. Kitts.
As a member of CARICOM, St. Kitts and Nevis strongly backed efforts by the United States to implement UN Security Council Resolution 940, designed to facilitate the departure of Haiti's de facto authorities from power. The country agreed to contribute personnel to the multinational force, which restored the democratically elected government of Haiti in October 1994.
U.S.-ST. KITTS AND NEVIS RELATIONS
Since St. Kitts and Nevis attained full independence in 1983, relations with the U.S. have been friendly. The U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados, conducts bilateral relations with St. Kitts and Nevis.
The United States seeks to help St. Kitts and Nevis develop economically and to help strengthen its moderate, democratic, parliamentary form of government. St. Kitts and Nevis is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative. U.S. assistance is primarily channeled through multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), and the newly opened USAID office in Bridgetown, Barbados. In addition, St. Kitts and Nevis receives counternarcotics assistance and benefits from U.S. military exercises and humanitarian civic action construction projects.
St. Kitts and Nevis is strategically placed in the Leeward Islands, near maritime transport lanes of major importance to the United States. St. Kitts and Nevis' location close to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands makes the two-island federation attractive to narcotics traffickers. To counter this threat, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis cooperates with the U.S. in the fight against illegal narcotics. In 1995, the government signed a maritime law enforcement treaty with the United States, later amended with an overflight/order-to-land amendment in 1996. St. Kitts and Nevis also signed an updated extradition treaty with the U.S. in 1996, and a mutual legal assistance treaty in 1997.
St. Kitts and Nevis is a popular American tourist destination. In 1999, over 40% of the 84,000 stay-over visitors were from the U.S. The majority of the 143,800 yacht and cruiseship passengers also were from the U.S. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, tourism declined by approximately 9%, according to American Airlines officials. Government officials cite the loss of airline connections, including those of U.S. carriers, between the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and the U.S., Canada, and Europe as the critical factor. After 9/11 both U.S.-based and regional carriers have reduced the number of flights to the Federation. The number of "stay-over" visitors to the islands suffered a 10% falloff, and even though cruiseship arrivals increased, this situation remains unstable. The tourism situation improved slightly in 2002, with the number of tourist visitors totaling 243,198, a majority of these from within the Caribbean, followed closely by arrivals from the U.S. Visitor expenditure totaled $57 mil and the government is optimistic.
Government officials are convinced that continued construction of a 648 room, U.S. $200 million Marriott Royal St. Kitts Resort and Casino and a Paradise Beach Resort and Casino at Frigate Bay, St. Kitts are signs of confidence in the economic future of St. Kitts and Nevis, despite the world-wide effects of the 9/11 tragedies. Fewer than 1,000 U.S. citizens reside on the island, although students and staff of Ross University Veterinary School and the Medical University of the Americas (Nevis) constitute a significant population of U.S. citizens.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Mary E. Kramer
Deputy Chief of Mission--Meg Gilroy
Political/Economic Counselor--Paul Belmont
Consul General--Bob Fretz
Regional Labor Attach�--Al Anzaldua
Economic-Commercial Affairs--John Ashworth
Public Affairs Officer--Julie O'Reagan
Peace Corps Director--Earl Phillips
The United States maintains no official presence in St. Kitts and Nevis. The ambassador and embassy officers are resident in Barbados and frequently travel to St. Kitts and Nevis. A U.S. consular agent residing in nearby Antigua, however, assists U.S. citizens in St. Kitts and Nevis.
The U.S. Embassy in Barbados is located in the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Building, Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel: 246-436-4950; fax: 246-429-5246). Consular Agent: Juliet Ryder Hospital Hill, English Harbor, Antigua Tel: (268) 463-6531.
Other Contact Information
U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 466-7464
Fax: (202) 822-0075
Eastern Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 111
St. Michael, Barbados