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Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the Atlantic Ocean consisting of the Bermuda Islands. Bermuda gives its name to the Bermuda Triangle and the Bermuda Shorts.

Geography

The archipelago consists of about 360 coral islands, of which only about 20 are inhabited. The island Grand Bermuda is with 39,3 km² by far the biggest. In the northwest Somerset Island and in the northeast Saint George’s Island border on the main island.

The climate on the Bermuda Islands is subtropical and humid. However, in January there can also be very low temperatures of 5 degrees. In September hurricanes often occur.

The highest elevation of the country is the Town Hill with 79 m. The strong fragmentation of the islands and the numerous karst caves are striking. The island is surrounded by coral reefs. They are the most northern tropical coral reefs on earth. There is only one place in eastern Bermuda where large cruise ships or container ships that are regular visitors to Bermuda can pass the reefs. As there are no rivers on the islands, rainwater has to be collected in cisterns.

Characteristic for the subtropical vegetation are rubber trees, sage species and the Bermuda juniper. Mangrove trees also grow on some parts of the coast; the Bermuda stocks are the northernmost occurrence of mangrove trees in the Atlantic.

On the Bermuda Islands, the almost extinct bird species Bermuda Petrel has its breeding sites. There are also several national parks, both above and under water. The shortest possible air line distance to the United States (North Carolina) is 1037 km (Cape Hatteras on offshore spit) and 1067 km (mainland).

Politics

Bermuda is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. The political system is based on the Westminster system. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by a governor appointed by her.

Bermuda has an elected House of Representatives and a Senate (11 members) whose members are appointed by the Governor. The majority leader in the Chamber of Deputies is appointed prime minister by the governor and charged with forming a government. This government (cabinet) is composed of the prime minister and the ministers. It is accountable to Parliament. The current prime minister is E. David Burt (Progressive Labour Party), who replaced Michael Dunkley in July 2017.

The area is largely autonomous, with only a few areas – particularly foreign and defence policy – being decided directly by the government in London. Founded in 1620, Bermuda’s Parliament is the fifth oldest in the world and the only one to have existed uninterruptedly during this period.

Economy

Since Bermuda is a tax haven with low tax rates, numerous credit institutions and insurance companies settled there. Bermuda is considered the third largest reinsurance centre (for example Everest Re Group, PartnerRe and Qatar Re) in competition with London and New York. The international groups that have moved their headquarters there over the decades include spirits producer Bacardi and the world’s largest oil tanker shipping company Frontline. In a ranking of the most important financial centres worldwide, Bermuda ranked 36th (status: 2018). Per capita gross domestic product in 2013 was around 85,700 US dollars, one of the highest in the world. However, with the withdrawal of some companies from Bermuda and the decline in foreign direct investment, the economy has been in recession for several years.

In the course of the discussion about measures against tax havens at the G-20 summits, a massive departure of international corporations from Bermuda began in 2008. Within just a few months until the beginning of September 2009, nine of the once twelve top-selling companies in Bermuda – Accenture, ACE Limited, Cooper Industries, Covidien, Foster Wheeler, Ingersoll Rand, Tyco Electronics, Tyco International and Weatherford International – relocated their headquarters to other countries at listed corporations alone.

On 28 January 2016, the EU Commission presented a package of measures to combat tax evasion, including the inclusion of Bermuda on the black list of tax havens. Tourism is an important economic sector. In 2016, the direct contribution of the tourism sector to Bermuda’s GDP was 4.5%; the total contribution, which also takes into account the impact of tourism on other sectors of the economy, amounted to 13.9% of total economic output in the same year. More than 80 % of tourists come from the USA, but increasingly also from Western Europe.

In the past, part of the government revenue came from leasing an area around the airport as a military base to the USA. The subtropical climate enables intensive agriculture. The main crops are tropical fruits, potatoes, vegetables, tobacco and flowers (especially lilies). Fishing is just what they need. Apart from the lime used as a building material, no mineral resources are available. Small industrial companies process fragrances and produce pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.

The main products exported are tropical fruits, vegetables, flowers, plant extracts and cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Foodstuffs of all kinds, petroleum products and motor vehicles must be imported. In Bermuda, there are hardly any large cars; on the one hand, there are no roads and, on the other hand, 100% taxation makes them extremely expensive.

The currency of Bermuda is the Bermuda Dollar (BMD), which is converted at a ratio of 1:1 to the US Dollar (USD). The US dollar is also common and accepted as a means of payment in Bermuda. Bermuda can issue its own bonds. Bermuda’s government bonds are rated A- by the rating agency Standard & Poor’s (as of 2018).

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