St Kitts and Nevis profile - Overview
- 21 February 2015
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
The former British colony of St Kitts and Nevis is inhabited mostly by the descendants of West African slaves.
Its beaches, scenery and a warm, sunny climate give it great tourist potential. It is also vulnerable to hurricanes.
The islands of St Kitts - also known as St Christopher - and Nevis have been in an uneasy federation since independence from Britain in 1983, with some politicians in Nevis saying the federal government in St Kitts - home to a majority of the population - had ignored the needs of Nevisians.
But a referendum on secession held in Nevis in 1998 failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed to break away.
Tourism, offshore finance and service industries are important sources of income - more so since a centuries-old but loss-making sugar industry was wound down in 2005 with the loss of hundreds of jobs.
By 2003, Nevis was home to around 17,000 offshore businesses operating under strict secrecy laws, making the islands a target for drugs traffickers and money launderers. Laws have been introduced to crack down on the problem.