|US Virgin Islands Economy|
The US Virgin Islands are a group of small islands situated in the Leeward Islands area of the Caribbean. The US Virgin Islands are part of a much larger chain of islands, with the rest belonging to the British (known as the British Virgin Islands). The US islands consist of three larger islands (Saint Croix, Saint Thomas and Saint John), as well as the historic Water Island and several smaller islands. The territory is quite small, covering an approximate area of 133 square miles, and has a population of around 108,000.
Being part of the United States, the islands use the US Dollar as their currency, as opposed to the East Caribbean Dollar that many other Caribbean locations use. The US Virgin Islands economy has one mainstay and several smaller industries that help to keep it on an even keel.
The US Virgin Islands were discovered by Western civilisation in the 15th century during the second voyage of Christopher Columbus. The 200 years that followed saw the islands embroiled in a battle for supremacy between several western nations including Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Norway. The Dutch finally won the battles and the sugar cane industry soon became a prominent feature on the islands in the 17th century. Indeed, sugar cane became the key sector in terms of the US Virgin Islands economy right through until the early part of the 19th century.
The economy then began to dwindle in line with the demand for sugar and an agreement was made that the islands would be sold to the United States in the 19th century. This agreement fell through and it was not until the First World War that the islands became the territory of the United States.
Today the main contributor to the US Virgin Islands economy is the tourism niche. The islands welcome over 2 million visitors each year, mainly from the United States of America, of course, with a mixture of overnight travellers and day trippers arriving on cruise liners. The tourism sector is so important to the US Virgin Islands economy as it accounts for 80% of the territories GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and for the employment rate for the workforce (the overall workforce figure is around 50,000).
The manufacturing industry is also a large player when it comes to sustaining the islands' economy. There are several areas in which the islands perform well including petroleum refining, textiles, electronics, rum distilling and pharmaceuticals. One of the large islands, Saint Croix, is home to the world's largest petroleum refinery. The manufacturing industry accounts for 19% of the islands' GDP and again, employs 19% of the islands' workforce.
Agriculture is one area that now remains very slow with less than 1% of GDP coming from this sector. Although the islands do produce products such as sorghum, fruit and vegetables the majority of the territory's food is imported. This sector is unlikely to be able to be developed to its full potential as the US Virgin Islands are prone to severe damage from storms.
It is unlikely that the US Virgin Islands economy will suffer in the future as it is under the control of the United States. The islands' government is also committed to developing the key industries further as well as trying to encourage a diverse range of new industries to its shores.