Capital City: Basseterre
Largest City: Basseterre
Official Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)
GDP (nominal): $546 million
Population: July 2005 estimate 42,696
Land Area: 261 km2
The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis (also known as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis), located in the Leeward Islands, is a federal two-island nation in the West Indies. It is the smallest sovereign nation in the Americas, in both area and population.
The capital city and headquarters of government for the federated state is Basseterre on the larger island of Saint Kitts. The smaller state of Nevis lies about 2 miles (3 km) southeast of Saint Kitts, across a shallow channel called "The Narrows".
Historically, the British dependency of Anguilla was also a part of this union, which was then known collectively as Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla. Saint Kitts and Nevis are geographically part of the Leeward Islands. To the north-northwest lie the islands of Saint Eustatius, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, and Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten. To the east and northeast are Antigua and Barbuda, and to the southeast is the small uninhabited island of Redonda, and the island of Montserrat, which currently has an active volcano (see Soufriere Hills).
Saint Kitts and Nevis were amongst the first islands in the Caribbean to be settled by Europeans. Saint Kitts was home to the first British and French colonies in the Caribbean.
Saint Kitts and Nevis -- History --
The islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis are two of the Caribbean's oldest colonised territories. Saint Kitts became the first British colony in the West Indies in 1624 and then became the first French colony in the Caribbean in 1625, when both nations decided to partition the island.
Five thousand years prior to European arrival, the island was settled by Native Americans. The latest arrivals, the Kalinago peoples, arrived approximately 3 centuries before the Europeans. The Kalinago allowed the Europeans to colonise Saint Kitts, while earlier attempts to settle other islands were met with immediate destruction of the colonies by the Indians. The Kalinago were eventually wiped out in the great Kalinago Genocide of 1626.
The island of Nevis was colonised in 1628 by British settlers from Saint Kitts. From there, Saint Kitts became the premier base for British and French expansion, as the islands of Antigua, Montserrat, Anguilla and Tortola for the British, and Martinique, the Guadeloupe archipelago and St. Barths for the French were colonised from it.
In 1629 a Spanish expedition occupied both islands and deported the English and French inhabitants back to their respective countries.
Although small in size, and separated by only 2 miles (3 km) of water, the two islands were viewed and governed as different states until the late 19th century, when they were forcibly unified along with the island of Anguilla by the British. To this day relations are strained, with Nevis accusing Saint Kitts of neglecting its needs.
Saint Kitts and Nevis, along with Anguilla, became an associated state with full internal autonomy in 1967. Angullians rebelled, and their island was allowed to separate from the others in 1971. St. Kitts and Nevis achieved independence in 1983. It is the newest sovereign nation in the Americas. In August 1998, a vote in Nevis on a referendum to separate from St. Kitts fell short of the two-thirds majority needed. In late September 1998, Hurricane Georges caused approximately $445 million in damages and limited GDP growth for the year.
Alexander Hamilton, the first United States Secretary of the Treasury, was born in Nevis; he spent his childhood there and on St. Croix, then belonging to Denmark, and now one of the United States Virgin Islands.
Saint Kitts and Nevis -- Economy --
Saint Kitts and Nevis is a twin-island federation whose economy is characterised by its dominant tourism, agriculture and light manufacturing industries. Sugar was the primary export from the 1640s on, but rising production costs, low world market prices, and the government's efforts to reduce dependence on it have led to a growing diversification of the agricultural sector. In 2005, the government decided to close down the state-owned sugar company, which had experienced losses and was a significant contributor to the fiscal deficit. Former sugar plantations still dominate the St. Kitts landscape, however many of the cane fields are being burned to make room for land development, especially on the northern side of the island, in the parishes of Saint John Capisterre and Christchurch. The agricultural, tourism, export-oriented manufacturing, and offshore-banking sectors are being developed and are now taking larger roles in the countryís economy. The growth of the tourism sector has become the main foreign exchange earner for Saint Kitts and Nevis. The country has also developed a successful apparel assembly industry and one of the largest electronics assembly industries in the Caribbean.
During the 1990s, Saint Kitts and Nevis registered an annual GDP growth of 5.5 percent, but the strong growth was interrupted by devastating hurricanes in 1998 and 1999. Post-hurricane reconstruction led to an economic resumption in 2000 with GDP growing 6.2 percent. The year 2001 began well enough although the post-hurricane construction boom was over and growth was slowing from its 2000 rate. But after September 11, tourism arrivals dropped off precipitously and activity in related sectors of the economy such as road construction and retail sales declined along with tourism. As a result, the GDP growth declined substantially in 2001 and 2002. Economic activity has recovered since 2003, mainly driven by strong growth in tourism. In view of its high level of public debt, the country needs a prudent fiscal policy to ensure sustainable economic growth.
For a number of years this Caribbean paradise has been dependent on tourism to drive its economy. One such project driving the tourism of St. Kitts and Nevis is the new Ocean's Edge development. As well as driving the economy through tourism Oceanís Edge is also an approved project of the Citizenship by Investment Programme of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis provided for in the Citizenship Act 1984. Purchasers who make a minimum investment of US$350,000* in a unit or a villa plot will be entitled to apply for Citizenship of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Economic growth is currently being supported by new programs that are being developed to help improve the local communities in Saint Kitts.
Saint Kitts and Nevis -- Culture --
Saint Kitts and Nevis is known for a number of musical celebrations including Carnival (18 December to 3 January on Saint Kitts). The last week in June features the St Kitts Music Festival, while the week-long Culturama on Nevis lasts from the end of July into early August.
Additional festivals on the island of Saint Kitts include Inner City Fest, in February in Molineaux; Green Valley Festival, usually around Whit Monday in village of Cayon; Easterama, around Easter in village of Sandy Point; Fest-Tab, in July or August in the village of Tabernacle; and La festival de Capisterre, around Independence Day in Saint Kitts and Nevis (19 September), in the Capisterre region. These celebrations typically feature parades, street dances and salsa, jazz, soca, calypso and steelpan music.
Saint Kitts and Nevis -- Political system, law and government --
The country is an independent Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state, 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 unicameral legislature, known as the National Assembly. It is composed of fourteen members: eleven elected Representatives (three from the island of Nevis) and three Senators who are appointed by the Governor-General. Two of the senators are appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, and one on the advice of the leader of the opposition. Unlike in other countries, senators do not constitute a separate Senate or upper house of parliament, but sit in the National Assembly, alongside representatives. All members serve five-year terms. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are responsible to the Parliament.
Saint Kitts and Nevis is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).