Latin America & Caribbean

Grenada country profile

Map of Grenada

The tiny Caribbean island of Grenada is one of the smallest independent countries in the western hemisphere.

Known as the Spice island, it is the world's second-largest producer of nutmeg after Indonesia and a significant producer of mace, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. It also boasts beautiful scenery with fertile valleys, rainforests and mountain lakes and its tropical climate and excellent beaches are a big draw for tourists.

Grenada made international headlines in 1983 when a split in the governing left-wing party led to the overthrow and execution of the country's charismatic leader Maurice Bishop and provided the pretext for a US invasion of the island. Free elections were reinstituted a year later and have continued since then.

Most of the population is of African or mixed African and European descent.

FACTS

Grenada

Capital: Saint George's

  • Population 105,000

  • Area 344 sq km (133 sq miles)

  • Major languages English (official), French patois

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 74 years (men), 78 years (women)

  • Currency East Caribbean dollar

Getty Images

LEADER

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor

Prime Minister: Keith Mitchell

Image copyright Getty Images

Veteran leader Keith Mitchell returned to office in February 2013 after a five-year gap when his centre-right New National Party swept the board in parliamentary elections.

The party campaigned on plans to attract investors to boost jobs. In 2013, Mr Mitchell moved to halve income tax for those earning less than 60,000 East Caribbean dollars (about $22,000), from 30% to 15%.

Mr Mitchell's victory reversed his emphatic defeat by the liberal National Democratic Congress in the 2008 election, which ended his first, 13-year stint in office.

But the new prime minister, Tillman Thomas, proved unable to revive Grenada's financial fortunes, hard hit by the 2004 Hurricane Ivan's devastation of the island's agriculture and infrastructure, as well as the world economic crisis, which undermined tourism.

Unemployment reached 30%, and the debt burden prompted the Caribbean Development Bank to demand urgent measures to boost investor confidence.

Born in 1946 and a statistician by training, Keith Mitchell was elected to parliament in 1984 and took over the New National Party leadership in 1989. He led the party to three successive election wins in 1995, 1999 and 2003, before losing in 2008.

MEDIA

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Grenada has a high level of media freedom, guaranteed in the constitution. The country has no daily newspapers; its privately-owned weeklies freely criticise the government.

A public-private partnership, the Grenada Broadcasting Network, provides radio and television stations. MTV is privately owned and there are several privately-owned radio stations.

There were 48,000 internet users by mid-2014, about 48% of the population (InternetWorldStats).

TIMELINE

Some key events in the history of Grenada:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The US and other countries from the region intervened following the 1983 coup

700 - First inhabited by Arawak-speaking Amerindians from South America who are displaced by Carib settlers.

1498 - Christopher Columbus visits the island but it remains uncolonised.

1649 - The French gain control, establish sugar estates and import thousands of African slaves.

1763 - The British assume control and vigorously expand sugar production and introduce cotton, cacao and nutmeg.

1950s - National politics develops through the labour movement. Pro-independence Grenada United Labour Party is formed.

1967 - Britain gives Grenada autonomy over its internal affairs.

1974 - Independence from Britain and Eric Gairy becomes Grenada's first prime minister.

1979 - Gairy is deposed in a coup by opposition leader Maurice Bishop, whose Marxist military council forges links with Cuba.

1983 - Bishop is overthrown in a military coup and executed. The US invades Grenada with six other Caribbean nations.

1984 - Democracy returns after 1974 constitution is reinstated and free elections are held.

2004 - Hurricane Ivan devastates Grenada, damaging 90% of the island's buildings and devastating its nutmeg crop.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hurricane Ivan brought devastation to Grenada in 2004, damaging most of its buildings

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