Anguilla, the most northerly of the Leeward Islands of the Eastern Caribbean, is about 200 miles (320 km) East of Puerto Rico and 6 miles (10 km) North of Sint Maarten/St. Martin. The island is a flat, coral limestone formation, only 220 ft. (65 m) at its highest. Trade winds blow over the island most of the year resulting in effective mean annual temperatures of 80° F (27° C) and an average annual rainfall of 32 ins. (800 mm). Thirty-five legendary beaches composed of pure white coral sand fringe the island.
Anguilla's people number almost 12,870 (1999 estimate). The island is essentially self-governing but as one of Britain's Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, Her Majesty's Government retains responsibility for foreign affairs, defence, internal security and offshore financial services. The parliamentary system is based on Westminster and the legal system arises from the English common law. The literacy rate is 92% and rising.
Getting to Anguilla is becoming easier by the year. Three main hubs serve the North American and European markets, bringing in carriers such as KLM, Air France, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and American Airlines. Local transport thence to the island is plentiful. From Puerto Rico (San Juan) American Eagle runs several daily flights to Anguilla, LIAT connects with flights from the U.K. to Antigua, and from Sint Maarten there is a choice of several local airlines, including WINAIR, or, for those who prefer not to fly where possible, there is a half-hourly ferry service between Anguilla and Marigot, St. Martin. Transit times depend on sea conditions but a 20-minute crossing is typical. Anguillas telecommunication needs are served by Cable & Wireless Ltd., which has invested millions of dollars to provide digital telephone communications both on the island and internationally via a direct fiber optic link to Florida. State of the art Internet facilities are available. The Government of Anguilla and Cable & Wireless are currently preparing to liberalise the telecommunications sector in Anguilla.
The convenient location of Anguilla, its unspoilt beaches, modern facilities, vibrant culture, friendly people and relatively crime-free society have enabled the island to develop a high-end tourist industry with several world class hotels and a restaurant trade which is the envy of many larger destinations.
It is this high-class tourist market that led to the joint decision of Government and the private sector to follow a similar path for the international financial services industry. This has led to the development of a tailored rather than off the peg, flexibly but well regulated, and, probably most importantly "clean" rather than "crooked", offshore industry operating in Anguilla's tax-free environment.