Bermuda profile - Overview
- 19 October 2014
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
Bermuda, a densely-populated British overseas territory in the western Atlantic Ocean, has one of the world's most prosperous economies.
This wealth is largely down to the islands' offshore finance industry; more than 13,000 international companies have made the self-governing territory their nominal base.
The arrival of some half a million visitors each year, most of them from the US, further fuels the economy. But it also makes Bermuda susceptible to the ups and downs of the tourist industry. Visitors are attracted to the beaches, golf courses, colonial buildings and subtropical climate.
Bermuda has not escaped the consequences of the global economic recession, however.
The discovery of the archipelago of seven main islands and more than 170 islets has been attributed to a 16th century Spanish sea captain, Juan de Bermudez.
Bermuda came under English control in the late 17th century. Slaves, most of them brought from Africa, came to outnumber the colonists. Today, three-fifths of the population are of African descent.
The remainder are of mostly-European extraction, as well as the descendants of migrants from Portuguese-settled Atlantic islands, including the Azores and the Cape Verde islands.
Internal self-government was guaranteed by the 1968 constitution. Bermuda saw political and racial tensions in the 1970s, culminating in the assassination of the colony's governor and rioting. British troops were despatched to restore order.
Independence from Britain is a recurring theme. In a 1995 referendum nearly three quarters of voters rejected the idea, but the issue was revived in 2004 when the colony's premier called for a debate on independence. More recent polls show a large majority remain opposed to independence.
The authorities are cooperating with a global OECD initiative aimed at ending "harmful" practices that have plagued the offshore financial industry and given the territory its reputation as a tax haven.
In November 2008, in the wake of the global financial crisis, the British government announced a review into offshore financial centres including Bermuda. As a result, in May 2013 Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands signed agreements on sharing tax information with Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.