Facts about Montserrat

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MontserratEnglish and Irish colonists from St. Kitts first settled on Montserrat in 1632; the first African slaves arrived three decades later. The British and French fought for possession of the island for most of the 18th century, but it finally was confirmed as a British possession in 1783. The island's sugar plantation economy was converted to small farm landholdings in the mid 19th century. Much of this island was devastated and two-thirds of the population fled abroad because of the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano that began on 18 July 1995. Montserrat has endured volcanic activity since, with the last eruption occurring in July 2003.

Geography of Montserrat

Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, southeast of Puerto Rico
16 45 N, 62 12 W
total: 102 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 102 sq km
Area comparative:
about 0.6 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
0 km
40 km
Maritime claims:
exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 3 NM
tropical; little daily or seasonal temperature variation
volcanic island, mostly mountainous, with small coastal lowland
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Chances Peak (in the Soufriere Hills volcanic complex) 914 m
Natural resources:
Natural hazards:
severe hurricanes (June to November); volcanic eruptions (Soufriere Hills volcano has erupted continuously since 1996)
Environment current issues:
land erosion occurs on slopes that have been cleared for cultivation
Geography - note:
the island is entirely volcanic in origin and contains seven active volcanoes

Population of Montserrat

5,079 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 23.3% (male 1,125/female 1,079)
15-64 years: 65.7% (male 2,957/female 3,245)
65 years and over: 10.9% (male 532/female 501)
Median age:
28.9 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
7.19 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.85 years
male: 76.67 years
female: 81.14 years
Fertility rate:
1.77 children born/woman
noun: Montserratian(s)
adjective: Montserratian
Ethnic groups:
black, white
Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Seventh-Day Adventist, other Christian denominations
definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school
total : 97%
male: 97%
female: 97% (1970 est.)


Dependency status:
overseas territory of the UK
Government type:
Plymouth (abandoned in 1997 due to volcanic activity; interim government buildings have been built at Brades Estate, in the Carr's Bay/Little Bay vicinity at the northwest end of Montserrat)
Administrative divisions:
3 parishes; Saint Anthony, Saint Georges, Saint Peter
none (overseas territory of the UK)
National holiday:
Birthday of Queen ELIZABETH II, second Saturday in June (1926)
present constitution came into force 19 December 1989
Legal system:
English common law and statutory law
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor Peter A. WATERWORTH (since 27 July 2007)
head of government: Chief Minister Lowell LEWIS (since 2 June 2006)
cabinet: Executive Council consists of the governor, the chief minister, three other ministers, the attorney general, and the finance secretary
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party usually becomes chief minister.
Legislative branch:
unicameral Legislative Council (11 seats, 9 popularly elected; members serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (based in Saint Lucia, one judge of the Supreme Court is a resident of the islands and presides over the High Court)
Political parties and leaders:
Montserrat Democratic Party or MDP [Lowell LEWIS]; Movement for Change and Prosperity or MCAP [Roselyn CASSELL-SEALY]; New People's Liberation Movement or NPLM [John A. OSBORNE]


Severe volcanic activity, which began in July 1995, has put a damper on this small, open economy. A catastrophic eruption in June 1997 closed the airports and seaports, causing further economic and social dislocation. Two-thirds of the 12,000 inhabitants fled the island. Some began to return in 1998, but lack of housing limited the number. The agriculture sector continued to be affected by the lack of suitable land for farming and the destruction of crops. Prospects for the economy depend largely on developments in relation to the volcanic activity and on public sector construction activity. The UK has launched a three-year $122.8 million aid program to help reconstruct the economy. Half of the island is expected to remain uninhabitable for another decade.

$29 million (2002 est.)
GDP growth rate:
-1% (2002 est.)
GDP per capita:
purchasing power parity - $3,400 (2002 est.)
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 5.4%
industry: 13.6%
services: 81% (1996 est.)
Inflation rate:
2.6% (2002)
Labor force:
4,521 ; note - lowered by flight of people from volcanic activity
6% (1998 est.)
revenues: $31.4 million
expenditures: $31.6 million, including capital expenditures of $8.4 million (1997 est.)
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
tourism, rum, textiles, electronic appliances
cabbages, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, peppers; livestock products
electronic components, plastic bags, apparel, hot peppers, live plants, cattle
Export partners:
US, Antigua and Barbuda (2004)
machinery and transportation equipment, foodstuffs, manufactured goods, fuels, lubricants, and related materials
Import partners:
US, UK, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, Canada (2004)
East Caribbean dollar (XCD)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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