Resistance by native Caribs prevented colonization on Saint Vincent until 1719. Disputed between France and the UK for most of the 18th century, the island was ceded to the latter in 1783. Between 1960 and 1962, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was a separate administrative unit of the Federation of the West Indies. Autonomy was granted in 1969 and independence in 1979.
Saint Vincent island is 18 miles long and 11 miles wide and is located 100 miles west of Barbados. It is dominated by the 4,048-foot-high, active volcano, called La Soufriere, which erupted violently in 1812 and 1902. The most recent eruption was on “Black Friday”, April 13, 1979.
The island is mountainous and well-forested. Saint Vincent island belongs to the Lesser Antilles chain. Its territory has a total surface of 345 km², and the coasts measure about 84 km. The island is tropical humid, with an average of between 18 and 31 °C depending on the altitude.
Success of the economy hinges upon seasonal variations in agriculture, tourism, and construction activity as well as remittances. Much of the workforce is employed in banana production and tourism, but persistent high unemployment has prompted many to leave the islands. Saint Vincent is home to a small offshore banking sector and has moved to adopt international regulatory standards.
This lower-middle-income country is vulnerable to natural disasters – tropical storms wiped out substantial portions of crops in 1994, 1995, and 2002. Floods and mudslides caused by unseasonable rainfall in 2013, caused substantial damage to infrastructure, homes, and crops, which the World Bank estimated at US$112 million. The government’s ability to invest in social programs and respond to external shocks is constrained by its high public debt burden, which was 67% of GDP – one of the lowest levels in the Eastern Caribbean – at the end of 2013.