Grenada (03/03)

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.



Area: 344 sq. km. (133 sq. mi.); about twice the size of Washington, DC.
Cities: Capital--St. George's (est. pop. 33,734).
Terrain: Volcanic island with mountainous rainforest.
Climate: Tropical.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Grenadian(s).
Population (1999 est.): 100,700.
Annual growth rate (1999): 8.2%.
Ethnic groups: African descent (82%), some South Asians (East Indians) and Europeans, trace Arawak/Carib Indian.
Religions: Roman Catholic, Anglican, various Protestant denominations. Languages: English (official).
Education: Years compulsory--6. Literacy--95% of adult population.
Health: Infant mortality rate--16.2/1,000. Life expectancy--72 yrs.
Work force (1999 , 41,017): Services/tourism--50.1%; industry--23.9%; agriculture--13.8%; other--12.2%; unemployment (1999)--14%.

Type: Constitutional monarchy with Westminster-style Parliament.
Independence: February 7, 1974.
Constitution: December 19, 1975.
Branches: Executive--governor general (appointed by and represents British monarch, head of state); prime minister (head of government, leader of majority party) and Cabinet direct an apolitical career civil service in the administration of the government. I--Parliament composed of 15 directly elected members in the House of Representatives and a 13-seat Senate appointed by the governor general on the advice of the majority party and opposition. Judicial--magistrate's courts, Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (high court and court of appeals), final appeal to privy council in London.
Subdivisions: Six parishes and one dependency (Carriacou and Petit Martinique).
Major political parties: New National Party (NNP), incumbent; National Democratic Congress (NDC); Grenada United Labor Party (GULP).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Flag: Grenada flag

GDP (2002 est.): EC $674.9 million.
GDP growth rate (2002 est.): 0.6%.
Per capita GDP (2002): EC $9,134.
Agriculture: Products--nutmeg, mace, cocoa, bananas, other fruits, vegetables.
Industry: Types--manufacturing, hotel/restaurant, construction.
Trade (2002): Merchandise exports--EC $57.8 million: nutmeg, mace, cocoa, bananas, other fruits, vegetables, fish. Major markets--U.K., U.S., CARICOM countries, Germany, Netherlands. Merchandise imports--EC $629.8 million: food, machinery, transport, manufactured goods, fuel. Major suppliers--U.S. (36.6%), CARICOM countries, U.K., Japan.
Exchange rate:  U.S.$1=EC$2.67.

Most of Grenada's population is of African descent; there is some trace of the early Arawak and Carib Indians. A few East Indians and a small community of the descendants of early European settlers reside in Grenada. About 50% of Grenada's population is under the age of 30. English is the official language; only a few people still speak French patois. A more significant reminder of Grenada's historical link with France is the strength of the Roman Catholic Church to which about 60% of Grenadians belong. The Anglican Church is the largest Protestant denomination.

Before the arrival of Europeans, Grenada was inhabited by Carib Indians who had driven the more peaceful Arawaks from the island. Columbus landed on Grenada in 1498 during his third voyage to the new world. He named the island "Concepcion." The origin of the name "Grenada" is obscure, but it is likely that Spanish sailors renamed the island for the city of Granada. By the beginning of the 18th century, the name "Grenada," or "la Grenade" in French, was in common use.

Partly because of the Caribs, Grenada remained uncolonized for more than 100 years after its discovery; early English efforts to settle the island were unsuccessful. In 1650, a French company founded by Cardinal Richelieu purchased Grenada from the English and established a small settlement. After several skirmishes with the Caribs, the French brought in reinforcements from Martinique and defeated the Caribs the last of whom leaped into the sea rather than surrender.

The island remained under French control until its capture by the British in 1762, during the Seven Years' War. Grenada was formally ceded to Great Britain in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris. Although the French regained control in 1779, the island was restored to Britain in 1783 by the Treaty of Versailles. Although Britain was hard pressed to overcome a pro-French revolt in 1795 Grenada remained British for the remainder of the colonial period.

During the 18th century, Grenada's economy underwent an important transition. Like much of the rest of the West Indies it was originally settled to cultivate sugar which was grown on estates using slave labor. But natural disasters paved the way for the introduction of other crops. In 1782, Sir Joseph Banks, the botanical adviser to King George III, introduced nutmeg to Grenada. The island's soil was ideal for growing the spice and because Grenada was a closer source of spices for Europe than the Dutch East Indies the island assumed a new importance to European traders.

The collapse of the sugar estates and the introduction of nutmeg and cocoa encouraged the development of smaller land holdings, and the island developed a land-owning yeoman farmer class. Slavery was outlawed in 1834. In 1833, Grenada became part of the British Windward Islands Administration. The governor of the Windward Islands administered the island for the rest of the colonial period. In 1958, the Windward Islands Administration was dissolved, and Grenada joined the Federation of the West Indies. After that federation collapsed in 1962, the British Government tried to form a small federation out of its remaining dependencies in the Eastern Caribbean.

Following the failure of this second effort, the British and the islands developed the concept of associated statehood. Under the Associated Statehood Act of 1967 Grenada was granted full autonomy over its internal affairs in March 1967. Full independence was granted on February 7, 1974.

After obtaining independence, Grenada adopted a modified Westminster parliamentary system based on the British model with a governor general appointed by and representing the British monarch (head of state) and a prime minister who is both leader of the majority party and the head of government. Sir Eric Gairy was Grenada's first prime minister.

On March 13, 1979, the new joint endeavor for welfare, education, and liberation (New Jewel) movement ousted Gairy in a nearly bloodless coup and established a people's revolutionary government (PRG), headed by Maurice Bishop who became prime minister. His Marxist-Leninist government established close ties with Cuba, the Soviet Union, and other communist bloc countries.

In October 1983, a power struggle within the government resulted in the arrest and subsequent murder of Bishop and several members of his cabinet by elements of the people's revolutionary army. Following a breakdown in civil order, a U.S.-Caribbean force landed on Grenada on October 25 in response to an appeal from the governor general and to a request for assistance from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. U.S. citizens were evacuated, and order was restored.

An advisory council named by the governor general administered the country until general elections were held in December 1984. The New National Party (NNP) led by Herbert Blaize won 14 out of 15 seats in free and fair elections and formed a democratic government. Grenada's constitution had been suspended in 1979 by the PRG but it was restored after the 1984 elections.

The NNP continued in power until 1989 but with a reduced majority. Five NNP parliamentary members, including two cabinet ministers, left the party in 1986-87 and formed the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which became the official opposition.

In August 1989, Prime Minister Blaize broke with the NNP to form another new party, The National Party (TNP), from the ranks of the NNP. This split in the NNP resulted in the formation of a minority government until constitutionally scheduled elections in March 1990. Prime Minister Blaize died in December 1989 and was succeeded as prime minister by Ben Jones until after the elections.

The NDC emerged from the 1990 elections as the strongest party, winning seven of the 15 available seats. Nicholas Brathwaite added two TNP members and one member of the Grenada United Labor Party (GULP) to create a 10-seat majority coalition. The governor general appointed him to be prime minister.

In parliamentary elections on June 20, 1995, the NNP won eight seats and formed a government headed by Dr. Keith Mitchell. The NNP maintained and affirmed its hold on power when it took all 15 parliamentary seats in the January 1999 elections.

Grenada is governed under a parliamentary system based on the British model; it has a governor general, a prime minister and a cabinet, and a bicameral Parliament with an elected House of Representatives and an appointed Senate.

Citizens enjoy a wide range of civil and political rights guaranteed by the constitution. Grenada's constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully. Citizens exercise this right through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.

Grenada's political parties range from the moderate TNP, NNP, and NDC to the left-of-center Maurice Bishop Patriotic Movement (MBPM -- organized by the pro-Bishop survivors of the October 1983 anti-Bishop coup) and the populist GULP of former Prime Minister Gairy.

Security in Grenada is maintained by the 650 members of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF), which included an 80-member paramilitary special services unit (SSU) and a 30-member coast guard. The U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard provide periodic training and material support for the SSU and the coast guard.

The economy of Grenada is based upon agricultural production (nutmeg, mace, cocoa, and bananas) and tourism. Agriculture accounts for over half of merchandise exports, and a large portion of the population is employed directly or indirectly in agriculture. Recently the performance of the agricultural sector has not been good. Grenada's banana exports declined markedly in volume and quality in 1996, and it is a question to what extent the country will remain a banana exporter. Tourism remains the key earner of foreign exchange.

Grenada is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues a common currency for all members of the ECCU. The ECCB also manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries.

Grenada also is a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). Most goods can be imported into Grenada under open general license but some goods require specific licenses. Goods that are produced in the Eastern Caribbean receive additional protection; in May 1991, the CARICOM common external tariff (CET) was implemented. The CET aims to facilitate economic growth through intra-regional trade by offering duty-free trade among CARICOM members and duties on goods imported from outside CARICOM.

Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir Daniel C. Williams, GCMG, Q.C.
Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Mobilization and Information--Dr. Keith C. Mitchell
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Elvin Nimrod
Ambassador to the United States and OAS--Denis G. Antoine
Ambassador to the United Nations--Dr. Lamuel Stanislaus

Grenada maintains an embassy in the United States at 1701 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009 Tel: 202-265-2561.

The United States, Venezuela, and Taiwan have embassies in Grenada. The United Kingdom is represented by a resident commissioner (as opposed to the governor general who represents the British monarch). Grenada has been recognized by most members of the United Nations and maintains diplomatic missions in the United Kingdom, the United States, Venezuela, and Canada.

Grenada is a member of the Caribbean Development Bank, CARICOM, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and the Commonwealth of Nations. It joined the United Nations in 1974, and the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organization of American States in 1975. Grenada also is a member of the Eastern Caribbean's Regional Security System (RSS).

As a member of CARICOM Grenada strongly backed efforts by the United States to implement UN Security Council Resolution 940, designed to facilitate the departure of Haiti's de facto authorities from power. Grenada subsequently contributed personnel to the multinational force which restored the democratically elected government of Haiti in October 1994.

Prime Minister Mitchell joined President Clinton, in May 1997, for a meeting with 14 other Caribbean leaders during the first-ever U.S.-regional summit in Bridgetown, Barbados. The summit strengthened the basis for regional cooperation on justice and counter-narcotics issues, finance and development, and trade.

The U.S. Government established an embassy in Grenada in November 1983. The U.S. ambassador to Grenada is resident in Bridgetown, Barbados. The embassy in Grenada is staffed by a charge d'affaires who reports to the ambassador in Bridgetown.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has played a major role in Grenada's development providing more than $120 million in economic assistance from 1984 to 1993. U.S. assistance is primarily channeled through multilateral agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), and through the newly-opened USAID satellite office in Bridgetown, Barbados. About 10 Peace Corps volunteers in Grenada teach remedial reading, English-language skills, and vocational training. Grenada also is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative. In addition Grenada receives counter-narcotics assistance from the U.S. and benefits from U.S. military exercise-related construction and humanitarian civic action projects.

Grenada and the U.S. cooperate closely in fighting narcotics smuggling and other forms of transnational crime. In 1995, the U.S. and Grenada signed a maritime law enforcement treaty. In 1996, they signed a mutual legal assistance treaty and an extradition treaty as well as an over-flight/order-to-land amendment to the maritime law enforcement treaty. Some U.S. military training is given to Grenadian security and defense forces.

Grenada continues to be a popular destination for Americans. Of the 378,900 stayover visitors in 1999, 106,900 were U.S. citizens. . It is estimated that some 2,600 Americans reside in the country, plus the 800 U.S. medical students who study at the St. George's University School of Medicine. (Those students are not counted as residents for statistical purposes.)

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Marcia Bernicat
Charge d'Affaires--Nadia Tongour
Political/Economic Officer--Paul Belmont
Consular Officer--Bob Fretz
Defense Attach�--Commander Matthew B. Crawley
Regional Labor Attach�--(vacant)
Economic-Commercial Affairs--Viki Limaye
Public Affairs Officer--Kathleen Boyle
Peace Corps Director--Earl Phillips (resident in St. Lucia)

The U.S. Embassy in Grenada is located on the Lance-aux-Epines Stretch, St. George's, Grenada Tel: 1-(473)-444-1173; Fax: 1-(473)-444-4820). The mailing address is P.O. Box 54, St. George's, Grenada, West Indies.

Other Contact Information
U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 1-800-USA-TRADE

Caribbean/Latin America Action
1818 N Street, NW; Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.