Bermuda – officially the Bermudas or Somers Islands – is a British overseas territory in the Western Atlantic, directly east of the American state North Carolina. It has a population of 70,000. Bermuda’s government is a parliamentary democracy led by a premier who shares power with a bicameral parliament and judicial branch; the law of Bermuda is founded on British common law. As with all overseas territories and Crown Dependencies, the UK provides for Bermuda’s defense and international relations. Bermuda held a referendum on independence from the UK in 1995, which was overwhelmingly rejected by voters.
With an economy worth US$6.4 billion and GDP per capita of US$99,400 – 50% higher than that of the US – Bermuda ranks alongside the oil-producing Gulf states as one of the wealthiest places in the world. However, the 2000 census suggested that nearly a fifth of residents live below the government-determined poverty line.
The economy is almost entirely (90%) based on services, and its prosperity is due primarily to its offshore financial services industry. This industry is primarily focused on insurance, reinsurance, investment funds and special-purpose investment vehicles. The Bermuda Stock Exchange is the world’s largest offshore investment exchange, with a market capitalization of US$$300 billion and over 400 tradable investment vehicles.
Bermuda’s economy may be among the world’s wealthiest on a per capita basis, but the country also has one of the world’s most expensive property markets. In 2007 and 2008, average house prices were estimated to be over US$1.5 million. Infrastructure is also highly developed, and the strong travel links to the US demonstrate that tourism also contribute significantly to the economy. Bermuda’s famous pink sand beaches draw roughly half a million visitors each year, mostly from the US.