The Turks and Caicos Islands, a British overseas territory, enjoy one of the more dynamic economies in the West Indies. Tourism and offshore finance have replaced salt production as the main sources of prosperity for the low-lying islands and cays.
Thousands of overseas companies are registered in the islands. After cleaning up its finance industry the territory was dropped from an international list of centres considered to be uncooperative tax havens. Watery attractions: Diving and big-game fishing are popular.
Upmarket tourism is centred on Providenciales, or Provo. Coral reefs and 200 miles of beaches draw holidaymakers and divers, mostly from the US and Canada. But over-development is a concern; some fragile eco-systems, including wetlands and lagoons, are designated as protected areas.Zion National Park
There is little agriculture, though the territory is home to the world's only conch farm. The molluscs are exported. Independence moves in the 1980s ended when a pro-dependency government was elected. Islanders have British citizenship.
Caicos Islands Tourist Attractions
The territory enjoys strong links with Canada and politicians have occasionally mooted a political and economic union. Once a dependency of Jamaica, the Turks and Caicos Islands became a crown colony upon Jamaican independence in 1962. The original inhabitants were Taino indians; later arrivals included slaves, brought from Africa to work on cotton plantations.
Caicos Islands tourism
Their descendants make up a majority of the population. Wealthy retirees are among the more recent settlers. At the other end of the economic scale, migrants come from impoverished Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In turn, thousands of Turks and Caicos citizens take advantage of job prospects in the neighbouring Bahamas.
(Caicos Islands map) Please mouse click on the thumbnail photos below to see an enlargement
Territory: Turks and Caicos Islands
Status: British overseas territory
Population: 30,600 (via UN, 2006)
Area: 430 sq km (166 sq miles)
Capital: Cockburn Town, on Grand Turk
Major language: English
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 72 years (men), 76 years (women)
Monetary unit: US dollar = 100 cents
Main exports: Lobster, conch
GNI per capita: US$10,346 (2002)
Internet domain: .tc
International dialling code: +1 649
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor Richard Tauwhare
The ruling Progressive National Party (PNP) won a landslide victory in elections in February 2007, winning 13 of the 15 seats in parliament and securing a second term for its leader Michael Misick. He said education and health would be among his priorities.
Mr Misick first took office in August 2003 when the PNP came to power after eight years in opposition. The PNP has argued that native islanders - known as "belongers" - should have priority over expatriates when seeking jobs.
The territory is internally self-governing; the governor oversees foreign affairs, defence and offshore finance. Power is exercised by an elected legislative council and an appointed executive council.