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Isle of Man

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From buckets and spades to banking in the Irish Sea

The Isle of Man lies halfway between England and Ireland in the Irish Sea. The highest point is Snaefell, at 620 metres, but most of the territory is low-lying and used for agriculture.

Its people, the Manx, are of Celtic descent. Health and welfare services are at least equal to those in the UK and incomes are now similar.

Until recently, the island relied heavily on budget tourism. But this has been eclipsed by financial services. Low tax rates have attracted more than 60 banks, and finance and related services now account for more than half the GDP. As a result, the Isle of Man's economy has been very healthy, with annual growth of about 5% combined with low inflation and unemployment under 1.5%.

The Isle of Man is not part of the UK; it is a crown dependency with a lieutenant-governor appointed by the British monarch. But it has considerable autonomy: its parliament, the Tynwald, makes its own laws and sets the tax rates. It also applies immigration controls: even British citizens need a work permit.

Politics is mostly consensual. The parliament elects a chief minister who in turn chooses a cabinet, but there are no political parties. Government site Iomtoday - News site

People: 76,000, Manx and British. Life expectancy: 79 years

Government: Dependency of the British Crown, rather than of the UK. Capital: Douglas

Economy: GDP per capita: $PPP 35,000. Main exports: tweeds, kippers

Subjects: Religion

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