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About The British Virgin Islands
The general health status in the BVI is good, infant and related mortality rates are low, the nutritional status of the population is also considered to be good however dietary habits are contributing to increasing problems of diabetes and hypertension such that these diseases are considered to account for 70% of all deaths. Major causes of mortality and morbidity are cited as circulatory disorders, diabetics mellitus, malignment neoplasms and mental ill health and substance abuse.
The Department of Education is tasked with the Government's education objective which is to “develop people's potential to the fullest, stimulate creative and innovative solutions to problem-solving and prepare citizens for successful living in a technological age”. The government has made significant investments in education, evidenced by high literacy and enrolment rates and universal access to primary and secondary education. There are still concerns to be addressed however, specifically limited formal training of instructors, the absence of a standardized curriculum and high dropout rates at secondary level. At the pre-primary level, enrolment is estimated at only 60 %.
Poverty in the BVI is low by Caribbean standards, around 16% of households and 22% of the population. Trends in the level of poverty in the BVI cannot be ascertained owing to the absence of comparable data. With few exceptions the poor in BVI do not exhibit the characteristics that are traditionally associated with poverty. Their housing and basic facilities such as water and electricity, school attendance and health levels are little different from those of not poor households. Many poor households also own assets which, in many places, would be considered to be symbols of affluence: vehicles, telephones, washing machines, cable TV, refrigerators and stereo, 20% of poor households have cell phones and over a third have computers. Almost 30% of poor households also own some land which they consider to be developable thereby representing an asset that could provide an additional source of funds. The poor in the BVI are working; over 80% of poor households have at least one person working; just under half have 2 or more.
Economic Situation Analysis
The pace of activity in tourism began to slow down in 2007, with total visitors arrivals were down approximately 8.3 % in 2009 from 2008, with tourism related expenditure down an estimated 17%. The financial services sector is of great importance to the economy. It accounts for almost 50% of the country's revenue. This sector is crucial in maintaining a positive service trade balance on the balance of trade account. The impact of the decline in financial activity had a smaller impact on government revenue, as the income from re-registration feels remained high. Off-shore financial services are world class. Currently there are some 470,000 international businesses registered in the BVI. This sector is expected to expand with three new complementary markets being introduced. These are: Mutual Funds, Insurance and Yacht Registration.
The BVI economy has shown signs of recovery in 2010. Based on the first half of 2010, tourism arrivals has increased by 4 %, and company incorporations by approximately 33 %. In terms of the annual debt-servicing obligation for 2011, this will be approximately $17,200,400, up from $15,187,800 in 2010. Public debt will then stand at $136,297,583, at 12 % of GDP (down from 15% in 2010).
Employment stands at approximately 95% with the government employing some 30% of the labour force. It is to be noted that as high as 43% of the country's labour force are immigrants from the Caribbean Islands.
Challenges and Policy Issues
- To date, the Government has yet to respond with a comprehensive and co-ordinated strategy to overcome the global challenges to offshore financial services adn the impact of terrorism on tourist demand.
- To remain competitive in a new global economy, the British Virgin Islands has recognized the continued need for inward investment, attracting foreign high skilled workers and further accelerated development of human resources. It is absolutely necessary for a shift to a knowledge-based economy.
- The BVI is strategically positioned and is used as a transshipment point for South America narcotics destined for the US and Europe; the large orrshore financial center also makes it vulnerable to money laundering.
- There are limited natural fresh water resources, except for a few seasonal streams and springs on Tortola, most of the islands' water supply comes from wells and rainwater catchments.
- Quality health services must become more accessible.
- More attention must be paid to edication and improving school facilities and curriculum development.
- Sewerage treatment and disposal systems need improvement.
- The courts must be well equipped to effectively perform their role.
- There needs to be reform of the Police Service.
- Enhanced environmental management and promotion of clean energy.