Turks and Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands
/terrks; kuy"kohs, kay"-/
two groups of islands in the SE Bahamas: British crown colonies. 5675; ab. 166 sq. mi. (430 sq. km). Cap.: Grand Turk.

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Turks and Caicos Islands

Introduction Turks and Caicos Islands -
Background: The islands were part of the UK's Jamaican colony until 1962, when they assumed the status of a separate crown colony upon Jamaica's independence. The governor of The Bahamas oversaw affairs from 1965 to 1973. With Bahamian independence, the islands received a separate governor in 1973. Although independence was agreed upon for 1982, the policy was reversed and the islands are presently a British overseas territory. Geography Turks and Caicos Islands
Location: Caribbean, two island groups in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of The Bahamas
Geographic coordinates: 21 45 N, 71 35 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 430 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 430 sq km
Area - comparative: 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 389 km
Maritime claims: exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: tropical; marine; moderated by trade winds; sunny and relatively dry
Terrain: low, flat limestone; extensive marshes and mangrove swamps
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m highest point: Blue Hills 49 m
Natural resources: spiny lobster, conch
Land use: arable land: 2.33% permanent crops: 0% other: 97.67% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: NA sq km
Natural hazards: frequent hurricanes Environment - current issues: limited natural fresh water resources, private cisterns collect rainwater
Geography - note: about 40 islands (eight inhabited) People Turks and Caicos Islands -
Population: 18,738 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 32.6% (male 3,101; female 3,004) 15-64 years: 63.6% (male 6,266; female 5,651) 65 years and over: 3.8% (male 319; female 397) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.28% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 24.18 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 4.38 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 12.97 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.11 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/ female total population: 1.07 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 17.46 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.76 years female: 76.03 years (2002 est.) male: 71.59 years
Total fertility rate: 3.18 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: NA% HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: none adjective: none
Ethnic groups: black
Religions: Baptist 40%, Methodist 16%, Anglican 18%, Church of God 12%, other 14% (1990)
Languages: English (official)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school male: 99% female: 98% (1970 est.) total population: 98%
People - note: destination and transit point for illegal Haitian immigrants bound for the Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas, and US Government Turks and Caicos Islands -
Country name: conventional long form: none conventional short form: Turks and Caicos Islands
Dependency status: overseas territory of the UK
Government type: NA
Capital: Grand Turk (Cockburn Town) Administrative divisions: none (overseas territory of the UK)
Independence: none (overseas territory of the UK)
National holiday: Constitution Day, 30 August (1976)
Constitution: introduced 30 August 1976; suspended in 1986; restored and revised 5 March 1988
Legal system: based on laws of England and Wales, with a few adopted from Jamaica and The Bahamas
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1953), represented by Governor Mervyn JONES (since 27 January 2000) elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; chief minister appointed by the governor head of government: Chief Minister Derek H. TAYLOR (since 31 January 1995) cabinet: Executive Council consists of three ex officio members and five appointed by the governor from among the members of the Legislative Council
Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Council (19 seats, of which 13 are popularly elected; members serve four-year terms) elections: last held 4 March 1999 (next to be held NA 2003) election results: percent of vote by party - PDM 52.2%, PNP 40.9%, independent 6.9%; seats by party - PDM 9, PNP 4
Judicial branch: Supreme Court Political parties and leaders: People's Democratic Movement or PDM [Derek H. TAYLOR]; Progressive National Party or PNP [Washington MISICK]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Wendal SWANN] Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol
participation: (subbureau) Diplomatic representation in the US: none (overseas territory of the UK) Diplomatic representation from the none (overseas territory of the UK)
Flag description: blue, with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the colonial shield centered on the outer half of the flag; the shield is yellow and contains a conch shell, lobster, and cactus Economy Turks and Caicos Islands
Economy - overview: The Turks and Caicos economy is based on tourism, fishing, and offshore financial services. Most capital goods and food for domestic consumption are imported. The US is the leading source of tourists, accounting for more than half of the 93,000 visitors in 1998. Major sources of government revenue include fees from offshore financial activities and customs receipts.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $128 million (1999 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 8.7% (1999 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $7,300 (1999 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: NA% industry: NA% services: NA% Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 4% (1995)
Labor force: 4,848 (1990 est.) Labor force - by occupation: about 33% in government and 20% in agriculture and fishing; significant numbers in tourism, financial, and other services (1997 est.)
Unemployment rate: 10% (1997 est.)
Budget: revenues: $47 million expenditures: $33.6 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1997-98 est.)
Industries: tourism, offshore financial services Industrial production growth rate: NA% Electricity - production: 5 million kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100% hydro: 0% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 4.65 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: corn, beans, cassava (tapioca), citrus fruits; fish
Exports: $13.7 million (1999)
Exports - commodities: lobster, dried and fresh conch, conch shells
Exports - partners: US, UK
Imports: $175.6 million (1999)
Imports - commodities: food and beverages, tobacco, clothing, manufactures, construction materials
Imports - partners: US, UK
Debt - external: $NA Economic aid - recipient: $4.1 million (1997)
Currency: US dollar (USD)
Currency code: USD
Exchange rates: the US dollar is used
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Turks and Caicos Islands - Telephones - main lines in use: 3,000 (1994) Telephones - mobile cellular: 0 (1994)
Telephone system: general assessment: fair cable and radiotelephone services domestic: NA international: 2 submarine cables; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 3 (one inactive), FM 6, shortwave 0 (1998)
Radios: 8,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 0 (broadcasts from The Bahamas are received; cable television is established) (1997)
Televisions: NA
Internet country code: .tc Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 14 (2000)
Internet users: NA Transportation Turks and Caicos Islands - Railways: 0 km Highways: total: 121 km paved: 24 km unpaved: 97 km (2000)
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Grand Turk, Providenciales
Merchant marine: none (2002 est.) Airports: 8 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 5 1,524 to 2,437 m: 3 914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2001)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 3 914 to 1,523 m: 1 under 914 m: 2 (2001) Military Turks and Caicos Islands -
Military - note: defense is the responsibility of the UK Transnational Issues Turks and Caicos Islands - Disputes - international: none
Illicit drugs: transshipment point for South American narcotics destined for the US and Europe

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British dependency (pop., 2002 est.: 18,738), West Indies.

It comprises two small island groups at the southeastern end of The Bahamas. The Turks group includes Grand Turk, Salt Cay, and lesser cays. The Caicos group includes South Caicos, East Caicos, Middle (or Grand) Caicos, North Caicos, Providenciales, West Caicos, and several smaller cays. The seat of government is at Cockburn Town on Grand Turk Island. When Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León visited in 1512, the islands were inhabited by Indians. British colonists from Bermuda arrived in 1678. The islands were at first placed under the government of The Bahamas, but in 1874 they were annexed to the colony of Jamaica. The Turks and Caicos Islands became a crown colony in 1962 and shared a governor with The Bahamas from 1965 to 1973. A new constitution was adopted in 1988. The chief industries are tourism and offshore financial services.

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▪ islands, West Indies

      overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the West Indies. It consists of two groups of islands lying on the southeastern periphery of The Bahamas (Bahamas, The), of which they form a physical part, and north of the island of Hispaniola. The islands include eight large cays (keys) and numerous smaller cays, islets, reefs, banks, and rocks. Cockburn Town, on Grand Turk, is the seat of government and main commercial centre. Area at high tide, 238 square miles (616 square km); at low tide, 366 square miles (948 square km). Pop. (2006 est.) 33,202.

      The Turks group is composed of Grand Turk Island, Salt Cay, and lesser cays. The Caicos group lies northwest of the Turks and is separated from them by a 22-mile- (35-km-) long, 7,000-foot- (2,100-metre-) deep marine trench called the Turks Island Passage, or “the Wall.” The Caicos group consists of six principal islands—South Caicos, East Caicos, Middle (or Grand) Caicos, North Caicos, Providenciales, and West Caicos—and several cays. Only six of the larger cays and two of the smaller cays are inhabited. More than four-fifths of the population lives on three islands: South Caicos, Providenciales (commonly called Provo), and Grand Turk. Cockburn Harbour, the islands' second largest town, is on South Caicos.

      The name Turks is said to derive from a species of indigenous cactus, the Turk's head (Melocactus intortus), whose scarlet top resembles a fez. The name Caicos may derive from caya hico, a phrase meaning “string of islands” in the language of the indigenous Lucayan ( Arawak) people.

 The islands are low-lying and formed by coral reefs. They are characterized by numerous karst features, including banana holes (small sinkholes containing rich soil), caves, caverns, and sea cliffs. There is little arable land. Aragonite, a type of calcium carbonate, is found on the shallow banks off West Caicos. The highest elevation is 163 feet (50 metres), at Blue Hills, on Providenciales. The long, sandy beaches of the archipelago are numerous and renowned among tourists. Reefs surround the islands.

      The climate is tropical savanna. Winter temperatures average 75–80 °F (24–27 °C) and summer temperatures, 85–90 °F (29–32 °C). The easterly trade winds moderate the climate. The Turks and Caicos are the driest islands in the Bahamas chain. Annual precipitation averages about 29 inches (736 mm) at Grand Turk, and drinking water is in short supply. During hurricane (tropical cyclone) season, between the months of June and November, severe weather can cause beach erosion and property damage. Devastating storms occur only infrequently, such as in 2008, when Hurricanes Hanna and Ike hit the islands; in particular, Grand Turk, Providenciales, and South Caicos sustained widespread and severe damage.

      The types of vegetation encountered on the islands include scrub (xerophytic shrubs), coppice, savanna, and marsh-swamp. Mangroves, cacti, and Caribbean pines are found, and beefwood trees (Casuarina) have been planted as windbreaks. Terrestrial animal life consists mostly of insects (especially butterflies and mosquitoes), iguanas and other lizards, and birds (notably flamingos); the islands are on several migratory bird routes. The surrounding waters and coral reefs abound in spiny lobsters, conchs, snappers, groupers, and other food fishes.

      More than nine-tenths of the population is of African heritage. The majority of the population is Christian; the main religious denominations are Baptist, Methodist, and Anglican. English is the official language. Thousands of islanders in search of employment have migrated to The Bahamas and the United States, particularly during the 1960s and '70s, but many expatriates have returned with the advent of relative prosperity. Population growth has been pronounced on Providenciales since the 1980s largely as a result of the expanding tourism industry, which has attracted migrants from around the Caribbean, particularly Haiti.

      Turks and Caicos underwent rapid economic growth in the two decades between the mid-1980s and the early 21st century, which was reflected in an average annual increase of 8 percent in its gross domestic product (GDP) during that period. The major factor contributing to this burgeoning prosperity was the rise of tourism and offshore financial services, two sectors on which the economy now relies heavily. Growth was enabled by large foreign investment and commercial land development, much of which has taken place on Providenciales.

      Lack of arable land restricts agriculture on the islands, though corn (maize), beans, cassava, fruits, and other subsistence crops are grown on the western Caicos Islands. Much land is unused, and beef cattle graze in many rough, uneven areas. Seafood is the major source of protein. Traditional livelihoods include boatbuilding and fishing for spiny lobster, conch, jack, snapper, and other marine life. There is also a privately owned conch farm. Lobster and conch are exported, but most food and other basic goods are imported. The United States is the islands' main trading partner.

      There is no income or company tax, and the government promotes the growth of offshore finance, including banking, insurance, and trust companies. More than 10,000 international businesses were registered in the islands in the early 21st century.

      Turks and Caicos has several international airports, including the main point of entry on Providenciales and others on Grand Turk, North Caicos, and South Caicos. All the other islands except East Caicos have smaller airstrips accommodating domestic flights. In the early 21st century, approximately 170,000 tourists arrived annually, attracted by the islands' sunny beaches and varied scuba-diving sites. The majority of them stayed in hotels or on boats in the marinas on Providenciales, where many tourist facilities have been developed. Grand Turk and Cockburn Harbour on South Caicos are major ports. Newer port facilities have opened on Salt Cay and on Providenciales.

Government and society
      The constitution of 2006 provides for a governor, who represents the British monarch as head of state and is responsible for external affairs, internal security, defense, international financial services, and the appointment of public officers. The executive branch also includes a cabinet, headed by the governor, that also includes a premier, the attorney general, and a number of other ministers, who are members of the legislature appointed by the governor on the advice of the premier. The unicameral legislature, the House of Assembly, consists of 21 members: 15 directly elected, four appointed, one ex officio (the attorney general), and the speaker, who is elected to that position by the legislature. The speaker can be either a member of the legislature not serving in the cabinet or a person from outside the legislature.

      Education is compulsory for children ages 4 to 17. Primary education is provided free in government schools. A community college on Grand Turk, with a branch on Providenciales, offers associate's degrees and technical and vocational education. Students from the islands can also attend any of the campuses of the University of the West Indies. Grand Turk has a hospital, and there are health clinics on several of the islands.

Cultural life
      Aquatic sports—sailing, game fishing, and, especially, scuba diving among the coral reefs—are popular and attract many tourists to the islands. Traditional island music incorporates Haitian and African influences, and live music at hotels and clubs is popular among local people. The Turks and Caicos National Museum, located on Grand Turk, displays collections on a variety of historical subjects, sponsors research projects in areas such as the slave trade and island industries, and maintains an archive of historical documents and images. There are radio stations based on several of the islands, and television is available via satellite. Newspapers include the Turks and Caicos Weekly News, Turks and Caicos Sun (weekly), and Turks and Caicos Free Press (weekly).

      The diary of Christopher Columbus (Columbus, Christopher) (a document that was lost and partially reconstructed) indicates that he reached the islands in 1492. According to Columbus, many of the Turks and Caicos islands, along with the rest of the Bahamas chain, were inhabited by an indigenous people, the Arawakan (Arawakan languages)-speaking Lucayan Taino. Within a generation of European contact, the Lucayan Taino had died off from the ill effects of colonization, including introduced diseases and enslavement by the Spanish. Alternatively, some historians maintain that the islands had been uninhabited up to the time when the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León (Ponce de León, Juan) arrived in 1512; in any case, Ponce de León found the islands all but uninhabited by native people. Few Europeans lived there until 1678, when settlers from Bermuda arrived and established a solar-evaporated salt industry. Royalist sympathizers from the United States arrived in the Caicos Islands after the American Revolution (1775–83) and established cotton plantations worked by the African-descended slaves they brought with them.

      In 1799 the islands were annexed by the Bahama Islands government, but in 1848 they were granted a separate charter. In the meantime slavery had been abolished (1833–43), and the plantation owners left the islands, though their former slaves remained.

      After a period of financial difficulties, the colony was placed under the authority of the British (British Empire) governor-general at Kingston, Jam. (1874–1959); because ships voyaging between England and Jamaica passed the Turks and Caicos, communication with Kingston was much easier than it was with Nassau in the Bahamas. The islands became a crown colony in 1962 when Jamaica gained independence. For a time in the 1960s and '70s the islands were under the control of the Bahamas, but with Bahamian independence (1973), the Turks and Caicos were placed under a British governor at Grand Turk. Amid preparations for the independence of the Turks and Caicos in 1982, a commission was appointed to make recommendations on a new constitution and to consider the future economic direction of the islands. In 1980, however, a new government, which favoured dependent status, was elected on the islands. The move to independence thereby stalled, and the Turks and Caicos continued to be a British overseas territory.

      Constitutional government was suspended in 1986 after allegations that several ministers were implicated in drug smuggling from South America into Florida, but it was restored in 1988. In 2002 the British government agreed to changes in the status of its overseas territories, including Turks and Caicos, such that the territories' citizens would be granted full British citizenship after they had instituted a series of financial and human rights reforms. Turks and Caicos received a new constitution in 2006.

      Although Britain supplies aid for capital projects, the islands are almost self-financing on the basis of revenue from tourism and the offshore financial sector. Neither of the two leading political parties, the Progressive National Party and the People's Democratic Movement, holds independence from Britain as a major goal, although issues of self-determination continue to be discussed.

John H. Bounds James A. Ferguson

Additional Reading
Travel guides include Stephen J. Pavlidis, The Turks and Caicos Guide: A Cruising Guide to the Turks and Caicos Islands, 2nd ed. (2002); Blair Howard and Renate Siekmann, Adventure Guide to the Islands of the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos, 4th ed. (2007); and Jill Kirby, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, 3rd ed. (2005). Donovan S. Correll and Helen B. Correll, Flora of the Bahama Archipelago: Including the Turks and Caicos Islands (1982, reissued 1996), is an extensive reference. Historical works include H.E. Sadler, Turks Islands Landfall: A History of the Turks & Caicos Islands, rev. ed., ed. by Marjorie Sadler and Karen Collins (1997); and James H. Stark, Stark's History and Guide to the Bahama Islands…Including Their History, Inhabitants, Climate, Agriculture, Geology, Government and Resources (1891), a classic background study.James A. Ferguson

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Universalium. 2010.

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