During the slave days, the islands cultivated cash crops to earn money. When the African slave trade began in 1673, the difficult conditions and inhumane treatment slaves were subjected to bred discontent. In 1733, a long drought followed by a devastating hurricane pushed slaves in St. John to the breaking point. Members of the Akwamu tribe from modern Ghana staged a massive rebellion, seizing control of the island for six months. The Danish, who controlled the island at that point, enlisted the help of French authorities from Martinique to regain control.
Another slave revolt in 1848 was more successful in the long run. The governor at the time, Peter von Scholten, felt enough sympathy for the slaves to grant them emancipation, even though it was against the wishes of Danish Crown and devastated the economy of the islands. After the United States purchased the islands due to fear that if Denmark were conquered by Germany, Germany would attempt to take over Denmark's overseas dependencies. In 1917, a treaty was concluded in which the United States purchased the islands for $25,000,000.
The economy was boosted in the 1970s by two main developments: tourism and manufacturing.
The islands also receive cross-over subsidies, which generated approximately $100 million for the Virgin Islands in 2008.
The tourism industry is the main industry, 80% of GDP and employment. The islands, every year, are visited by more than 1 million tourists, mainly by Americans and the most common way to get there is by sea. The tourism industry mostly employs those who have migrated to the U.S. Virgin Islands, as native Virgin Islanders are attracted to government jobs. In 2005, a record of 2.6 million visitors visited.
This industry developed more in the 1970s especially on St. Croix. With the exception of rum distilling from sugar, none of the industries owe their existence to the presence of natural resources. Instead, they depend of tax concessions and the financial advantages they derive from being a US territory. Near the airport, is located the site of a closed (December 2000) alumina factory which processed bauxite from Suriname and West Africa. There is also an oil refinery which produces 495,000 barrels per day (78,700 m3/d) supplied by a fleet of tankers which take away all the refined products. There were a number of assembly plants, especially on St. Croix, which manufactured watches from overseas parts. However, this industry has significantly dwindled in recent years.
GDP - composition by sector:
Labor force: 49,820 (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
Unemployment rate: 6.2% (2004)
Population below poverty line: 28.9% (2002)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.2% (2003)
Agriculture - products: fruit, vegetables, sorghum; Senepol cattle
Industries: tourism, petroleum refining, watch assembly, rum distilling, construction, pharmaceuticals, textiles, electronics
Electricity - production by source:
Debt - external: $NA
Economic aid - recipient: $NA
Currency: 1 United States dollar (US$) = 100 cents
Exchange rates: US currency is used
Fiscal year: 1 October - 30 September
Geography | Economy | Demographics | Communications | Transportation | History | Visitor Attractions
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