Capital City: Castries
Largest City: Castries
Languages: Antillean Creole, English
Official Currency: East Caribbean Dollar (XCD)
GDP (nominal): $987 million
Population: 2009 census 173,765
Land Area: 620 km2
The volcanic island of Saint Lucia is more mountainous than many other Caribbean islands, with the highest point being Mount Gimie, at 950 metres (3,120 ft) above sea level. Two other mountains, the Pitons, form the island's most famous landmark. They are located between Soufriere and Choiseul on the western side of the island. Saint Lucia is also one of the few islands in the world that boasts a drive-in volcano.
The local climate is tropical, moderated by northeast trade winds, with a dry season from January to April and a rainy season from May to December.
Saint Lucia -- History --
Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands, named for Saint Lucy of Syracuse. It was first visited by Europeans in about the year 1500 and first colonised successfully by France who signed a treaty with the native Carib peoples in 1660. Great Britain took control of the island from 1663 to 1667 then went to war with France over it fourteen times, and finally took complete control in 1814. Because it switched so often between British and French control, St.Lucia was also known as the "Helen of the West Indies."
Representative government came about in 1924 (with universal adult suffrage from 1953) and from 1958 to 1962 the island was a member of the Federation of the West Indies. Finally, on February 22, 1979, Saint Lucia became an independent state of the Commonwealth of Nations. The island nation celebrates this every year with a public holiday. It is also a member of La Francophonie.
Saint Lucia -- Economy --
Its economy depends primarily on tourism, banana production, and light manufacturing. An educated workforce and improvements in roads, communications, water supply, sewerage, and port facilities have attracted foreign investment in tourism and in petroleum storage and transshipment. However, with the U.S., Canada, and Europe in recession, tourism declined by double digits in early 2009. Because of fluctuations in banana prices and possible World Trade Organization–imposed reductions in European Union trade preferences, the government is encouraging farmers to diversify into such crops as cocoa, mangos, and avocados. The recent change in the European Union import preference regime and the increased competition from Latin American bananas have made economic diversification increasingly important in Saint Lucia. The island nation has been able to attract foreign business and investment, especially in its offshore banking and tourism industries, which is the island's main source of revenue. The manufacturing sector is the most diverse in the Eastern Caribbean area, and the government is trying to revitalise the banana industry. Despite negative growth in 2001, economic fundamentals remain solid, and GDP growth should recover in the future.
Inflation has been relatively low, averaging 5.5 percent between 2006 and 2008. Saint Lucia’s currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$), a regional currency shared among members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues the EC$, manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in member countries. In 2003, the government began a comprehensive restructuring of the economy, including elimination of price controls and privatization of the state banana company. Five points were deducted from Saint Lucia’s monetary freedom score to adjust for measures that distort domestic prices.
Saint Lucia scores above the world average in seven economic freedoms including business freedom, freedom from corruption, and monetary freedom. The entrepreneurial environment is efficient and transparent, and efforts to eliminate price controls have encouraged economic growth. The government implements penalties for corruption through the relatively efficient judicial system. The financial sector has weathered the global financial crisis, but the recession has hurt tourism.
Saint Lucia -- Culture --
The culture of Saint Lucia has been influenced by African, French and English heritage. One of the secondary languages is Creole, a form of French patois.
Saint Lucian cultural festivals include La Rose and La Marguerite, the one representing the Rosicrucian order, the other one representing Freemasonry, which can be seen on a mural painted by Dunstan St. Omer, depicting the holy trinity of Osiris, Horus and Isis.
Traditionally, in common with other Caribbean countries, Saint Lucia held a carnival before Lent. In 1999, it was moved to mid-July in order to not to coincide with the much larger Trinidad and Tobago carnival, so as to attract more overseas visitors.
A popular folk dance is the Quadrille.
As well as other Caribbean music genres such as soca, zouk, kompa and reggae, Saint Lucia has a strong indigenous folk music tradition.
Each May since 1999, Saint Lucia has hosted an internationally-renowned Jazz Festival.
Saint Lucia -- Political system, law and government --
As a Commonwealth realm, Saint Lucia recognises Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of State of Saint Lucia, represented on the island by a Governor-General. Executive power, however, is in the hands of the prime minister and his cabinet. The prime minister is normally the head of the party winning the elections for the House of Assembly, which has 17 seats. The other chamber of Parliament, the Senate, has 11 appointed members. Saint Lucia is a two-party parliamentary democracy. Prime Minister Stephenson King of the business-friendly United Workers Party took office in 2007. Saint Lucia is a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market and home to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
Saint Lucia has an efficient legal system based on British common law. The judiciary is independent and conducts generally fair public trials. St Lucia is ranked as the 25th most free economy in the world in 2010.
Saint Lucia is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and La Francophonie.