St. Vincent and the Grenadines is situated in the Eastern Caribbean at the southern end of the Windward Islands chain. It is an archipelago of islands, St. Vincent being the largest, with the smaller Grenadines comprising Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Union Island, Palm Island, Petit St. Vincent and a number of small islets. The country lies approximately sixty one degrees West (61° W) longitude and thirteen degrees North (13° N) latitude, with its nearest neighbours being Barbados one hundred (100) miles to the East; St. Lucia twenty one (21) miles to the North and Grenada twenty eight (28) miles to the south.
The country covers approximately 384km², and has a total population of 111,380 (1998 figure). The capital, Kingstown has a population of 25,000. The topography is quite mountainous, with an average temperature of 27°C, and annual rainfall of 2100 mm. The official language is English, with approximately 85% of the population being functionally literate. The currency used is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$), with an exchange rate of EC$1 = US$0.37.
The country gained independence from Britain on 27th October 1979, instituted a Parliamentary democracy on the Westminister model, and has remained a part of the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state and is represented by the Governor General, Sir Frederick Ballantyne. The Prime Minister is Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, whose party, the Unity Labour Party, was elected to office from March 2001. The legal system is based on English common law.