Kiribati

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Kiribati

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS KIRIBATIANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of Kiribati

CAPITAL: Tarawa

FLAG: Above a blue and white heraldic representation of Pacific waters, a golden sun rises against a red background, with a golden frigate bird at the top.

ANTHEM: Troika kain Kiribati (Stand Kiribati).

MONETARY UNIT: The Australian dollar is the national currency. a$1 = us$0.76336 (or us$1 = a$1.31) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Kiribati is in transition from imperial to metric standards.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 12 July; Youth Day, 4 August; Christmas Day, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Queen's Birthday (June), Bank Holiday (August), and Prince of Wales's Birthday (November).

TIME: Midnight = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

Kiribati (pronounced "Kiribass") consists of 33 islands in the central Pacific, situated around the point where the International Date Line intersects the equator. Scattered over more than 5 million sq km (2 million sq mi) of ocean are the 17 islands of the Gilberts group (including Banaba, formerly Ocean Island); the 8 Line Islands (including Christmas Island); and the 8 Phoenix Islands. The distance between Christmas Island in the e and Banaba in the w is more than 3,200 km (2,000 mi). Kiribati's total land area is 811 sq km (313 sq mi), and its total coastline is 1,143 km (710 mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Kiribati is about four times the size of Washington, DC.

Kiribati's capital city, Tarawa, is located on the island of Tarawa.

TOPOGRAPHY

Kiribati is made up of three island groups: the Gilbert Islands (on the equator), the Phoenix Islands (to the east), and the Line Islands (north of the equator). Most of the islands are coral atolls built on a submerged volcanic chain. Christmas Island is the largest atoll in the world, with an area of 606 sq km (234 sq mi). The highest point of the country is an unnamed point on the island of Banaba, which reaches a peak of 81 m (266 ft). The lowest point is at sea level (Pacific Ocean).

CLIMATE

Tempered by prevailing easterly trade winds, the islands have a maritime equatorial climate, with high humidity during the NovemberApril rainy season. Although the islands lie outside the tropical hurricane belt, there are occasional gales and even tornadoes. Rainfall varies from an average of 102 cm (40 in) near the equator to 305 cm (120 in) in the extreme north and south. Severe droughts can also occur. On average, there is less than 1% variation between the cool and hot months, but daily temperatures range from 25°c (77°f) to 32°c (90°f), with an annual mean temperature of 27°c (81°f).

FLORA AND FAUNA

The extreme poverty of the soil and the variability of the rainfall make cultivation of most crops impossible. Only babai (a kind of taro root), coconut palms, and pandanus trees grow easily on most islands. Pigs and poultry were probably introduced by Europeans. Sea life abounds.

ENVIRONMENT

According the United Nations (UN) Report for Pacific Island Developing Countries (1992), the most significant environmental problems facing the nations in this area of the world are global warming and the rise of sea levels. Variations in the level of the sea may damage forests and agricultural areas and contaminate fresh water supplies with salt water. A rise in sea level by even 2 feet (60 cm) would leave Kiribati uninhabitable; in 1996, such a rise was forecast as a possibility by 2100. Kiribati, along with the other nations in the area, is vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic activity. The nation also has inadequate facilities for handling solid waste, which has been a major environmental concern, particularly in the larger population centers.

The environment in Kiribati has also been adversely affected by metals and chemicals from mining activities, and agricultural chemicals have polluted coastal waters. Phosphate mining was especially devastating, rendering the island of Banaba almost uninhabitable. The Banabans, who were forced to move to the Fijian island of Rabi, sued the owners of the mines and won special compensation. A fund was set up to compensate the people of Kiribati. Called the Phosphate Revenue Equalization Fund (PREF), in 1996 it amounted to a$200 million.

The lagoon of the southern Tarawa atoll has been heavily polluted by solid waste disposal. Like other Pacific islands, Kiribati is sensitive to the dangers of pollution and radiation from weapons tests and nuclear waste disposal. The UN report describes the wildlife in these areas as "among the most critically threatened in the world." According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 5 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, 4 species of fish, and 1 type of mollusk. Endangered species included the green sea turtle, the coconut crab, the giant grouper, the tiger shark, the pygmy killer whale, and the mukojima bonin honeyeater.

POPULATION

The population of Kiribati in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 92,000, which placed it at number 180 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 40% of the population under 15 years of age. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.8%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Population growth in the capital, Tarawa, was seen as a serious problem by the government. The projected population for the year 2025 was 141,000. The population density was 126 per sq km (326 per sq mi). The population is unevenly distributed; some islands of the Phoenix and Line groups are uninhabited.

The UN estimated that 43% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005 and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 3.67%. The capital city, Tarawa, had a population of 42,000 in that year, with an annual growth rate of about 5.2%.

MIGRATION

For the islanders, migration has been a perennial form of escape from drought and starvation. In the 19th century, recruiting ships forcibly took Gilbert Islanders for plantation work in Hawaii, Australia, Fiji, and Peru; some voluntarily reenlisted after the great drought of 1870. Although the majority eventually returned home, it is reckoned that between 1860 and 1890, some 10,000 islanders (of a total population of 30,000) were living overseas. In the 20th century, Fiji and the Solomon Islands continued to be popular places for Gilbert Islanders in search of work. Internal migration until 1979 was mainly to Banaba Island for work in the phosphate industry; since then, migration has been primarilly to Nauru or to copra plantations in the Line Islands. During 198893, some 4,700 people were resettled on the Teraira and Tabuaeran atolls of the Line Islands because of overcrowding on the main island group. The total number of migrants in 2000 was 2,000. In 2001 Australia refused entry to all boat people, many of them Iraqis setting out from Indonesia. Kiribati and other Pacific islands agreed to accept migrants headed to Australia from Indonesia in boats in exchange for aid from Australia. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as zero migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.

ETHNIC GROUPS

About 98.8% of the people are Gilbertese of Micronesian extraction. Polynesians (mainly from Tuvalu) make up 0.5% of the total; Europeans and people of mixed races make up 0.7%.

LANGUAGES

The principal languages spoken are Gilbertese (also called I-Kiribati or Kiribatese) and English. The official language is English, but it is seldom used on the outer islands. Gilbertese is an Austronesian language related to many other Pacific tongues.

RELIGIONS

Christian missionaries first arrived in 1857, when Dr. Hiram Bingham, of the American Board of Foreign Missionaries, began to spread Protestantism in the northern Gilberts with the help of Hawaiian pastors. In 1888, Catholicism was introduced to the islands by the Sacred Heart Mission. The American Board withdrew from the territory in 1917 and was succeeded by the London Missionary Society, which had placed Samoan pastors on the islands as early as 1870.

Virtually the entire population is Christian. According to 2002 government statistics, 55% of the population were Roman Catholics and 37% belonged to the Kiribati Protestant Church (formerly called the Congregational Church). Religious minorities included the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (3%), the Seventh-Day Adventists (2%), and Baha'is (2%). About 5% of the population claimed no religious preference.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and this right is generally respected in practice. Christmas, Easter, and National Gospel Day are celebrated as national holidays.

TRANSPORTATION

The remoteness of the scattered islands has severely hampered transport and communications. There are only about 670 km (416 mi) of roads, mostly on Tarawa. The Nippon Causeway, completed in 1987 with Japanese assistance, replaced ferry service between Betio and Bariki. A series of similar causeways links north and south Tarawa. In 1995, there were about 2,000 vehicles in Kiribati, almost three-quarters of which were motorcycles.

There is no rail, river, or lake transport, although canoes travel freely on the lagoons. However, as of 2003, there were some 5 km of canals on the Line Islands. The main ports are located on Betio islet, near Tarawa, and on Tabuaeran and Christmas islands. Betio is equipped for handling containers, and Banaba has a cantilever for phosphate loading. In 2005 Kiribati had one passenger cargo ship of 1,000 GRT or more at 1,291 GRT. A number of shipping lines call at the islands, and government boats provide interisland service. There were an estimated 20 airports in 2004, of which 3 had paved runways as of 2005. All the major islands have airstrips; the airports on Christmas Island and at Bonriki (Tarawa) are used for scheduled overseas flights. Air Tungaru, the national airline, operates regularly scheduled flights to Honolulu and Tuvalu. In 1997 (the latest year for which data was available), 28,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.

HISTORY

The main wave of Micronesian settlement is thought to have come from Samoa in the 13th century, but Gilbertese tradition suggests that the Samoans were not the first settlers. European discovery dates from 1537, when Christmas Island was sighted by Spanish explorers. The English sea captain James Cook encountered the islands in 1777, and commercial activities in the region began early in the 19th century. The Gilbert Islands were a favorite whaling ground, and deserting crews began to settle on the islands in the 1830s. Trading ships were calling there regularly by the 1850s, and a flourishing copra and coconut trade was established by the 1860s, as well as an illicit human traffic. The Office of British High Commissioner to the Western Pacific was created in 1877 to help suppress abuses by recruiting ships seeking labor for overseas service. In 1888, Christmas, Fanning (now Tabuaeran), and Washington (now Teraina) islands were annexed by the British, and Phoenix Island was placed under their protection. A declaration of British protectorate over the Gilbert and Ellice groups followed in 1892. A handful of administrators established local native governments, and a period of stability ensued.

Ocean Island was annexed by Britain in 1900 following Sir Albert Ellis's discovery of its valuable phosphate deposits. The Gilbert and Ellice groups (including Ocean, Fanning, and Washington islands) were declared a British colony in 1916. British control was extended to Christmas Island in 1919 and to the uninhabited Phoenix group in 1937, but after the United States laid claim to Canton and Enderbury, a joint British-American administration over these islands was established. During World War II, the Gilberts were occupied by Japanese forces until 1943, when the invaders were driven out by US forces after heavy casualties on both sides. Ocean Island was liberated by the Australians in 1945.

In a 1974 referendum, the Ellice Islands voted for separation, subsequently becoming the independent nation of Tuvalu. Internal self-government for the Gilberts was established as of 1 January 1977, and the islands became the independent Republic of Kiribati on 12 July 1979. In September, the new nation signed a treaty of friendship with the United States (ratified by the US Senate in 1983), by which the United States relinquished its claim to the Line and Phoenix groups (including Canton, Enderbury, and Malden).

Ieremia Tabai, chief minister at the time of independence, became president of the new republic in 1979 and was reelected in May 1982 and February 1983. Although the constitution limits a president to three terms, Tabai argued that he had not completed three full terms and was reelected in May 1987. In 1991, Tabai stepped down and was replaced by Teatao Teannaki, head of the National Progressive Party. Teannaki served until 1994, when Teburoro Tito, head of the nation's first real political party, the Maneaban Te Mauri Party (MTM), was elected. The MTM won 19 of 39 seats in the House.

A special problem was posed by the Banabans, who were resettled in 1946 on Rabi (Fiji)bought for them by means of phosphate royaltiesso that strip mining on their native island could continue unimpeded. In 1975, the Banabans sued, petitioning the British courts for damages. After a lengthy legal battle, representatives of the Banabans (most of whom still reside on Rabi) agreed in 1981 to the creation of a trust fund of nearly a$15 million for Banaban development. Recognition of Banaban minority rights is enshrined in Kiribati's constitution.

Kiribati opposes French nuclear testing in the Pacific and signed the 1985 Raratonga Agreement declaring the South Pacific a nuclear-free zone. In 1985, Kiribati signed a one-year fishing agreement with the former Soviet Union that aroused controversy at home and abroad. The agreement was not renewed after talks for its renegotiation broke off in September 1986.

Kiribati began resettling more than 4,700 people on outlying atolls in August 1988 in an attempt to relieve overcrowded conditions on the Tarawa atolls. Overcrowding was still a concern in 2004, when Kiribati planned to launch a program for the development of up to four new urban centers on the outer islands. The program had the backing of the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Development Program, and was aimed at reducing the flow of population to Tarawa.

In September 1988 Kiribati ratified the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Treaty, which permits US tuna ships to operate within its 200-mi exclusive zone. In early 1992, the Parliament of Kiribati instructed the government (against its wishes) to seek compensation from the United States for damage done to the country during the Pacific War (194145).

In 1994, the government of Kiribati underwent a constitutional crisis when President Teatao Teannaki was forced to resign following a no-confidence vote by the opposition in parliament, who had charged him with misusing travel funds. As specified in the constitution, executive authority was then transferred to a Council of State until new parliamentary and presidential elections could be held, but one member of the council refused to resign when his term expired and had to be forcibly removed, prompting calls for constitutional reform to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future. Teburoro Tito was elected president in September, and elected to a second term in November 1998.

Together with Nauru and Tonga, Kiribati was admitted to the United Nations in 1999. In March of that year, the government declared a state of emergency as water shortages reached crisis levels due to an extended drought and pollution of the available water supply. Long-term elevation of the surrounding sea level due to global greenhouse emissions remains a serious concern for Kiribati, which reportedly has already lost two uninhabited islands and has been forced to move segments of its population inland, away from coastal regions.

The 2002 presidential election process began with a general election for parliament on 29 November, but several rounds of voting took place before the election of a president on 25 February 2003. In January 2003, opposition parliamentarians named Taberannang Timeon to stand against Tito in the February election, instead of Harry Tong, after Tong stepped aside in order not to split the opposition vote against Tito. Bakeua Bakeua Tekita stood as a third candidate. Tito narrowly won the 25 February election, defeating Timeon by only 547 votes, but after serving only one day of his third term as president, Tito's government was toppled by a vote of no-confidence in the opposition-controlled parliament. In July 2003, Anote Tong was elected president.

Kiribati established diplomatic relations with the former Soviet Union in 1979 and with the People's Republic of China in 1980. In November 2003, Kiribati was the fifth Pacific nation to recognize Taiwan. Kiribati hoped to maintain ties with both Taiwan and mainland China, but by the end of the month, China had cut diplomatic ties and removed the Chinese space tracking station located on Tarawa atoll, but continued to maintain an embassy staffed by three diplomats.

GOVERNMENT

Under the independence constitution of 1979, Kiribati is a democratic republic within the Commonwealth of Nations. It has a 42-member unicameral legislature, the House of Assembly (Maneaba ni Maungatabu). Forty members are elected for four-year terms, one appointed seat is reserved for a representative of the Banaban community, and the attorney general sits (ex-officio) as a nonelected member of parliament. The Speaker is elected to office by members of parliament but is not a member of parliament. He has neither an original nor casting vote in parliamentary decisions. The president (beretitenti ), who is both head of state and head of government, is elected directly by popular vote from among members of the House of Assembly, to a term of up to four years; candidates are selected by the House from among its own members. When the president no longer enjoys the confidence of the legislature, the House is dissolved and new parliamentary and presidential elections are held, with a Council of State (consisting of the head of the Civil Service Commission, the chief justice, and the Speaker of the House) governing in the interim. The cabinet consists of the president, vice president, attorney general, and no more than 10 other ministers selected from parliament.

Teatao Teannaki, head of the National Progressive Party, was elected the nation's second president in July 1991. He was obliged to resign following a no-confidence vote in 1994, and Teburoro Tito, head of the Maneaban Te Mauri Party (MTM), was elected president. Tito was reelected in 1998 and 2003. Following a vote of no-confidence, another presidential election was held in July 2003. Anote Tong was elected president, with Teima Onorio serving as his vice president.

POLITICAL PARTIES

Traditionally, Kiribati had no formally organized parties. Instead, ad hoc opposition groups tended to coalesce around specific issues. There were no formally constituted political parties until 1985, when opponents of the Soviet fishing agreement founded the Christian Democratic party, headed by Dr. Harry Tong.

Other parties that formed after 1991 include the Boutokaan te Koaua Party; the Liberal Party; the New Movement Party; and the Health Peace and Honour Party. Today, the only recognizable parties are the Maneaban te Mauri Party (formerly known as the Christian Democratic Party) and the Boutokaan te Koaua Party.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

There are fully elected local councils on all the islands, in accordance with the local government ordinance of 1966. For administrative purposes the islands are divided into six districts: Tarawa (including the Phoenix group); North, South, and Central Gilberts; Banaba; and the Line Islands. This structure has been further divided into 21 island councils, one for each of the inhabited islands. The geographic dispersion of the islands leaves considerable freedom for the districts; their councils have wide taxing powers, including land taxes, and draw up their own estimates of revenues and expenditures.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The 1979 constitution provides for a High Court with a chief justice and other judges, acting as the supreme court. There is also a Court of Appeal and magistrates' courts. Island courts were established in 1965 to deal with civil and criminal offenses. Native land courts have jurisdiction over property claims. High Court and Court of Appeal judges are appointed by the president.

The judiciary is independent and free from government influence. Civil rights and civil liberties are guaranteed in the constitution and respected in practice. Procedural due process safeguards are based on English common law. Trials are fair and public. The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence. The government authorities respect these provisions.

ARMED FORCES

Legislation providing for the establishment of a defense force of 170 men was repealed in 1978. There is a small police force. Australia and New Zealand provide defense assistance.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Kiribati was admitted to the United Nations (UN) on 14 September 1999 and is a member of several nonregional specialized agencies, including the FAO, ICAO, the World Bank, IMF, IFC, ILO, UNESCO, and WHO.

Kiribati participates in the Asian Development Bank, the ACP Group, the Pacific Island Forum, and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). The nation is also part of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, Kiribati is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.

ECONOMY

Kiribati's economy was supported by revenues from phosphate mining on Banaba until the deposits were exhausted in 1979. Since then, the nation has relied on fishing, subsistence agriculture, and exports of copra, recently 8095% of exports, and fish, 420% of exports. The country is heavily dependent on aid from the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and China. Aid equals 2550% of GDP, while tourism provides about 20%. In the 1990s, GDP increased steadily, peaking at a$80.3 million in 1999, and then fell by 2.7% and 1.2% in 2000 and 2001, respectively, to a$78.1 million and a$77.2 million, respectively. GNP runs between 1.5 to 2 times the size of GDP. In 2001, GNP was a$136.9 million, 177% of GDP. Per capita GDP in 2000 was a$843 and per capita GNP was a$1,495. Inflation, at 0.4% in 2000 as measured by consumer prices, increased to 9.4% in 2001. Unemployment was officially 2%, but underemployment was estimated by the government to be about 70% by a 1992 estimate.

In 2004, the GDP growth rate was 1.8%, down from 2.5% in 2003. The inflation rate increased slightly, from 1.4% to 2.3%, but is not expected to pose any problems to the economy. The country is still heavily dependent on foreign aid and on remittances from workers abroad.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005, Kiribati's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $79.0 million, supplemented by a nearly equal amount from external sources The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 1.5%. The average inflation rate in 2001 was 2.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 30% of GDP, industry 7%, and services 63%.

LABOR

In 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), there were an estimated 7,870 economically active people in Kiribati, excluding subsistance farmers. Overall, about 90% of the labor force is engaged in agriculture or fishing. Overseas workers remitted a large percentage of their wages to Kiribati.

In urban areas there is a small but strong trade union movement. Affiliates of the Kiribati Trades Union Congress (KTUC), founded in 1982 with Australian assistance, include the Fishermen's Union, the Cooperative Workers' Union, the Seamen's Union, the Teachers' Union, and the Public Employees' Association; in 2002, the KTUC had about 2,500 members. Workers have the right to strike but rarely exercise this option. The government does not interfere with union activity.

There is no statutory minimum wage; however, the government sets wage levels in the large public sector, which is the major employer in the cash economy. The standard workweek for those in the public sector was 36.25 hours, with overtime pay for any additional hours. Children may not work under the age of 14. This is effectively enforced by the government in the modern, industrial sector of the economy, but many children do perform light labor in the traditional fishing economy.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is limited chiefly to coconut and pandanus production. About 37,000 hectares (91,400 acres) of land is considered arable, representing 5.1% of the total land area. Overseas technical aid has allowed some islands to cultivate bananas and papaws for the Tarawa market. An estimated 103,000 tons of coconuts, 5,000 tons of bananas, and 5,900 tons of vegetables and melons were produced in 2004. Agricultural trade in 2004 consisted of us$1.8 million in exports and us$14.3 million in imports. Agriculture contributes 30% to GDP.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

There were 12,400 pigs in Kiribati in 2005; pork production was 876 tons. The Agricultural Division has introduced improved breeds of livestock.

FISHING

Sea fishing is excellent, particularly for skipjack tuna around the Phoenix Islands. Kiribati has one of the world's longest maritime zones, covering approximately three million sq km. Commercial fishing has expanded dramatically since 1979 as a result of projects funded by Japan, the United Kingdom, and the EU. The total sea catch in 2003 was 35,947 tons. Kiribati also receives revenue from the sales of licenses permitting foreign vessels to fish its offshore waters. Seaweed is also exported. Exports of fish products were valued at us$4.26 million in 2003.

FORESTRY

The forested area was estimated to cover 38.4% of the islands in 2000, but there is little useful timber on the islands.

MINING

There has been no mining in Kiribati since the closing of the Banaba phosphate industry, in 1979. In its last year of operation, 445,700 tons of phosphates worth us$18 million were exported.

ENERGY AND POWER

Kiribati has no known reserves of oil, natural gas, or coal. Thus imports are relied upon to meet any fossil fuel needs.

In 2002, imports and consumption of refined petroleum products each averaged 210 barrels per day. There were no imports of coal or natural gas in 2002.

The government maintains electricity-generating plants on Tarawa and Christmas Island, and there are private generators on Banaba and several other islands. In 2002, electric power generating capacity was 0.003 million kW, with production at 0.012 billion kWh. Consumption in that year came to 0.011 billion kWh. All electric power was generated from fossil fuels.

INDUSTRY

Several small industries have been established, including a soft drink plant, a biscuit factory, boat-building shops, construction companies, furniture plants, repair garages, bakeries, and laundries. The government also promotes local handicrafts. A pilot project on Kiritimati for producing solar-evaporated salt began operations in 1985. In 2000, this had declined to 0.7%, down from 1.2% in 1999. Construction was 2.7% of GDP in 2000, down from 4.6% in 1999.

There is not a lot of data pertaining to the country's industry, but in 1998 this sector was estimated to have a 7% share in the GDPas compared to the services sector which amounted to 63%. In 2001, the economically active population of Kiribati (excluding subsistence farmers) was 7,870.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

The Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific, founded in 1982 and located at Bairiki, Tarawa, provides technical assistance for agriculture and nutrition programs.

DOMESTIC TRADE

The domestic economy operates on a subsistence and barter basis. With very few local production or agricultural facilities, the nation relies heavily on imported goods of all types. Revenues from fishing licenses, worker remittances, and foreign assistance form the basis of the economy. Retail sales are handled by cooperative societies, which distribute the bulk of consumer goods and perform all merchandising functions not dealt with by the government. Although private trade is growing, cooperatives are preferred as a matter of public policy because they are closer to the local tradition than individual enterprises. Tourism is slowly growing as the main domestic economic activity.

FOREIGN TRADE

The loss of the phosphate industry, copra price fluctuations, and the islands' remoteness have hindered overseas trade, but an upward trend in foreign trade was perceptible in the 1980s. Coprathe only commodity exported by Kiribatiaccounted for 64% of total domestic exports in 1996. Fish and seaweed are also exported, accounting for 14% and 8% of total exports, respectively. Kiribati's main export partners are the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Australia provides 44% of imports; Fiji, 19%; Japan, 15%; New Zealand, 4%; and the United States and China, 5% each.

In 2002, Kiribati's exports amounted to $35 million (FOBFree on Board), while the imports rose to $83 million (CIFCost and Freight). In 2004, the bulk of exports went to France (45.7%), Japan (29.2%), the United States (9.1%), and Thailand (5.4%). Imports included foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, and fuel, and mainly came from Australia (33.6%), Fiji (29.8%), Japan (10.3%), New Zealand (6.9%), and France (4.1%).

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 9.1 41.0 -31.9
Bangladesh 4.7 4.7
United States 1.5 1.9 -0.4
Marshall Islands 1.1 1.1
Denmark 0.7 0.7
China, Hong Kong SAR 0.3 0.3
Australia 0.2 18.2 -18.0
Japan 0.1 6.1 -6.0
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account 1.4
     Balance on goods -21.1
         Imports -27.3
         Exports 6.1
     Balance on services 0.3
     Balance on income 14.8
     Current transfers 7.3
Capital Account 2.5
Financial Account -4.8
     Direct investment abroad -0.0
     Direct investment in Kiribati 0.4
     Portfolio investment assets -6.6
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets
     Other investment liabilities 1.4
Net Errors and Omissions -5.1
Reserves and Related Items 6.0
() data not available or not significant.

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Continued deficits in the trade balance are often met by grants from the United Kingdom to the government's current and capital accounts. Foreign aid, in fact, accounts for between 25% and 50% of GDP.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 1998, the purchasing power parity of Kiribati's exports was us$6 million, while imports totaled us$44 million, resulting in a trade deficit of us$38 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1994 Kiribati had exports of goods totaling us$6 million and imports totaling us$27 million. The services credit totaled us$18 million and debit us$17 million.

There was no data available on the exports and imports of goods and services, but the World Bank estimated that in 2003, Kiribati's resource balance reached -$77 million. The current account balance was also negative, at -$13 million, and the country had virtually no foreign exchange reserves.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

The Bank of Kiribati in Tarawa is jointly owned by the Westpac Banking Corp. (Australia) and the government of Kiribati (49%). The Kiribati Development Bank, opened in 1987, was to take over the assets of the National Loans Board when it became fully operational.

INSURANCE

Individual coverage is available in Tarawa through private and government agencies.

PUBLIC FINANCE

Local revenues are derived mainly from import duties, fishing fees, and investment income from the phosphate fund. The country has been running a capital account deficit since independence. Overall, budgetary deficits have appeared in recent years, growing substantially in the 1990s.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2000 Kiribati's central government took in revenues of approximately $28.4 million and had expenditures of $37.2 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$8.8 million. Total external debt was $10 million.

TAXATION

The main source of tax revenue, the phosphate industry, ended in 1979. Other taxes have brought meager returns, except for a copra export tax, with producers protected by a government stabilization fund. The Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund decreased from a$658 million at the end of 2000 to a$635 million at the end of 2001. This is equivalent to 10 years of imports or 8.2 times GDP.

A progressive income tax, introduced in 1975, is set at 25% of gross income above us$1,233 and increases in two steps to 35% on gross incomes over us$34,393. Companies are taxed 25% of net profits of the first us$34,393 and 35% on any net profits over this amount. The hotel tax is a flat rate of 10% of turnover. Withholding tax on dividends paid to overseas investors (except Australians) is 30%; withholding tax on dividends paid to Australians is 15%. Island councils levy local rates; a landowners' tax is based on land area and fertility.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

Since a single-line tariff was introduced on 1 January 1975, trade preferences are no longer granted to imports from Commonwealth countries. Tariffs, applying mostly to private imports, are imposed as a service of revenue at rates up to 75%. Most duties are levied ad valorem, with specific duties on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, certain chemicals, petroleum, cinematographer's film, and some other goods. Goods from all sources are subject to an additional freight levy charge.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Foreign investment legislation was passed in 1986. The Foreign Investment Commission (FIC) grants licenses on a case-by-case basis. Investments over us$171,790 must also be approved by the cabinet. Performance criteria regarding employment, training, and production are often set. Certain local industries are closed to foreign investment, including pig farming, poultry farming, millionaire salad exportation, domestic interisland shipping, and wholesaling. Endangered species are protected. Fisheries and the agricultural sector are not closed, but are subject to restrictions.

There has been little appreciable investment in recent years. Government statistics show a total of 21 approved foreign investments from 1995 to September 1997, whereas there were only five approved foreign investments the previous three years. In 2001, foreign direct investment (FDI) was a -us$426,000 and portfolio investment was a -us$5.7 million. Portfolio investment flows have been persistently negative, reaching a peak outflow of us$17.7 million in 1992. The main sectors for investment have been tourist-related activities, shipping, fishing ventures, and the processing and export of fish. The main sources of investments have been the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The economic development plans for 197982 and 198386 were financed chiefly by the United Kingdom and supplemented by Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, with loans from the Asian Development Bank. Canada, Germany, and the Republic of Korea also have started small aid programs. The government lays out National Development Plans at four-year intervals, the most recent plan covered 200004. The goals are set with expertise assistance from Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and international financial organizations, the country's primary sources of aid. The current National Development Plan sets priority on the development of fisheries and air transportation, including a proposal for a government airline. Other sectors emphasized are communications, agriculture, and tourism. Policies are aimed at improving education and training, increasing government revenues, increasing employment opportunities, and narrowing the trade deficit. It has been made illegal to sell land in Kiribati, but it may be leased. Concern about preserving traditional culture and the environment, and preventing the formation of a landless class, are as strong as aspirations for economic growth and participation in the cash economy. Of particular concern in this group of lowlying atolls is the effects of global warming, as a significant rise in the sea level could literally make much of the country disappear.

Economic development continued to be hampered by the fragmented structure of the country, a weak infrastructure, an uneducated workforce, and the remoteness from foreign markets. The main growth sector is tourism. Kiribati is dependent on foreign aid (which represents around 50% of the GDP), and on remittances sent back by people working abroad.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

A provident fund system provides old age, disability, and survivor benefits for all employees over 14 years old, with the exception of domestic workers. It is funded by employee contributions of 7.5%; employers pay an equal percentage of payroll. Retirement is allowed at ages 4550 and benefits are paid as a lump sum. Workers' compensation is available for some employed persons and the cost is covered by the employer. A funeral grant is provided if there are no eligible survivors.

Women are accorded the same legal rights as men, but have traditionally been relegated to a subordinate role in society. However, they are gradually breaking out of their traditional role and entering both skilled and unskilled occupations. There have also been signs of affirmative action in government hiring and promotions. Domestic violence is a significant problem, and alcohol abuse is often in a factor in violence against women. Child abuse appears to be a growing problem, although the government is committed to the welfare of children.

There were no reports of human rights abuses or of the systematic discrimination of minorities. Corporal punishment remains legal for some crimes.

HEALTH

All health services are free. A nurses' training school is maintained at the 160-bed Central Hospital in Tarawa. There are four medical districts, each with its own medical officer and staff. Each inhabited island has a dispensary, and there is a medical radio network linking all the islands. In 2004, there were an estimated 30 physicians, 235 nurses, and 5 dentists per 100,000 people. The population of Kiribati had increased access to safe water and sanitation.

Tuberculosis remains the most serious public health problem (about 200 cases per 100,000 people in 1990); other endemic diseases are leprosy, filariasis, and dysentery. There was a cholera outbreak in 1977, after which projects to construct water and sewage pipes were sped up. Vitamin A deficiency, frequently causing night blindness and xerophthalmia, is a common occurrence among children in Kiribati.

Infant mortality was estimated at 48.52 per 1,000 live births in 2002 and average life expectancy was 61.71 years. The immunization rates for a child under one year of age were as follows in 1995: diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough, 60%; polio, 100%; measles, 100%; and tuberculosis, 60%. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at 31.6 and 8.8 per 1,000 people respectively. The total fertility rate was estimated at 4.3 births per woman.

HOUSING

Most Kiribatians live in small villages of 10 to 150 houses and construct their own dwellings from local materials. The use of more permanent building materials, such as concrete with corrugated aluminum roofing, is becoming common in urban areas. Loans to prospective homeowners are provided by the National Loans Board. Dwellings range from traditional houses with thatched roofs to nontraditional houses with metal roofs.

EDUCATION

The government has gradually taken over control of primary education from the missions. Education has been made compulsory by the government for children between the ages of 6 and 15. They go through seven years of primary education and five years of secondary education. In 1997, there were 17,594 students attending 86 primary schools, with 727 teachers. The student-to-teacher ratio stood at 24:1. In secondary schools, there were 215 staff and 4,403 students in that same year. Secondary school pupils take the New Zealand school certificate. The estimated adult literacy rate is 93%.

Higher education courses are available at the Kiribati Extension Center of the University of the South Pacific (Fiji) in Tarawa. Other postsecondary education is provided by scholarships for study abroad. The Tarawa Technical Institute offers instruction in technical and vocational skills. The Marine Training Center offers 18month instruction in deck, engine room, and catering work on foreign shipping lines; there are approximately 200 students enrolled in these programs.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The National Library and Archives in Tarawa is the largest library in the country with a collection of 50,000 volumes, including those in small units throughout the islands. The University of the South Pacific has a campus in Tarawa with a small library of 5,700 volumes. The Kiribati Library and Information Network was formed in 2001 to promote libraries and the study and profession of library science in the nation. The Kiribati Cultural Centre in Bikenibeu houses the National Museum of Kiribati.

MEDIA

In 2002, there were 4,500 mainline telephones and 500 mobile phones in use across the country. Radio Kiribati, operated by the Broadcasting and Publications Authority (BPA), transmits daily in I-Kiribati and English and broadcasts a few imported Australian programs. As 2004, there were three radio stations, two of which were owned by the government. There were no national television stations in operation. Kiribati is on the Peacesat network, which provides educational transmissions from Suva. A satellite link with Australia was established in 1985. As of 1997, there were 17,000 radios and 1,000 televisions in use nationwide. In 2002, there were 2,000 Internet subscribers.

The BPA publishes a fortnightly bilingual newspaper, Te Uekera. There is no commercial press; all publications are governmentor church-sponsored. The Information Department at Tarawa publishes Atoll Pioneer, a weekly newspaper. Te Itoi ni Kiribati, a weekly newsletter, is published by the Roman Catholic Church. Te Kaotan te Ota is a newspaper published monthly by Protestant Church. The constitution provides for legally guaranteed freedom of speech and press.

ORGANIZATIONS

The most important organization is the mronron (meaning "sharing"), a cooperative society based on kinship or locality. There is a national Credit Union League and a teachers' union. National youth organizations include the Kiribati Students' Association, the Kiribati Scouts Association, and the Kiribati Girl Guides Associations. Sports clubs and associations represent amateur athletes in a variety of pastimes, including tennis, weightlifting, and track and field. There is a national chapter of the Red Cross Society.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

Tourism, although important to the economy of Kiribati, is very limited. There is a visitors' bureau at Tarawa, and there are hotels in Betio and on Abemama and Christmas islands. The bureau makes available fishing, swimming, and boating facilities on Tarawa and arranges trips by sea or air to other islands. Ecotourism and World War II battle sites are also attractions.

Popular sports in Kiribati are football (soccer) and weightlifting. Kiribati first competed in the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004. Traditional dancing and singing styles have survived.

In 2001, a total of 4,555 tourists visited Kiribati. Over 50% of these visitors came from East Asia. There were 162 hotel rooms in 2002. A valid passport, visa, onward/return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required to travel in Kiribati.

FAMOUS KIRIBATIANS

Ieremia Tabai (b.1950) was president from independence until 1991. Teburoro Tito (b.1953) was president and foreign minister from 1994 to 2003. Anote Tong (b.1952) became president in 2003.

DEPENDENCIES

Kiribati has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Graham, Michael B. Mantle of Heroism: Tarawa and the Struggle for the Gilberts, November 1943. Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1993.

Leibo, Steven A. East and Southeast Asia, 2005. 38th ed. Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: Stryker-Post Publications, 2005.

Piazza, Anne Di. Sailing Routes of Old Polynesia: The Prehistoric Discovery, Settlement and Abandonment of the Phoenix Islands. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 2004.

Smith, George W. Carlson's Raid: The Daring Marine Assault on Makin. Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 2001.

Wilson, Craig. Kiribati: State of the Environment Report, 1994. Apia, Western Samoa: South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, 1994.

Wright, Derrick. Tarawa, 2023 November 1943: A Hell of a Way to Die. Marlborough: Crowood Press, 2002.

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KIRIBATI

Republic of Kiribati

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

The Republic of Kiribati comprises 33 atolls in 3 principal island groups, scattered within an area of about 5 million square kilometers (2 million square miles) in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The 3 island groups are the Gilbert Islands, the Line Islands, and the Phoenix Islands. The country extends about 3,870 kilometers (2,400 miles) from east to west and about 2,050 kilometers (1,275 miles) from north to south and has a coastline of 1,143 kilometers (710 miles). The total land area is 717 square kilometers (277 square miles). The nearest neighbors are Nauru to the west, and Tuvalu and Tokelau to the south. The capital, Tarawa, is on the island of Bairiki. Bairiki is the most populous island with around 65,000 inhabitants. The nation's largest atoll is Kiritimati (Christmas Island)in the Line Islands group at the eastern extremityat 388 square kilometers (150 square miles). The smallest is Banaba Island in the west at 6 square kilometers (2.3 square miles).

POPULATION.

The population of Kiribati was estimated at 91,985 in July 2000. The current annual population growth rate is 2.34 percent, which will result in a population of 113,509 by 2010. The birth rate is 32.43 births per 1,000 population, and the fertility rate is 4.4 births per woman. The death rate is 9.01 deaths per 1,000 population. There is little or no migration to or from Kiribati. Partly because of sanitation problems caused by the lack of fresh water, as well as heavy pollution in the lagoon of South Tarawa, Kiribati has a high infant morality rate of 55.36 deaths per 1,000 live births (compared to the U.S. rate of 7 deaths per 1,000 live births).

The people are known locally as I-Kiribati. The population structure is biased toward the younger age groups, with some 41 percent of the population aged less than 15, while just 3 percent are over the age of 64. Most Kiribati are ethnically Micronesian (78 percent). The population is mainly urban and more than two-thirds (65,000) live on Tarawa atoll.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

The Gilbert Islands were granted self-rule by the United Kingdom in 1971 and complete independence in 1979 under a new name, Kiribati. The United States relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a 1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati, thus giving the island nation its present geographic composition. The economy of Kiribati is small, and growth prospects are limited by the nation's remote location, poor infrastructure , poor soil, unskilled labor force , and lack of natural resources. Marine resources offer the greatest potential for the development of an independent, sustainable economy. Interest earned from the phosphate reserve fund is the nation's main source of foreign exchange. Prior to independence, it was realized that the phosphate resources of Kiribati were limited, and instead of using the royalty revenues from phosphate mining for immediate expenditures, they were placed in a trust fund, the Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund (RERF). The interest income from the investment of this trust fund has been available for expenditure by the Kiribati government since independence in 1979. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted by the time of independence. Other sources of foreign exchange include some commodity exports (copra [coconut meat], seaweed, and fish), licensing income from fishing, and remittances from Kiribati citizens working for international shipping lines. The financial sector is at an early stage of development, as are private initiatives in other sectors. Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets.

Kiribati has a modest income level that places it among the poorer countries in the world's lower middle-income group. The agricultural base, including subsistence production, is narrow and generated 14 percent of GDP in 1996. Copra is the only important cash crop , and commercial fishing (mainly tuna) is undertaken by the small fleet of the national fishing company. The agriculture sector (including fishing) is the occupation of the majority of the working population and accounted for 71 percent of employment in 1990, though most of this employment was self-employment on small family farms. The industrial sector contributed 7 percent of GDP in 1996 (of which manufacturing was 1 percent) and the services sector contributed 79 percent. The main service activity is the government sector, with trade and hotels accounting for 14 percent of GDP. Tourism remains underdeveloped, although it has the potential to become the second largest sector after fisheries. Kiribati's extremely limited export base and dependence on imports for almost all essential commodities result in a permanent (and widening) trade deficit , which is in most years only partially offset by revenues from fishing license fees, interest earned on the RERF, and remittances from Kiribati working overseas.

The government has earmarked Christmas and Fanning islands in the Line group and Canton Island in the Phoenix group as prime areas for future development. There is little open unemployment in the sense of people being unable to find some gainful employment if they so wish, and unemployment is estimated at around 2 percent of the workforce. However, there is evidence of underemployment , with the workforce engaged for perhaps only 30 percent of the hours that might be considered normal in a working week.

Foreign financial aid is a critical supplement to GDP, equal to 25 to 50 percent of GDP since independence in 1979. Initially the United Kingdom was the largest aid donor, but has now been overtaken by some of Kiribati's Pacific Ocean neighbors. Grants from principal donors amounted to an estimated US$20.7 million in 1998, of which US$5.7 million was from Japan, US$4.5 million from Australia, and US$4.3 million from New Zealand. The country is particularly reliant on foreign assistance for its development budget. Remittances from workers abroad account for more than US$5 million each year.

The government is involved in all aspects of the economyits spending accounts for 71.5 percent of GDPand it is taking measures to expand the private sector and develop the fledgling industrial sector. The poor performance of most public enterprises burdens the budget and adversely effects economic efficiency. Unfortunately, little progress has been made in implementing the government's Medium Term Strategy, which focuses on reducing the role of the public sector by freezing civil service recruitment, reducing government spending, improving the accountability of public enterprises, and introducing privatization .

The sale of fishing licenses to foreign fleets provides an important source of income. Revenues from the sale of fishing licenses amounted to more than half of GDP in 1998. Mining of phosphate rock on the island of Banaba (which ceased in 1979) formerly provided some 80 percent of earnings. As well as providing foreign exchange, interest from the phosphate reserve fund, RERF, continues to be an important source of budgetary income. The value of the fund was put at US$380 million at the end of 1998, and generates around US$20 million a year in revenues from interest.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Kiribati is an independent republic and a member of the British Commonwealth. The president is head of state and chief executive, and leads a cabinet made up of a vice-president, attorney-general, and 8 ministers. The president appoints the ministers, while the president is elected nationally from several candidates nominated by the House of Assembly (Maneaba-ni-Maungatabu). The House of Assembly consists of 41 members, elected every 4 years. Local councils have considerable autonomy in the management of local affairs.

Kiribati is governed by a constitution adopted in 1979. The first general election since independence took place in March-April 1982. The current president is Teburoro Tito, who was first elected in 1994 and reelected in November 1998.

The Kiribati government aims to improve the growth performance of the country by encouraging new businesses and attracting new foreign companies through designation of "pioneer status." Any company that wishes to establish a business in Kiribati may apply to the Internal Revenue Board for "pioneer status". This allows for a reduced company tax rate of 10 percent for 5 years with the exceptions of business operations on South Tarawa and Christmas Islands. In addition, the government hopes to encourage diversification of the economy and is introducing reforms (such as privatization) to improve the efficiency of the economy.

There is personal income tax , which is set at 25 percent of gross income for the first US$36,000 and at 35 percent for amounts in excess of this. Normal company tax is based on a flat rate of 25 percent of net profit for the first US$36,000 and 35 percent for amounts above this. Tax on dividends paid to overseas investors is 30 percent, except for dividends paid to an Australian resident, where the rate is 15 percent.

Because of the high population density on South Tarawa was giving rise to social and economic problems, it was announced in 1988 that nearly 5,000 inhabitants were to be resettled on outlying atolls, mainly in the Line Islands. A further resettlement program from South Tarawa to 5 islands in the Phoenix group was initiated in 1995. Another important issue is a 1989 UN report on the "greenhouse effect" (the heating of the earth's atmosphere, and a resultant rise in the sea-level), which listed Kiribati as one of the countries that would completely disappear beneath the sea in the 21st century unless drastic measures are taken. None of the land on the islands is more than 2 meters above sea level, making the country extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The current president, Teburoro Tito, declared that reducing Kiribati's dependence on foreign aid would be a major objective for his government. He also announced his intention to pursue civil and criminal action against members of the previous administration for alleged misuse of public funds while in office.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

The infrastructure of Kiribati is quite rudimentary. Whenever practicable, roads are built on all atolls, and connecting causeways between islets are also being built as funds and labor permit. A program to construct causeways between North and South Tarawa was completed in the mid-1990s. Kiribati has about 640 kilometers (398

Communications
Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Kiribati 2,000 N/A AM 1; FM 1; shortwave 1 17,000 1 1,000 1 1,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Philippines 1.9 M 1.959 M (1998) AM 366; FM 290; shortwave 3 (1999) 11.5 M 31 3.7 M 33 500,000
Solomon Islands 8,000 658 AM 3; FM 0; shortwave 0 57,000 0 3,000 1 3,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

miles) of roads that are suitable for motor vehicles. All-weather roads exist in Tarawa and Kiritimati. In 1998, there were some 2,000 motor vehicles registered in the islands, of which some 75 percent were motorcycles.

In early 1998, work began on a major project to rehabilitate the port terminal and facilities at Betio. Financing for the project, with expected completion by mid-2000, was funded by a grant from Japan of US$22 million. There is a small network of canals, totaling 5 kilometers (3.1 miles), in Line Islands as well as ports and harbors such as Banaba, Betio, English Harbor, and Kanton. There are 21 airports, 4 of them with paved run-ways. Only Tarawa and Christmas Island are served by international flights.

Electricity production and consumption was equal to 7 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 1998, 100 percent of which is produced from imported fossil fuels.

Kiribati has an earth satellite station, 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean). Kiribati is being linked to the Pacific Ocean Cooperative Telecommunications Network, which should improve the telephone service. In 1995, it was estimated that there were 2,600 main telephone lines in use. There is 1 shortwave radio station, 1 AM station, and 1 FM station broadcasting to 17,000 radios, according to 1997 estimates. There is 1 television broadcast station and 1,000 televisions.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

The majority of the populationan estimated 79 percentdepends on subsistence fishing and agriculture for its livelihood. Fishing and agriculture together contributed only 14 percent of GDP in 1996, however. The private sector of the economy is small, and there are few manufacturing activities. Industry contributed just 7 percent of GDP in 1996. Government services are the biggest portion of the services sector, which contributed a total of 79 percent of GDP in 1996. The country is heavily reliant on overseas aid for government administration, education, health, and the development of infrastructure. One of the government's main priorities is to reduce reliance on foreign aid through developing a more efficient economy.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture (including fishing) employed 79 percent of the working population and contributed an estimated 14 percent of GDP in 1996. Much agricultural production goes to provide food for the families producing it. The major agricultural products are copra, taro, bread-fruit, sweet potatoes, and vegetables; fishing is another major source of food for I-Kiribati. The principal cash crop is coconuts yielding copra, which accounted for an estimated 60 percent of merchandise export earnings in 1998. Bananas, screw-pine, breadfruit (a round seedless fruit from the mulberry family whose texture resembles bread when cooked), and papaya are also cultivated as food crops. Seaweed provided an estimated 8 percent of domestic export earnings in 1998. Pigs, chickens, and cattle are the most common agricultural livestock. Most of the land is farmed, and agriculture accounts for 51 percent of land-usage.

Average annual rainfall varies greatly, from 3,000 millimeters (118 inches) in the northern islands to 1,500 millimeters (59 inches) in Tarawa and 700 millimeters (28 inches) in the Line Islands, but the rains are reliable and sufficient to provide stable agricultural conditions.

The closure of the state fishing company was announced in 1991, as a result of a dramatic decline in the fish catch. Fish provided only 2 percent of export earnings in 1996 (compared with 32 percent in 1990). However, earnings from exports of fish had recovered to an estimated 12 percent of domestic export earnings by 1998. Agricultural GDP grew at an average annual rate of 4.1 percent in 1990-98, comfortably faster than the rate of increase of the population. Kiribati allows other nations such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States to fish in its territorial waters in exchange for license fees that amounted to US$28.3 million in 1998.

INDUSTRY

Industry (including manufacturing, construction, and power) contributed an estimated 7 percent of GDP in 1996. Industrial GDP increased by an average of 4.2 percent per year in the period 1990-98. Kiribati's industry is quite limited and mainly consists of fishing processing and handicrafts for tourists and for export.

SERVICES

Services provided 79 percent of GDP in 1996. The GDP of the services sector increased at an annual average rate of 4.2 percent between 1990 and 1998. Tourism makes a significant contribution to the economy, with the trade and hotels sector providing an estimated 15 percent of GDP in 1998. Between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors per year provide US$5 to US$10 million in revenues. Attractions include World War II battle sites, game fishing, ecotourism , and the Millennium Islands, situated just inside the International Date Line and the first place on earth to celebrate each New Year.

The financial sector is heavily reliant on 1 commercial bank, the Bank of Kiribati. Modern expertise is provided by the majority shareholder, the Westpac Banking Corporation of Australia, which owns 51 percent, while the government of Kiribati owns 49 percent. The bank has 3 branches and provides checking and savings accounts, makes loans to individuals and businesses, provides financial facilities for international trade (such as letters of credit), and undertakes foreign exchange dealings. However, the bank provides no credit card facilities. The only other bank is the Kiribati Development Bank, which lends to small-scale businesses.

The retail sector consists mainly of small outlets, with a few supermarkets and department stores, mostly owned by Australian companies, in the capital, Tarawa.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

As a result of its small size and its negligible manufacturing sector, Kiribati relies heavily upon products produced in other countries. The main imports include foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, and fuel. The main exports of Kiribati are copra (62 percent of the total), seaweed, and fish. Kiribati's main export destinations are the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, while the main origins of imports are Australia (46 percent), Fiji, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States. In 1998, the country had exports of US$6 million and imports of US$37 million.

MONEY

The Australian dollar (A$) is the legal currency of Kiribati. The value of the A$ fluctuates against the value of other world currencies. The Bank of Kiribati is responsible for the majority of the available financial services. In December 1997, its total assets amounted to US$26.1 million, of which deposits were US$23.3 million and reserves amounted to US$0.9 million. The Development Bank of Kiribati identifies, promotes, and finances small-scale projects, and its capital amounts to

Exchange rates: Kiribati
Australian dollars (A$) per US$1
Jan 2001 1.7995
2000 1.7173
1999 1.5497
1998 1.5888
1997 1.3439
1996 1.2773
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

US$1.33 million. There is also a network of small-scale lending agencies known as "village banks" operating throughout the islands.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Only 2 percent of the working population is registered as unemployed, and poverty (as defined by the US$1 a day poverty line) is virtually unknown. Using the purchasing power parity conversion (which takes into account the low prices of many basic commodities in Kiribati, and which is the best indication of living standards) annual income per capita was US$860 in 1999 (in the United States, by way of comparison, it was US$33,900).

Education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15. Every atoll is provided with at least 1 primary school. The adult literacy rate was estimated at 90 percent in 1993-95. There are about 200 seamen trained each year by the Marine Training Center for employment by overseas shipping companies. In 1998, education was allocated US$7.8 million (22.5 percent of total budgetary expenditures).

The government maintains a free medical service. Each atoll has a dispensary, with a medical assistant in charge. In 1982, Kiribati had 34 government-controlled hospital establishments, with a total of 308 hospital beds. Life expectancy is 60 years (in the United States, by way

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Kiribati 800 N/A N/A 860 850
United States 28,600 30,200 31,500 33,900 36,200
Philippines 2,600 3,200 3,500 3,600 3,800
Solomon Islands 3,000 3,000 2,600 2,650 2,000
Note: Data are estimates.
SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th editions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.

of comparison, it is 76). In 1999, a major public health project, involving the improvement of water supply and sanitation, was undertaken with a loan of some US$10 million from the Asian Development Bank.

WORKING CONDITIONS

The society of Kiribati is egalitarian, democratic, and respectful of human rights. There have been no reports of human rights abuses. However, in the traditional culture, women occupy a subordinate role and have limited job opportunities.

The Kiribati Trades Union Congress (KTUC) was formed in 1998 and includes 2,500 members affiliated with other unions, of which the most important are the Fishermen's Union, the Seamen's Union, and the Teachers' Union. Workers are free to organize unions and choose their own representatives. The government does not control or restrict unions. More than 80 percent of the workforce is occupied in fishing or subsistence farming , but the small wage sector has a relatively strong and effective trade union movement.

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it is not practiced. The prohibition does not specifically mention children, but the practice of forced and bonded labor by children does not occur. The law prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14. Children through the age of 15 are prohibited from industrial employment and employment aboard ships. Women may not work at night except under specified circumstances. Labor officers from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Employment normally enforce these laws effectively, given the rudimentary conditions of the economy and its industrial relations system.

The government has taken no concrete action to implement longstanding legislation authorizing the establishment of minimum wages. There is no legislatively prescribed length to the working week. The government is the major employer in the cash economy. Employment laws provide rudimentary health and safety standards for the workplace. Employers must, for example, provide an adequate supply of clean water for workers and ensure the existence of sanitary toilet facilities. Employers are liable for the expenses of workers injured on the job. The government's ability to enforce employment laws is hampered by a lack of qualified personnel.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

0-100 A.D. Kiribati begins to be settled by Austrone-sian-speaking peoples.

1300. Fijians and Tongans arrive during the 14th century and subsequently merge with the already established groups to form the traditional I-Kiribati Micronesian society and culture.

1837. First British settlers arrive.

1892. British protectorate is established.

1915-16. Gilbert and Ellice Islands become a Crown Colony of Great Britain.

1919. Kiritimati (Christmas) Atoll becomes a part of the Crown Colony.

1937. Phoenix Islands becomes a part of the Crown Colony.

1941-45. Tarawa and other islands of the Gilbert group occupied by Japan during World War II. Tarawa is the site of one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine Corps history when Marines land in November 1943 to dislodge Japanese defenders.

1975. The Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands separate and the Ellice Islands are granted internal self-government (as Tuvalu) by Britain.

1979. Kiribati becomes independent on 12 July.

1995. Kiribati unilaterally moves the international date line to the east, so that all of Kiribati's islands are in the same date zone.

1999. Kiribati gains United Nations membership.

FUTURE TRENDS

Kiribati's economic prospects are limited by its small size in terms of both geographical area and population, its remote location, and the absence of any valuable mineral resources now that the phosphate deposits are exhausted. The population size not only means that there is not a domestic market of sufficient size to support any serious manufacturing, but that there is limited provision of services. There is only 1 bank, and as a monopoly , its services will tend to be expensive and the range of services limited.

On the positive side, Kiribati has a tropical location with good facilities for an expansion of tourism. Moreover, the marine fishing resources are excellent and can provide for expanded local production and employment and even be the basis of some manufacturing, such as fish processing and canning. Finally, the national revenue from the phosphate fund remains a vital, and secure, source of foreign exchange.

However, to make the most of its tourism and fishing grounds, it is important that Kiribati attract foreign investment into these sectors. The fishing is large-scale and requires expensive fishing fleets together with equipment and installations for storage. Tourism needs high-quality hotels and international marketing. The current development plan recognizes these needs, but it remains to be seen how successful Kiribati will be in implementing the plan. A recent initiative is the agreement to lease land on Christmas Island to the Japanese National Space Agency, who will build a space shuttle launch facility there. Under the arrangement Kiribati will be paid just under $1 million a year in leasing fees. A research project is under way to use coconut oil to power internal combustion engines for electricity generation, and this may well contribute to energy self-sufficiency, as will the expansion of solar power on the outlying islands.

Overall, Kiribati can be expected to maintain its lower middle-income status in the immediate future, but its long-term growth prospects depend on its ability to expand tourism and undertake more of the exploitation of its fishing grounds rather than licensing foreign fleets.

DEPENDENCIES

Kiribati has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Asian Development Bank. Kiribati: 1997 Economic Report. Manila: Asian Development Bank, 1998.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Kiribati. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

"Kiribati and the IMF." International Monetary Fund. <http://www.imf.org/external/country/KIR/index.htm>. Accessed September 2001.

Pacific Island Business Network. Kiribati: Country Profile. <http:// pidp.ewc.hawaii.edu/pibn/countries/Kiribati.htm>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http:// www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Kiribati. <http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1998_hrp_report/kiribati.html>. Accessed September 2001.

Oygal Musakhanova

CAPITAL:

Tarawa.

MONETARY UNIT:

Australian dollar (A$). One Australian dollar equals 100 cents. There are notes of A$5, 10, 20, 50, and 100. There are coins of A$1 and 2, and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Copra, seaweed, fish.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Food, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, fuels.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$74 million (1999 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$6 million (1998 est.). Imports: US$37 million (1998 est.).

views updated

KIRIBATI

Compiled from the November 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.




Official Name:
Republic of Kiribati




PROFILE
GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-KIRIBATI RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 719 sq. km (266 sq. mi.) in 32 atolls and one island.

Cities: Capital—Tarawa (pop. 30,000).

Terrain: Archipelagos of low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs.

Climate: Maritime equatorial or tropical.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—I-Kiribati (for both singular and plural).

Population: 90,000. Age structure—41% under 15; 3% over 65.

Growth rate: 2.5%.

Ethnic groups: Micronesian 98%.

Religion: Roman Catholic 53%, Kiribati Protestant 39%.

Languages: English (official), Gilbertese/I-Kiribati (de facto).

Health: Life expectancy—male 58 yrs, female 64 yrs. Infant mortality rate—1.3/1,000.

Work force: Majority engaged in subsistence activities.


Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: (from U.K.) July 12, 1979.

Constitution: July 12, 1979.

Branches: Executive—president (head of state and government, known as Te Beretitenti), vice president, cabinet. Legislative—unicameral House of Assembly. Judicial—High Court, Court of Appeal, Magistrates' Courts.

Major political parties: Parties are only very loosely organized—Maneaban Te Mauri (Protect the Maneaba), National Progressive Party, Liberal Party.


Economy

(all figures in U.S.$)

GDP: $58.4 million.

GNP: (GDP + investment income, fishing license fees, and seamen's remittances) $96.7 million.

GDP per capita: $663.

GDP composition by sector: Services 75%, agriculture 14%, industry 11%.

Industry: Types—tourism, copra, fish.

Trade: Exports—$33.5 million: copra, pet fish, seaweed. Export markets—Japan, Thailand, Korea, U.S. Imports—$87.2 million: food, manufactured goods. Import sources—Japan, Australia, France, Fiji, New Zealand.

External debt: $4 million.

Currency: Australian dollar (A$).


GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE

Kiribati (pronounced "keer-ih-bahs") consists of 32 low-lying atolls and one raised island scattered over an expanse of ocean equivalent in size to the continental United States. The islands straddle the Equator and lie roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The three main groupings are the Gilbert Islands, Phoenix Islands, and Line Islands. In 1995 Kiribati unilaterally moved the International Date Line to include its easternmost islands, making it the same day throughout the country.

Kiribati includes Kiritimati (Christmas Island), the largest coral atoll in the world, and Banaba (Ocean Island), one of the three great phosphate islands in the Pacific. Except on Banaba, very little land is more than three meters above sea level.

The original inhabitants of Kiribati are Gilbertese, a Micronesian people. Approximately 90% of the population of Kiribati lives on the atolls of the Gilbert Islands. Although the Line Islands are about 2000 miles east of the Gilbert Islands, most inhabitants of the Line Islands are also Gilbertese. Owing to an annual population growth rate of around 2.5% and severe overcrowding in the capital on South Tarawa, a program of migration has been implemented to move nearly 5,000 inhabitants to outlying atolls, mainly in the Line Islands. The Phoenix Islands have never had any permanent population. A British effort to settle Gilbertese there in the 1930's failed due to lack of water. A new program of settlement to the Phoenix Islands was begun in 1995.




HISTORY

The I-Kiribati people settled what would become known as the Gilbert Islands between 1000 and 1300 AD. Subsequent invasions by Fijians and Tongans introduced Micronesian and Polynesian elements to the Micronesian culture, but extensive intermarriage has produced a population reasonably homogeneous in appearance and traditions.

European contact began in the 16th century. Whalers, slave traders, and merchant vessels arrived in great numbers in the 1800s, fomenting local tribal conflicts and introducing often fatal European diseases. In an effort to restore a measure of order, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (the Ellice Islands are now known as Tuvalu) consented to becoming British protectorates in 1892. Banaba (Ocean Island) was annexed in 1900 after the discovery of phosphate-rich guano deposits, and the entire collection was made a British colony in 1916. The Line and Phoenix Islands were incorporated piecemeal over the next 20 years.

Japan seized the islands during World War II. In November 1943, U.S. forces assaulted heavily fortified Japanese positions on Tarawa Atoll in the Gilberts, resulting in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific campaign. The battle was a turning point in the Central Pacific.

Britain began expanding self-government in the islands during the 1960s. In 1975 the Ellice Islands separated from the colony and in 1978 became the independent country of Tuvalu. The Gilberts obtained internal self-government in 1977, and formally became an independent nationon July 12, 1979, under the name of Kiribati.

Post-independence politics were initially dominated by Ieremia Tabai, Kiribati's first president, who served from 1979 to 1991, stepping down due to Kiribati's three-term limit for presidents. Teburoro Tito's tenure as president, 1994-2003, also was curtailed by the three-term limit, though in his case his third term lasted only a matter of months before he lost a no confidence motion in Parliament. (Note: See the next section for an explanation of Kiribati's unique presidential system.) In July 20003, Anote Tong defeated his elder brother, Harry Tong, who was backed by former-President Tito and his allies. An ensuing court challenge which alleged violations of campaign finance laws could have unseated President Tong. However, in October 2003, a judge specially brought in from Australia to ensure strict neutrality, ruled in President Tong's favor.




GOVERNMENT

The Constitution promulgated at independence establishes Kiribati as a sovereign democratic republic and guarantees the fundamental rights of its citizens.


The unicameral House of Assembly (Maneaba) has 42 members: 40 elected representatives, one appointed member from Banaba island, and the Attorney General on an ex officio basis. All of the members of the Maneaba serve 4-year terms. The speaker for the legislature is elected by the Maneaba from outside of its membership and is not a voting member of Parliament.

After each general election, the new Maneaba nominates at least three but not more than four of its members to stand as candidates for president, locally referred to as "His Excellency Te Beretitenti." The voting public then elects the president from among these candidates. A cabinet of up to 10 members is appointed by the president from among the members of the Maneaba. Although popularly elected, the president can be deposed by a majority vote in Parliament. In this case, a new election for President must be held. A person can serve as president for only three terms, no matter how short each term is. As a result of this provision, former Presidents Tabai and Tito are constitutionally forbidden from serving as president again.

The judicial system consists of the High Court, a court of appeal, and magistrates' courts. All judicial appointments are made by the president.


Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 8/29/03


President: Tong, Atone

Vice President: Onorio, Teima

Min. for Commerce, Industry, & Cooperatives: Redfern, Ioteba

Min. for Communications, Transport, & Tourism Development: Teewe, Naatan

Min. for Education, Youth, & Sport Development: Onorio, Teima

Min. for Environment, Lands, & Agricultural Development: Tofinga, Martin

Min. for Finance & Economic Development: Mwemwenikarawa, Nabuti

Min. for Foreign Affairs: Tong, Atone

Min. for Health & Medical Services: Kirata, Natanera

Min. for Human Resources Development: Tongaai, Bauro

Min. for Internal Affairs & Social Development: Nikora, Amberoti

Min. for the Line and Phoenix Islands: Temoku, Tawita

Min. for Natural Resources Development: Nakara, Tetabo

Min. for Public Works & Utilities: Taom, James




POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Political parties exist but are more similar to in formal coalitions in behavior. They do not have official platforms or party structures. Most candidates formally present themselves as independents. Campaigning is by word of mouth and informal gatherings in traditional meeting houses.

While he is head of a minority party, President Anote Tong enjoys a comfortable majority in Parliament. The biggest political issue today is finding employment opportunities for a crowded and growing population. In 2003, the losses incurred by government-owned Air Kiribati became a major political issue as well.

An emotional issue has been the protracted bid by the residents of Banaba Island to secede and have their island placed under the protection of Fiji. Because Banaba was devastated by phosphate mining, the vast majority of Banabans moved to the island of Rabi in the Fiji Islands in the 1940s. They enjoy full Fiji citizenship. The Kiribati Government has responded by including several special provisions in the Constitution, such as the designation of a Banaban seat in the legislature and the return of land previously acquired by the government for phosphate mining. Only 200-300 people remain on Banaba.




ECONOMY

Kiribati's per capita GNP of less than U.S.$1,000 makes it one of the poorest countries in the world. Phosphates had been profitably exported from Banaba Island since the turn of the century, but the deposits were exhausted in 1979.

The end of phosphate revenue in 1979 had a devastating impact on the economy. Receipts from phosphates had accounted for roughly 80% of export earnings and 50% of government revenue. Per capita GDP was more than cut in half between 1979 and 1981. A trust fund financed by phosphate earnings over the years—the Revenue Equal ization Reserve Fund—still exists and contained more than U.S.$400 million in 2003. Kiribati has received high marks for

its prudent management of the Reserve Fund, which is vital for the long-term welfare of the country.

In one form or another, Kiribati gets a large portion of its income from abroad. Examples include fishing licenses, development assistance, worker remittances, and tourism. In particular, about 2000 I-Kiribati work as sailors on foreign merchant ships. Given Kiribati's limited domestic production ability, it must import nearly all of its essential foodstuffs and manufactured items, and it depends on these external sources of income for financing.

Fishing fleets from South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, and the United States pay licensing fees to operate in Kiribati's territorial waters. These licenses produce revenue worth U.S.$20 to $35 million annually. Due to its small land mass and huge maritime area, however, Kiribati also loses untold millions of dollars per year from illegal, unlicensed fishing in its exclusive economic zone.

Another U.S.$20 million to $25 million of external income takes the form of direct financial transfers. Official development assistance amounts to between U.S.$15 million and $20 million per year. The largest donors are Japan, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. In addition, Taiwan is widely expected to become an important bilateral donor in the coming years. U.S. assistance is provided through multilateral institutions. Remittances from Kiribati workers living abroad provide more than $7.5 million annually.


Tourism is a relatively small, but important domestic sector. Between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors per year provide U.S.$5-$10 million in revenue. Attractions include World War II battle sites, game fishing, ecotourism, and the Millennium Islands, situated just inside the International Date Line and the first place on earth to celebrate New Year. The vast majority of American tourists only visit Christmas Island in the Line Islands on fishing and diving vacations via weekly charter flights from Honolulu.

Most islanders engage in subsistence activities ranging from fishing to the growing of food crops like bananas, breadfruit, and papaya. The leading export is the coconut product, copra, which accounts for about two-thirds of export revenue. Currently, copra is exported to Bangladesh for processing, but there are plans to process copra in Tarawa. Other exports include pet fish, shark fins, and seaweed. Kiribati's principal trading partners are Australia and Japan.

Transportation and communications are a challenge for Kiribati. International air links to the capital of Tarawa are provided only by a money-losing service by Air Kiribati and by the near-bankrupt Air Nauru. Air Kiribati provides service to most of the populated atolls in the Gilberts using small planes flying from Tarawa. Small ships serve outlying islands, including in the Line Islands, with irregular schedules. Hawaiian Air flies to Christmas Island once a week. It is not possible to travel from the Line Islands to the Gilbert Islands by air without traveling via Hawaii and either Fiji or the Marshall Islands.

Telecommunications are expensive, and service is mediocre. There is no broadband. The monopoly internet provider on Tarawa is one of the most expensive in the world.




FOREIGN RELATIONS

Kiribati maintains friendly relations with most countries and has particularly close ties to its Pacific neighbors—Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Under President Tito, Kiribati had particularly close relations with China and allowed Beijing to establish a satellite tracking station on South Tarawa. In November 2003, however, President Tong announced the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It is expected that China, with whom Kiribati has had diplomatic relations since the early 1980s, will break relations in response. The future of China's tracking station is unclear. Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom maintain resident diplomatic missions in Kiribati.




U.S.-KIRIBATI RELATIONS

Relations between Kiribati and the United States are excellent. Kiribati signed a treaty of friendship with the United States after independence in 1979. The United States has no consular or diplomatic facilities in the country. Officers of the American Embassy in Suva, Fiji, are concurrently accredit ed to Kiribati and make periodic visits. The U.S. Peace Corps has maintained a program in Kiribati since 1967. Currently there are about 50 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in the county.

Kiribati became a member of the United Nations in 1999, but does not maintain a resident ambassador in New York. In September 2003, President Tong requested authority from Parliament to establish a UN mission. Kiribati also is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth, International Monetary Fund, the Pacific Community, and the World Bank. Kiribati is particularly active in the Pacific Islands Forum. The only Kiribati diplomatic missions overseas are a high commission in Fiji and an honorary consulate in Honolulu.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Suva, Fiji (E), 31 Loftus St. • P.O. Box 218, Tel [679] 331-4466, Fax 330-0081; EXEC Fax 330-3872; CON Fax 330-2267; ADM Fax 330-5106; DAO Fax 331-2603; PAO Fax 330-8685. E-mail: [email protected]


AMB: David L. Lyon
AMB OMS: Rosmary M. Patterson
DCM: Hugh M. Neighbour
POL/ECO: Edmond E. Seay III
ECO/COM: John Emery
CON: Kirk Lindly
MGT: Jeffery Robertson
DAO: MAJ Matthew P. Bragg, USMC
FAA: Chris Metts (res. Tokyo)
IRS: Karen Sena (res. Singapore)
DEA: Gene Susimoto (res. Canberra)
RSO: Wade Burton
IRM: Ryan C. Rhea
GSO: Emily A. Mestetsky

Last Modified: Monday, December 15, 2003




TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
August 8, 2003


Country Description: The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced kir-ree-bas) is an island group in the Western Pacific Ocean, consisting of an archipelago of some 30 low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs with a total land area of 800 square kilometers. Kiribati gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Kiribati has an elected President and a legislative assembly. Tarawa is the capital of Kiribati. Kiribati includes three administrative units, sixteen atolls of the former Gilbert Islands, eight atolls of the former Line Islands (including Christmas Island and Fanning Island), and eight atolls of the former Phoenix Islands. Kiribati has few natural resources, and its economy is very small. The islands are not self-sufficient in food. Tourist facilities are not widely available.

Entry Requirements: A valid U.S. passport with a minimum of six months validity until expiration date, proof of sufficient funds, onward/return ticket and a visa are required. Kiribati strictly enforces it immigration/visa requirements. Westerners, including Americans, have been detained for visa violations. Visa requirements include one application form, and a visa issuance fee of $25 for a single entry visa and $40 for a multiple entry visa. Photos are not required, however, if the visa is issued by mail, a photocopy of the picture page of the passport must be submitted with the visa application. There is no Embassy of Kiribati in the United States, but there is a Consulate of Kiribati in Hawaii, which is the only Kiribati Consular Representative in North America. For more information on entry requirements, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati, 95 Nakolo Place, Rm. 265, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819, tel. (808)834-6775, fax (808)834-7604, or via e-mail [email protected]

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Safety and Security: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet website at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

The Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use tollfree numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.


Crime Information: The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Majuro, the Marshall Islands. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S.

Embassy, which is located in Majuro, the Marshall Islands. The Embassy/Consular staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs' website at http://travel.state.gov.


Medical Facilities: Health facilities in Kiribati are not comparable to U.S. health standards.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.


Other Health Information: All water should be regarded as a potential health risk. Visitors should therefore refrain from drinking any water that is not bottled, boiled or otherwise sterilized. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit should be peeled before eating. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's website at www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kiribati is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:


Safety of Public Transportation: Poor

Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor

Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor

Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor


Traffic moves on the left side of the road. Roads in urban Tarawa and Christmas Island, while satisfactory in some areas, are generally in need of repair. After heavy rains, some road sections experience temporary flooding. Vehicle traffic proceeds at a relatively slow rate. Drinking and driving is a common practice, especially on the weekends. Since visibility is poor with no streetlights, drivers should be careful when driving at night.


For specific information concerning Kiribati driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, HI.


Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the United States and Kiribati, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Kiribati's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.


For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.


The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Customs Regulations: Kiribati's customs authorities strictly prohibit the importation of firearms, ammunition, explosives and indecent publications. Strict quarantine laws govern the import of any part of plants, fruits, vegetables, soil, as well as animals and animal products. Visitors are not allowed to export human remains, artifacts that are 30 or more years old, traditional fighting swords, traditional tools, dancing ornaments or suits of armor. For more information, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, HI.


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under the U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kiribati's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kiribati are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.


Special Circumstances: In Kiribati, the Australian dollar is the legal currency. Traveler's checks and all major currencies are accepted by banks and may also be exchanged for local currency at some local hotels. Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most hotels.


Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/nchildren's_issues.html or telephone the Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747. The OCS call center can answer general inquiries regarding international adoptions and will forward calls to the appropriate country officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use tollfree numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.


Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living in or visiting Kiribati are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Fiji, whose consular district includes Kiribati. The U.S. Embassy is located at 31 Loftus Street in the capital city of Suva. The telephone number is (679) 331-4466, and the fax number is (679) 330-2267. The Embassy website can be accessed via the Internet at http://www.amembassy-fiji.gov.


This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated July 18, 2002, to update the sections on Entry Requirements, Other Health Information and Children's Issues and to add the section on Safety and Security.

views updated

Kiribati

PROFILE
GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-KIRIBATI RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the October 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of Kiribati

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 719 sq. km (266 sq. mi.) on 32 atolls and one island.

Cities: Capital—Tarawa (pop. 30,000).

Terrain: Archipelagos of low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs.

Climate: Maritime equatorial or tropical.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—I-Kiribati (for both singular and plural, pronounced “ee-keer-ah-bhass”).

Population: (2006) 92,533. Age structure (2004)—38% under 14; 4% over 65.

Population growth rate: 2.25%.

Ethnic groups: Micronesian 99%.

Religions: Roman Catholic 55%, Kiribati Protestant 36%, other 9%.

Languages: English (official), Gil-bertese/I-Kiribati (de facto).

Health: (2004) Life expectancy—male 60 yrs., female 66 yrs. Infant mortality rate (2004)—49/1,000.

Work force: Majority engaged in subsistence activities.

Government

Type: Republic. Independence (from United Kingdom) July 12, 1979.

Constitution: July 12, 1979.

Government branches: Executive—president (head of state and government), vice president, cabinet. Legislative—unicameral House of Assembly. Judicial—High Court, Court of Appeal, magistrates' courts.

Political parties: Parties are only very loosely organized—Boutokanto Koaava (Pillars of Truth), Maneaban Te Mauri (Protect the Maneaba), Maurin Kiribati Pati.

Economy (all figures in U.S. $)

GDP: (2006, estimate) $64 million.

GDP per capita: (2006) $673.

GDP composition by sector: Services 75%, agriculture 14%, industry 11%.

Industry: Types—tourism, copra, fish.

Trade: (2005) Exports—$4.32 million: copra, pet fish, seaweed, shark fins. Export markets—Japan, Thailand, South Korea, United States, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Denmark. Imports—$78.2 million: food, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment. Import sources—Australia, Fiji, Japan, France, New Zealand, United States, Korea, China, Thailand.

Currency: Australian dollar (A$).

GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE

Kiribati (pronounced “keer-ah-bhass”) consists of 32 low-lying atolls and one raised island scattered over an expanse of ocean equivalent in size to the continental United States. The islands straddle the Equator and lie roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The three main groupings are the Gilbert Islands, Phoenix Islands, and Line Islands. In 1995 Kiribati unilaterally moved the International Date Line to include its easternmost islands, making it the same day throughout the country.

Kiribati includes Kiritimati (Christmas Island), the largest coral atoll in the world, and Banaba (Ocean Island), one of the three great phosphate islands in the Pacific. Except on Banaba, very little land is more than three meters above sea level.

The original inhabitants of Kiribati are Gilbertese, a Micronesian people. Approximately 90% of the population of Kiribati lives on the atolls of the Gilbert Islands. Although the Line Islands are about 2,000 miles east of the Gilbert Islands, most inhabitants of the Line Islands are also Gilbertese. Owing to severe overcrowding in the capital on South Tarawa, in the 1990s a program of directed migration moved nearly 5,000 inhabitants to outlying atolls, mainly in the Line Islands. The Phoenix Islands have never had any significant permanent population. A British effort to settle Gilbertese there in the 1930s lasted until the 1960s when it was determined the inhabitants could not be self-sustaining.

HISTORY

The I-Kiribati people settled what would become known as the Gilbert Islands between 1000 and 1300 AD. Subsequent invasions by Fijians and Tongans introduced Melanesian and Polynesian elements to the Micronesian culture, but extensive intermarriage has produced a population reasonably homogeneous in appearance and traditions.

European contact began in the 16th century. Whalers, slave traders, and merchant vessels arrived in great numbers in the 1800s, fomenting local tribal conflicts and introducing often-fatal European diseases. In an effort to restore a measure of order, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (the Ellice Islands are now the independent country of Tuvalu) consented to becoming British protectorates in 1892. Banaba (Ocean Island) was annexed in 1900 after the discovery of phosphate-rich guano deposits, and the entire group was made a British colony in 1916. The Line and Phoenix Islands were incorporated piecemeal over the next 20 years.

Japan seized some of the islands during World War II. In November 1943, U.S. forces assaulted heavily fortified Japanese positions on Tarawa Atoll in the Gilberts, resulting in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific campaign. The battle was a turning point for the war in the Central Pacific.

Britain began expanding self-government in the islands during the 1960s. In 1975 the Ellice Islands separated from the colony and in 1978 declared their independence. The Gilberts obtained internal self-government in 1977, and became an independent nation on July 12, 1979, under the name of Kiribati.

Post-independence politics were initially dominated by Ieremia Tabai, Kiribati's first President, who served from 1979 to 1991, stepping down due to Kiribati's three-term limit for presidents. The tenure of Teburoro Tito, Kiribati's second-longest serving President, was from 1994 to 2003. His third term lasted only a matter of months before he lost a no confidence motion in Parliament. In July 2003, Anote Tong defeated his elder brother, Harry Tong, who was backed by former President Tito and his allies. An ensuing court challenge, which alleged violations of campaign finance laws, could have unseated President Tong. However, in October 2003, a judge specially brought in from Australia to ensure strict neutrality ruled in President Tong's favor.

GOVERNMENT

The constitution promulgated at independence establishes Kiribati as a sovereign democratic republic and guarantees the fundamental rights of its citizens.

The unicameral House of Assembly (Maneaba) has 42 members: 40 elected representatives, one appointed member by the Banaban community on Rabi Island in Fiji, and the Attorney General on an ex officio basis. All of the members of the Maneaba serve 4-year terms. The speaker for the legislature is elected by the Maneaba from outside of its membership and is not a voting member of Parliament.

After each general election, the new Maneaba nominates at least three but not more than four of its members to stand as candidates for president. The voting public then elects the president from among these candidates. The president appoints a cabinet of up to 10 members from among the members of the Maneaba. Although popularly elected, the president can be deposed by a majority vote in Parliament. If a no confidence motion passes, a new election for President must be held. An individual can serve as president for only three terms, no matter how short each term is. As a result of this provision, former Presidents Tabai and Tito are constitutionally forbidden from serving as president again.

The judicial system consists of the High Court, a court of appeal, and magistrates' courts. The president makes all judicial appointments.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Pres.: Atone TONG

Vice Pres.: Teima ONORIO

Min. for Commerce, Industry, & Cooperatives: Ioteba REDFERN

Min. for Communications, Transport, & Tourism Development: Naatan TEEWE

Min. for Education, Youth, & Sport Development: Teima ONORIO

Min. for Environment, Lands, & Agricultural Development: Martin TOFINGA

Min. for Finance & Economic Development: Nabuti MWEMWENIKARAWA

Min. for Foreign Affairs & Immigration: Atone TONG

Min. for Health & Medical Services: Natanera KIRATA

Min. for Human Resources Development: Bauro TONGAAI

Min. for Internal Affairs & Social Development: Amberoti NIKORA

Min. for the Line and Phoenix Islands: Tawita TEMOKU

Min. for Natural Resources Development: Tetabo NAKARA

Min. for Public Works & Utilities: James TAOM

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Political parties exist but are more similar to informal coalitions in behavior. Parties do not have official platforms or party structures. Most candidates formally present themselves as independents. Campaigning is by word of mouth and informal gatherings in traditional meeting-houses.

President Anote Tong enjoys a comfortable majority in Parliament, despite his affiliation with a minority party. The biggest political issue today is employment opportunities for a crowded and growing population.

An emotional issue has been the sovereignty of Banaba and its citizens. Because Banaba was devastated by phosphate mining, the vast majority of Banabans moved to the island of Rabi in the Fiji Islands in the 1940s. They enjoy full Fiji citizenship, however the Rabi Council appoints the Banaban member of the Kiribati legislature. The Kiribati Government has returned to its traditional owners land on Banaba previously acquired by the government for phosphate mining. However Banaba is now largely uninhabitable due to the long-term phosphate mining. Less than 500 people remain there.

ECONOMY

Kiribati's per capita GDP of less than U.S. $700 is one of the lowest in the world. Only 20% of the workforce participates in the formal wage economy and over 60% of all formal jobs are in South Tarawa. The monetary economy of Kiribati is dominated by the services sector, representing a GDP share of over 80%, and the public sector which provides 80% of monetary remuneration.

The end of phosphate revenue from Banaba in 1979 had a devastating impact on the economy. Receipts from phosphates had accounted for roughly 80% of export earnings and

50% of government revenue. Per capita GDP was more than cut in half between 1979 and 1981. The Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund, a trust fund financed by phosphate earnings over the years, is still an important part of the government's assets and contained more than U.S. $554 million in 2006. Kiribati has prudently managed the reserve fund, which is vital for the long-term welfare of the country.

In one form or another, Kiribati gets a large portion of its income from abroad. Examples include fishing licenses, development assistance, tourism, and worker remittances. External sources of financing are crucial to Kiribati, given the limited domestic production ability and the need to import nearly all essential foodstuffs and manufactured items. Historically, the I-Kiribati were notable seafarers, and today about 1,400 I-Kiribati are trained, certified, and active as seafarers. Remittances from seafarers are a major source of income for families in the country, and there is a steady annual uptake of young I-Kiribati men to the Kiribati Maritime Training Institute.

Fishing fleets from South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, and the United States pay licensing fees to operate in Kiribati's territorial waters. These licenses produce revenue worth U.S. $20 million to $35 million annually. Kiribati's exclusive economic zone comprises more than 3.55 million square kilometers (1.37 million square miles) and is very difficult to police given Kiribati's small land mass and limited means. Kiribati probably loses millions of dollars per year from illegal, unlicensed, and unreported fishing in its exclusive economic zone.

Official development assistance amounts to between U.S. $15 million and $20 million per year. The largest donors are Japan, the EC, Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan. U.S. assistance is provided through multilateral institutions. Remittances from Kiribati workers living abroad provide more than $7 million annually.

Tourism is a relatively small, but important domestic sector. Attractions include World War II battle sites, game fishing, ecotourism, and the Millennium Islands, situated just inside the International Date Line and the first place on earth to celebrate New Year. The vast majority of American tourists only visit Christmas Island in the Line Islands on fishing and diving vacations.

Most islanders engage in subsistence activities such as fishing and growing of food crops like bananas, breadfruit, and papaya. The leading export is the coconut product, copra, which accounts for about two-thirds of export revenue. Currently, copra is exported to Bangladesh for processing. Other exports include pet fish, shark fins, and seaweed. Kiribati's principal trading partners are Australia and Japan.

Transportation and communications are a challenge for Kiribati. Air Pacific, Air Marshall Islands, and the former Air Nauru, now known as Our Airline, provide international air links to the capital of Tarawa. Air Kiribati provides service to most of the populated atolls in the Gilberts using small planes flying from Tarawa. Small ships serve outlying islands, including in the Line Islands, with irregular schedules. A joint venture between Air Pacific and the government of Kiribati operates a flight linking Christmas Island to Fiji and Honolulu.

Telecommunications are expensive, and service is mediocre. There is no broadband Internet.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Kiribati maintains friendly relations with most countries and has particularly close ties to its Pacific neighbors—Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Under President Tito, Kiribati had particularly close relations with China and allowed Beijing to establish a satellite tracking station on South Tarawa. In November 2003, however, President Tong announced the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Taiwan. China's tracking station closed shortly thereafter. Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, and very recently Cuba maintain resident diplomatic missions in Kiribati.

U.S.-KIRIBATI RELATIONS

Relations between Kiribati and the United States are excellent. Kiribati signed a treaty of friendship with the United States after independence in 1979. The United States has no consular or diplomatic facilities in the country. Officers of the American Embassy in Suva, Fiji, are concurently accredited to Kiribati and make periodic visits. The U.S. Peace Corps has maintained a program in Kiribati since 1967. Currently there are about 40 Peace Corps volunteers serving in the country. Kiribati became a member of the United Nations in 1999, and in September 2003, President Tong requested authority from Parliament to establish a UN mission. Currently, however, Kiribati does not maintain a resident ambassador in New York, and its vote is typically cast by New Zealand in a proxy arrangement. Kiribati also is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth, International Monetary Fund, the Pacific Community, and the World Bank. Kiribati is particularly active in the Pacific Islands Forum. The only Kiribati diplomatic missions overseas are a high commission in Fiji and an honorary consulate in Honolulu.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

SUVA (E) 31 Loftus Street, Suva, 679-331-4466, Fax 679-330-5106, Workweek: 0800-1730 (Mon-Thu), 0800-1500 (Fri), Website: http://suva.usembassy.gov.

AMB OMS:Cherisa K. Roe
ECO:Brian J. Siler
HRO:Ila Jurisson
MGT:Ila Jurisson
AMB:Larry M. Dinger
CON:Debra J. Towry
DCM:Theodore A. Mann
PAO:Jeffrey Robertson
COM:Quinn N. Plant
GSO:Jae S. Lee
RSO:James T. Suor
CLO:Vacant
DAO:Ltc. Patrick D. Reardon
EEO:Heather Coble
FMO:Ila Jurisson
ICASS:Chair Patrick D. Reardon
IMO:Steven A. Baldwin
ISO:Steven A. Baldwin
ISSO:Steven A. Baldwin
POL:Brian J. Siler
State ICASS:Joseph P. Murphy

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

February 21, 2007

Country Description: The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced kir-ree-bas) is an island group in the Western Pacific Ocean. It consists of an archipelago of some 33 low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs, with a total land area of 800 square kilometers. Kiribati gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Kiribati has an elected President and a legislative assembly. The capital city of Kiribati is Tarawa. Kiribati has few natural resources, and its economy is very small. Tourist facilities are not widely available.

Entry Requirements: A valid passport with a minimum of six months validity until expiration date and a visa are required. Kiribati strictly enforces its immigration/visa requirements. Westerners, including American citizens, have been detained for visa violations. For information on entry requirements, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati, 95 Nakolo Place, Rm. 265, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819, tel. (808) 834-6775, fax (808) 834-7604, or via e-mail [email protected]

Safety and Security: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site where the current Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Although the crime rate in Kiribati is low, visitors should not be complacent regarding personal safety or the protection of valuables.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney, if needed.

Medical Facilities And Health Information: Health care facilities in Kiribati are adequate for routine medical care, but extremely limited in availability and quality. Serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization or evacuation to the United States or elsewhere may cost thousands of dollars. All water should be regarded as a potential health risk. Visitors should therefore refrain from drinking any water that is not bottled, boiled or otherwise sterilized. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit should be peeled before it is eaten.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kiribati is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic moves on the left side of the road in Kiribati. Roads in urban Tarawa and Christmas Island, while satisfactory in some areas, are generally in need of repair. After heavy rains, some road sections experience temporary flooding. Vehicle traffic proceeds at a relatively slow rate. Drinking and driving is a common practice, especially on the weekends. Since visibility is poor with no streetlights, drivers should be careful when driving at night. For specific information concerning Kiribati drivers' permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, HI.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed Kiribati's Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Kiribati's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Kiribati's customs authorities strictly prohibit the importation of firearms, ammunition, explosives and indecent publications. Strict quarantine laws govern the import of any part of plants, fruits or vegetables, as well as soil, animals and animal products. Visitors are not allowed to export human remains, artifacts that are 30 or more years old, traditional fighting swords, traditional tools, dancing ornaments or suits of armor. For more information, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, HI.

The Australian dollar is the legal currency in Kiribati. Traveler's checks and all major currencies are accepted by banks and may also be exchanged for local currency at some local hotels. Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most hotels.

Kiribati is located in an area of high seismic and tropical cyclone activity. Strong winds are common, especially during the rainy season from November to April. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under the U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kiribati's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kiribati are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: There is no U.S. Embassy in Kiribati. Americans living or traveling to Kiribati are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji, or through the State Department's travel registration website, and to obtain up-to-date information on travel and security within Kiribati. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Fiji is located at 31 Loftus Street in the capital city of Suva; telephone (679) 331-4-466; fax (679) 330-2?267. Information may also be obtained by visiting the Embassy's home page at http://www.amembassy-fiji.gov.

views updated

Kiribati

Compiled from the September 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Kiribati

PROFILE

GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-KIRIBATI RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 719 sq. km (266 sq. mi.) in 32 atolls and one island.

Cities: Capital—Tarawa (pop. 30,000).

Terrain: Archipelagos of low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs.

Climate: Maritime equatorial or tropical.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—IKiribati (for both singular and plural).

Population: (2005 provisional.) 92,533 Age structure—37% under 14; 2.7% over 65.

Growth rate: 2.25%.

Ethnic groups: Micronesian 99%.

Religion: Roman Catholic 55%, Kiribati Protestant 36%, Other 9%.

Languages: English (official), Gilbertese/I-Kiribati (de facto).

Health: Life expectancy—male 58.71 yrs., female 64.86 yrs. Infant mortality rate—48.8/1,000.

Work force: Majority engaged in subsistence activities.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: (from United Kingdom) July 12, 1979.

Constitution: July 12, 1979.

Government branches: Executive—president (head of state and government, known as Te Beretitenti), vice president, cabinet. Legislative—unicameral House of Assembly. Judicial—High Court, court of appeal, magistrates’ courts.

Political parties: Parties are only very loosely organized—Boutokanto Koaava (Pillars of Truth), Maneaban Te Mauri (Protect the Maneaba), Maurin Kiribati Pati.

Economy (all figures in U.S.$)

GDP: (2006, estimate) $64 million

GDP per capita: (2006) $673.

GDP composition by sector: Ser-vices 75%, agriculture 14%, industry 11%.

Industry: Types—tourism, copra, fish.

Trade: (2004) Exports—$17.2 million: copra, pet fish, seaweed. Export markets—Japan, Thailand, South Korea, United States, Australia,,, U.S. Imports—$57.5 million: food, manufactured goods. Import sources—Australia, Fiji, Japan, France, United States

Currency: Australian dollar (A$).

GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE

Kiribati (pronounced “keer-ih-bahs”) consists of 32 low-lying atolls and one raised island scattered over an expanse of ocean equivalent in size to the continental United States. The islands straddle the Equator and lie roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The three main groupings are the Gilbert Islands, Phoenix Islands, and Line Islands. In 1995 Kiribati unilaterally moved the International Date Line to include its easternmost islands, making it the same day throughout the country.

Kiribati includes Kiritimati (Christmas Island), the largest coral atoll in the world, and Banaba (Ocean Island), one of the three great phosphate islands in the Pacific. Except on Banaba, very little land is more than three meters above sea level.

The original inhabitants of Kiribati are Gilbertese, a Micronesian people. Approximately 90% of the population of Kiribati lives on the atolls of the Gilbert Islands. Although the Line Islands are about 2,000 miles east of the Gilbert Islands, most inhabitants of the Line Islands are also Gilbertese. Owing to severe overcrowding in the capital on South Tarawa, in the 1990s a program of migration moved nearly 5,000 inhabitants to outlying atolls, mainly in the Line Islands. The Phoenix Islands have never had any significant permanent population. A British effort to settle Gilbertese there in the 1930s lasted until the 1960s when it was determined the inhabitants could not be self-sustaining.

HISTORY

The I-Kiribati people settled what would become known as the Gilbert Islands between 1000 and 1300 AD. Subsequent invasions by Fijians and Tongans introduced Melanesian and Polynesian elements to the Micronesian culture, but extensive intermarriage has produced a population reasonably homogeneous in appearance and traditions.

European contact began in the 16th century. Whalers, slave traders, and merchant vessels arrived in great numbers in the 1800s, fomenting local tribal conflicts and introducing often-fatal European diseases. In an effort to restore a measure of order, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (the Ellice Islands are now known as Tuvalu) consented to becoming British protectorates in 1892. Banaba (Ocean Island) was annexed in 1900 after the discovery of phosphate-rich guano deposits, and the entire collection was made a British colony in 1916. The Line and Phoenix Islands were incorporated piecemeal over the next 20 years.

Japan seized some of the islands during World War II. In November 1943, U.S. forces assaulted heavily fortified Japanese positions on Tarawa Atoll in the Gilberts, resulting in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific campaign. The battle was a turning point in the Central Pacific.

Britain began expanding self-government in the islands during the 1960s. In 1975 the Ellice Islands separated from the colony and in 1978 became the independent country of Tuvalu. The Gilberts obtained internal self-government in 1977, and formally became an independent nation on July 12, 1979, under the name of Kiribati. Post-independence politics were initially dominated by Ieremia Tabai, Kiribati’s first President, who served from 1979 to 1991, stepping down due to Kiribati’s three-term limit for presidents. Teburoro Tito’s tenure as President was from 1994 to 2003. His third term lasted only a matter of months before he lost a no confidence motion in Parliament. (See the next section for an explanation of Kiribati’s unique presidential system.) In July 2003, Anote Tong defeated his elder brother, Harry Tong, who was backed by former President Tito and his allies. An ensuing court challenge which alleged violations of campaign finance laws could have unseated President Tong. However, in October 2003, a judge specially brought in from Australia to ensure strict neutrality ruled in President Tong’s favor.

GOVERNMENT

The constitution promulgated at independence establishes Kiribati as a sovereign democratic republic and guarantees the fundamental rights of its citizens.

The unicameral House of Assembly (Maneaba) has 42 members: 40 elected representatives, one appointed member by the Banaban community on Rabi Island in Fiji, and the Attorney General on an ex officio basis. All of the members of the Maneaba serve 4-year terms. The speaker for the legislature is elected by the Maneaba from outside of its membership and is not a voting member of Parliament.

After each general election, the new Maneaba nominates at least three but not more than four of its members to stand as candidates for president. The voting public then elects the president, locally referred to as “His Excellency Te Beretitenti”, from among these candidates. The president appoints a cabinet of up to 10 members from among the members of the Maneaba. Although popularly elected, the president can be deposed by a majority vote in Parliament. If a no confidence motion passes, a new election for President must be held. An individual can serve as president for only three terms, no matter how short each term is. As a result of this provision, former Presidents Tabai and Tito are constitutionally forbidden from serving as president again.

The judicial system consists of the High Court, a court of appeal, and magistrates’ courts. The president makes all judicial appointments.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/14/2005

President: Atone TONG

Vice President: Teima ONORIO

Min. for Commerce, Industry, & Cooperatives: Ioteba REDFERN

Min. for Communications, Transport, & Tourism Development: Naatan TEEWE

Min. for Education, Youth, & Sport Development: Teima ONORIO

Min. for Environment, Lands, & Agricultural Development: Martin TOFINGA

Min. for Finance & Economic Development: Nabuti MWEMWENIKARAWA

Min. for Foreign Affairs: Atone TONG

Min. for Health & Medical Services: Natanera KIRATA

Min. for Human Resources Development: Bauro TONGAAI

Min. for Internal Affairs & Social Development: Amberoti NIKORA

Min. for the Line and Phoenix Islands: Tawita TEMOKU

Min. for Natural Resources Development: Tetabo NAKARA

Min. for Public Works & Utilities: James TAOM

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Political parties exist but are more similar to informal coalitions in behavior. Parties do not have official platforms or party structures. Most candidates formally present themselves as independents. Campaigning is by word of mouth and informal gatherings in traditional meetinghouses. President Anote Tong enjoys a comfortable majority in Parliament, despite his affiliation with a minority party. The biggest political issue today is finding employment opportunities for a crowded and growing population.

An emotional issue has been the sovereignty of Banaba and its citizens. Because Banaba was devastated by phosphate mining, the vast majority of Banabans moved to the island of Rabi in the Fiji Islands in the 1940s. They enjoy full Fiji citizenship, however the Rabi Council appoints the Banaban member of the Kiribati legislature. The Kiribati Government has by returned land on Banaba previously acquired by the government for phosphate mining. However Banaba is now largely uninhabitable due to the long-term phosphate mining. Less than 500 people remain there.

ECONOMY

Kiribati’s per capita GDP of less than U.S. $700 is one of the lowest in the world. Only 20% of the workforce participates in the formal wage economy and over 60% of all formal jobs are in South Tarawa. The monetary economy of Kiribati is dominated by the services sector, representing a GDP share of over 80%, and the public sector which provides 80% of monetary remuneration.

The end of phosphate revenue from Banaba in 1979 had a devastating impact on the economy. Receipts from phosphates had accounted for roughly 80% of export earnings and 50% of government revenue. Per capita GDP was more than cut in half between 1979 and 1981. The Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund, a trust fund financed by phosphate earnings over the years, —is still an important part of the government’s assets and contained more than U.S. $400 million in 2004. Kiribati has prudently managed the reserve fund, which is vital for the long-term welfare of the country.

In one form or another, Kiribati gets a large portion of its income from abroad. Examples include fishing licenses, development assistance, tourism and worker remittances. Historically, the I-Kiribati were notable seafarers, and today about 2000 IKiribati work as sailors on foreign merchant ships. External sources of financing are crucial to Kiribati, given the limited domestic production ability and the need to import nearly all essential foodstuffs and manufactured items.

Fishing fleets from South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, and the United States pay licensing fees to operate in Kiribati’s territorial waters. These licenses produce revenue worth U.S. $20 million to $35 million annually. Kiribati’s exclusive economic zone comprises more than 3.55 million square kilometers (1.37 million square miles) and is very difficult to police given Kiribati’s small land mass and limited means. Kiribati probably loses millions of dollars per year from illegal, unlicensed fishing in its exclusive economic zone.

Official development assistance amounts to between U.S. $15 million and $20 million per year. The largest donors are Japan, the EC, Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan. U.S. assistance is provided through multilateral institutions. Remittances from Kiribati workers living abroad provide more than $7million annually.

Tourism is a relatively small, but important domestic sector. Between 2,500 and 4,000 visitors per year provide U.S. $5 million to $10 million in revenue. Attractions include World War II battle sites, game fishing, ecotourism, and the Millennium Islands, situated just inside the International Date Line and the first place on earth to celebrate New Year. The vast majority of American tourists only visit Christmas Island in the Line Islands on fishing and diving vacations.

Most islanders engage in subsistence activities ranging from fishing to the growing of food crops like bananas, breadfruit, and papaya. The leading export is the coconut product, copra, which accounts for about two-thirds of export revenue. Currently, copra is exported to Bangladesh for processing. Other exports include pet fish, shark fins, and seaweed. Kiribati’s principal trading partners are Australia and Japan.

Transportation and communications are a challenge for Kiribati. Air Pacific, Air Marshall Islands, and the former Air Nauru, now known as Our Airline, provide international air links to the capital of Tarawaby. Air Kiribati provides service to most of the populated atolls in the Gilberts using small planes flying from Tarawa. Small ships serve outlying islands, including in the Line Islands, with irregular schedules.A joint venture between Air Pacific and the government of Kiribati operates a flight linking Christmas Island to Fiji and Honolulu.

Telecommunications are expensive, and service is mediocre. There is no broadband. The monopoly Internet provider on Tarawa is one of the most expensive in the world.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Kiribati maintains friendly relations with most countries and has particularly close ties to its Pacific neigh-bors—Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Under President Tito, Kiribati had particularly close relations with China and allowed Beijing to establish a satellite tracking station on South Tarawa.

In November 2003, however, President Tong announced the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Taiwan. China’s tracking station closed shortly thereafter. Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, and very recently Cuba maintain resident diplomatic missions in Kiribati.

U.S.-KIRIBATI RELATIONS

Relations between Kiribati and the United States are excellent. Kiribati signed a treaty of friendship with the United States after independence in 1979. The United States has no consular or diplomatic facilities in the country. Officers of the American Embassy in Suva, Fiji, are concurrently accredited to Kiribati and make periodic visits. The U.S. Peace Corps has maintained a program in Kiribati since 1967. Currently there are about 40 Peace Corps volunteers serving in the country.

Kiribati became a member of the United Nations in 1999, but does not maintain a resident ambassador in New York. In September 2003, President Tong requested authority from Parliament to establish a UN mission. Kiribati also is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth, International Monetary Fund, the Pacific Community, and the World Bank. Kiribati is particularly active in the Pacific Islands Forum. The only Kiribati diplomatic missions overseas are a high commission in Fiji and an honorary consulate in Honolulu.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

SUVA (E) Address: 31 Loftus Street, Suva; Phone: 679-331-4466; Fax: 679-330-5106; Workweek: 0800–1700; Website: www.Amembassy-Fiji.gov.

AMB:Larry M. Dinger
AMB OMS:Cherisa K. Roe
DCM:Ted A. Mann
POL:Brian J. Siler
COM:Heidi L. Gibson
CON:Debra Towry
MGT:Ila S. Jurisson
AFSA:Michael Via
CLO:Sarah C. Oddo
DAO:Patrick D. Reardon
ECO:Brian J. Siler
EEO:vacant
EPA:Joseph P. Murphy
FMO:Ila Jurisson
GSO:Jae S. Lee
ICASS Chair:Oghale Oddo
IMO:Rydell C. Fletcher
ISO:Rydell C. Fletcher
ISSO:Rydell C. Fletcher
RSO:James T. Suor State
ICASS:Joe Murphy

Last Updated: 12/12/2006

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : February 21, 2007

Country Description: The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced kir-ree-bas) is an island group in the Western Pacific Ocean. It consists of an archipelago of some 33 low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs, with a total land area of 800 square kilometers. Kiribati gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Kiribati has an elected President and a legislative assembly. The capital city of Kiribati is Tarawa. Kiribati has few natural resources, and its economy is very small. Tourist facilities are not widely available.

Entry Requirements: A valid passport with a minimum of six months validity until expiration date and a visa are required. Kiribati strictly enforces its immigration/visa requirements. Westerners, including American citizens, have been detained for visa violations. For information on entry requirements, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati, 95 Nakolo Place, Rm. 265, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819, tel. (808) 834-6775, fax (808) 834-7604, or via email [email protected]

Safety and Security: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Although the crime rate in Kiribati is low, visitors should not be complacent regarding personal safety or the protection of valuables.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney, if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Health care facilities in Kiribati are adequate for routine medical care, but extremely limited in availability and quality. Serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization or evacuation to the United States or elsewhere may cost thousands of dollars. All water should be regarded as a potential health risk. Visitors should therefore refrain from drinking any water that is not bottled, boiled or otherwise sterilized. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit should be peeled before it is eaten.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kiribati is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic moves on the left side of the road in Kiribati. Roads in urban Tarawa and Christmas Island, while satisfactory in some areas, are generally in need of repair. After heavy rains, some road sections experience temporary flooding. Vehicle traffic proceeds at a relatively slow rate. Drinking and driving is a common practice, especially on the weekends. Since visibility is poor with no streetlights, drivers should be careful when driving at night.

For specific information concerning Kiribati drivers’ permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, HI.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed Kiribati’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Kiribati’s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Kiribati’s customs authorities strictly prohibit the importation of firearms, ammunition, explosives and indecent publications. Strict quarantine laws govern the import of any part of plants, fruits or vegetables, as well as soil, animals and animal products.

Visitors are not allowed to export human remains, artifacts that are 30 or more years old, traditional fighting swords, traditional tools, dancing ornaments or suits of armor. For more information, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, HI.

The Australian dollar is the legal currency in Kiribati. Traveler’s checks and all major currencies are accepted by banks and may also be exchanged for local currency at some local hotels. Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most hotels.

Kiribati is located in an area of high seismic and tropical cyclone activity. Strong winds are common, especially during the rainy season from November to April. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under the U.S. law.

Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kiribati’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kiribati are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration/Embassy Locations: There is no U.S. Embassy in Kiribati. Americans living or traveling to Kiribati are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji, or through the State Department’s travel registration website, and to obtain up-to-date information on travel and security within Kiribati. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Fiji is located at 31 Loftus Street in the capital city of Suva; telephone (679) 331-4- 466; fax (679) 330-2- 267. Information may also be obtained by visiting the Embassy’s home page at http://www.amembassy-fiji.gov/.

views updated

KIRIBATI

Compiled from the November 2004 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Kiribati


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 719 sq. km (266 sq. mi.) in 32 atolls and one island.

Cities: Capital—Tarawa (pop. 30,000).

Terrain: Archipelagos of low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs.

Climate: Maritime equatorial or tropical.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—IKiribati (for both singular and plural).

Population: 90,000. Age structure—41% under 15; 3% over 65.

Growth rate: 2.5%.

Ethnic groups: Micronesian 98%.

Religions: Roman Catholic 53%, Kiribati Protestant 39%.

Languages: English (official), Gilbertese/I-Kiribati (de facto).

Health: Life expectancy—male 58 yrs, female 64 yrs. Infant mortality rate—1.3/1,000.

Work force: Majority engaged in subsistence activities.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: (from United Kingdom) July 12, 1979.

Constitution: July 12, 1979.

Branches: Executive—president (head of state and government, known as Te Beretitenti), vice president, cabinet. Legislative—unicameral House of Assembly. Judicial—High Court, court of appeal, magistrates' courts.

Political parties: Parties are only very loosely organized—Maneaban Te Mauri (Protect the Maneaba), National Progressive Party, Liberal Party.

Economy

(all figures in U.S.$)

GDP: $58.4 million.

GNP: (GDP + investment income, fishing license fees, and seamen's remittances) $96.7 million.

GDP per capita: $663.

GDP composition by sector: Services 75%, agriculture 14%, industry 11%.

Industry: Types—tourism, copra, fish.

Trade: Exports—$33.5 million: copra, pet fish, seaweed. Export markets—Japan, Thailand, Korea, U.S. Imports—$87.2 million: food, manufactured goods. Import sources—Japan, Australia, France, Fiji, New Zealand.

External debt: $4 million.

Currency: Australian dollar (A$).


GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE

Kiribati (pronounced "keer-ih-bahs") consists of 32 low-lying atolls and one raised island scattered over an expanse of ocean equivalent in size to the continental United States. The islands straddle the Equator and lie roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The three main groupings are the Gilbert Islands, Phoenix Islands, and Line Islands. In 1995 Kiribati unilaterally moved the International Date Line to include its easternmost islands, making it the same day throughout the country.

Kiribati includes Kiritimati (Christmas Island), the largest coral atoll in the world, and Banaba (Ocean Island), one of the three great phosphate islands in the Pacific. Except on Banaba, very little land is more than three meters above sea level.

The original inhabitants of Kiribati are Gilbertese, a Micronesian people. Approximately 90% of the population of Kiribati lives on the atolls of the Gilbert Islands. Although the Line Islands are about 2,000 miles east of the Gilbert Islands, most inhabitants of the Line Islands are also Gilbertese. Owing to an annual population growth rate of around 2.5% and severe overcrowding in the capital on South Tarawa, a program of migration has been implemented to move nearly 5,000 inhabitants to out-lying atolls, mainly in the Line Islands. The Phoenix Islands have never had any permanent population. A British effort to settle Gilbertese there in the 1930s failed due to lack of water. A new program of settlement to the Phoenix Islands was begun in 1995.


HISTORY

The I-Kiribati people settled what would become known as the Gilbert Islands between 1000 and 1300 AD. Subsequent invasions by Fijians and Tongans introduced Micronesian and Polynesian elements to the Microne-sian culture, but extensive intermarriage has produced a population reasonably homogeneous in appearance and traditions.

European contact began in the 16th century. Whalers, slave traders, and merchant vessels arrived in great numbers in the 1800s, fomenting local tribal conflicts and introducing often fatal European diseases. In an effort to restore a measure of order, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (the Ellice Islands are now known as Tuvalu) consented to becoming British protectorates in 1892. Banaba (Ocean Island) was annexed in 1900 after the discovery of phosphate-rich guano deposits, and the entire collection was made a British colony in 1916. The Line and Phoenix Islands were incorporated piecemeal over the next 20 years.

Japan seized the islands during World War II. In November 1943, U.S. forces assaulted heavily fortified Japanese positions on Tarawa Atoll in the Gilberts, resulting in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific campaign. The battle was a turning point in the Central Pacific.

Britain began expanding self-government in the islands during the 1960s. In 1975 the Ellice Islands separated from the colony and in 1978 became the independent country of Tuvalu. The Gilberts obtained internal self-government in 1977, and formally became an independent nation on July 12, 1979, under the name of Kiribati.

Post-independence politics were initially dominated by Ieremia Tabai, Kiribati's first President, who served from 1979 to 1991, stepping down due to Kiribati's three-term limit for presidents. Teburoro Tito's tenure as President, 1994-2003, also was curtailed by the three-term limit, though in his case his third term lasted only a matter of months before he lost a no confidence motion in Parliament. (See the next section for an explanation of Kiribati's unique presidential system.) In July 2003, Anote Tong defeated his elder brother, Harry Tong, who was backed by former President Tito and his allies. An ensuing court challenge which alleged violations of campaign finance laws could have unseated President Tong. However, in October 2003, a judge specially brought in from Australia to ensure strict neutrality ruled in President Tong's favor.


GOVERNMENT

The constitution promulgated at independence establishes Kiribati as a sovereign democratic republic and guarantees the fundamental rights of its citizens.

The unicameral House of Assembly (Maneaba) has 42 members: 40 elected representatives, one appointed member from Banaba island, and the Attorney General on an ex officio basis. All of the members of the Maneaba serve 4-year terms. The speaker for the legislature is elected by the Maneaba from outside of its membership and is not a voting member of Parliament.

After each general election, the new Maneaba nominates at least three but not more than four of its members to stand as candidates for president, locally referred to as "His Excellency Te Beretitenti." The voting public then elects the president from among these candidates. A cabinet of up to 10 members is appointed by the president from among the members of the Maneaba. Although popularly elected, the president can be deposed by a majority vote in Parliament. In this case, a new election for President must be held. A person can serve as president for only three terms, no matter how short each term is. As a result of this provision, former Presidents Tabai and Tito are constitutionally forbidden from serving as president again.

The judicial system consists of the High Court, a court of appeal, and magistrates' courts. All judicial appointments are made by the president.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 8/29/03

President: Tong , Atone
Vice President: Onorio , Teima
Min. for Commerce, Industry, & Cooperatives: Redfern , Ioteba
Min. for Communications, Transport, & Tourism Development: Teewe , Naatan
Min. for Education, Youth, & Sport Development: Onorio , Teima
Min. for Environment, Lands, & Agricultural Development: Tofinga , Martin
Min. for Finance & Economic Development: Mwemwenikarawa , Nabuti
Min. for Foreign Affairs: Tong , Atone
Min. for Health & Medical Services: Kirata , Natanera
Min. for Human Resources Development: Tongaai , Bauro
Min. for Internal Affairs & Social Development: Nikora , Amberoti
Min. for the Line and Phoenix Islands: Temoku , Tawita
Min. for Natural Resources Development: Nakara , Tetabo
Min. for Public Works & Utilities: Taom , James


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Political parties exist but are more similar to informal coalitions in behavior. They do not have official platforms or party structures. Most candidates formally present themselves as independents. Campaigning is by word of mouth and informal gatherings in traditional meeting houses.

While he is head of a minority party, President Anote Tong enjoys a comfortable majority in Parliament. The biggest political issue today is finding employment opportunities for a crowded and growing population. In 2003, the losses incurred by government-owned Air Kiribati became a major political issue as well.

An emotional issue has been the protracted bid by the residents of Banaba Island to secede and have their island placed under the protection of Fiji. Because Banaba was devastated by phosphate mining, the vast majority of Banabans moved to the island of Rabi in the Fiji Islands in the 1940s. They enjoy full Fiji citizenship. The Kiribati Government has responded by including several special provisions in the constitution, such as the designation of a Banaban seat in the legislature and the return of land previously acquired by the government for phosphate mining. Only 200-300 people remain on Banaba.


ECONOMY

Kiribati's per capita GNP of less than U.S. $1,000 makes it one of the poorest countries in the world. Phosphates had been profitably exported from Banaba Island since the turn of the century, but the deposits were exhausted in 1979.

The end of phosphate revenue in 1979 had a devastating impact on the economy. Receipts from phosphates had accounted for roughly 80% of export earnings and 50% of government revenue. Per capita GDP was more than cut in half between 1979 and 1981. A trust fund financed by phosphate earnings over the years—the Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund—still exists and contained more than U.S. $400 million in 2003. Kiribati has received high marks for

its prudent management of the reserve fund, which is vital for the long-term welfare of the country.

In one form or another, Kiribati gets a large portion of its income from abroad. Examples include fishing licenses, development assistance, worker remittances, and tourism. In particular, about 2000 I-Kiribati work as sailors on foreign merchant ships. Given Kiribati's limited domestic production ability, it must import nearly all of its essential foodstuffs and manufactured items, and it depends on these external sources of income for financing.

Fishing fleets from South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, and the United States pay licensing fees to operate in Kiribati's territorial waters. These licenses produce revenue worth U.S. $20 million to $35 million annually. Due to its small land mass and huge maritime area, however, Kiribati also loses untold millions of dollars per year from illegal, unlicensed fishing in its exclusive economic zone.

Another U.S. $20 million to $25 million of external income takes the form of direct financial transfers. Official development assistance amounts to between U.S. $15 million and $20 million per year. The largest donors are Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. In addition, Taiwan is widely expected to become an important bilateral donor in the coming years. U.S. assistance is provided through multilateral institutions. Remittances from Kiribati workers living abroad provide more than $7.5 million annually.

Tourism is a relatively small, but important domestic sector. Between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors per year provide U.S. $5 million to $10 million in revenue. Attractions include World War II battle sites, game fishing, ecotourism, and the Millennium Islands, situated just inside the International Date Line and the first place on earth to celebrate New Year. The vast majority of American tourists only visit Christmas Island in the Line Islands on fishing and diving vacations via weekly charter flights from Honolulu.

Most islanders engage in subsistence activities ranging from fishing to the growing of food crops like bananas, breadfruit, and papaya. The leading export is the coconut product, copra, which accounts for about two-thirds of export revenue. Currently, copra is exported to Bangladesh for processing, but there are plans to process copra in Tarawa. Other exports include pet fish, shark fins, and seaweed. Kiribati's principal trading partners are Australia and Japan.

Transportation and communications are a challenge for Kiribati. International air links to the capital of Tarawa are provided only by the near-bankrupt Air Nauru. Air Kiribati provides service to most of the populated atolls in the Gilberts using small planes flying from Tarawa. Small ships serve outlying islands, including in the Line Islands, with irregular schedules. Hawaiian Air flies to Christmas Island once a week. It is not possible to travel from the Line Islands to the Gilbert Islands by air without traveling via Hawaii and either Fiji or the Marshall Islands.

Telecommunications are expensive, and service is mediocre. There is no broadband. The monopoly Internet provider on Tarawa is one of the most expensive in the world.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Kiribati maintains friendly relations with most countries and has particularly close ties to its Pacific neighbors—Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Under President Tito, Kiribati had particularly close relations with China and allowed Beijing to establish a satellite tracking station on South Tarawa. In November 2003, however, President Tong announced the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Taiwan. China's tracking station closed shortly thereafter. Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom maintain resident diplomatic missions in Kiribati.


U.S.-KIRIBATI RELATIONS

Relations between Kiribati and the United States are excellent. Kiribati signed a treaty of friendship with the United States after independence in 1979. The United States has no consular or diplomatic facilities in the country. Officers of the American Embassy in Suva, Fiji, are concurrently accredited to Kiribati and make periodic visits. The U.S. Peace Corps has maintained a program in Kiribati since 1967. Currently there are about 50 Peace Corps volunteers serving in the county.

Kiribati became a member of the United Nations in 1999, but does not maintain a resident ambassador in New York. In September 2003, President Tong requested authority from Parliament to establish a UN mission. Kiribati also is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth, International Monetary Fund, the Pacific Community, and the World Bank. Kiribati is particularly active in the Pacific Islands Forum. The only Kiribati diplomatic missions overseas are a high commission in Fiji and an honorary consulate in Honolulu.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

SUVA (E) Address: 31 Loftus Street, Suva; Phone: 00679-331-4466; Fax: 00679-330-5106; INMARSAT Tel: 00679-330-1064; Workweek: 0800-1700; Website: www.Amembassy-Fiji.gov

AMB:David L. Lyon
AMB OMS:Rosmary M. Patterson
DCM:Vacant
POL:Edmond E. Seay
COM:John B. Emery
CON:Kirk D. Lindly
MGT:Jeffrey J. Robertson
AFSA:Ryan C. Rhea
CLO:Kelli Lewis
DAO:Vacant
ECO:Edmond E. Seay
EEO:John B. Emery
FMO:Jeffrey J. Robertson
GSO:Vacant
ICASS Chair:Kirk D. Lindly
IMO:Ryan C. Rhea
ISO:Ryan C. Rhea
ISSO:Ryan C. Rhea
PAO:John B. Emery
RSO:Wade W. Burton
Last Updated: 8/17/2004

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

December 6, 2004

Country Description: The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced kir-ree-bas) is an island group in the Western Pacific Ocean, consisting of an archipelago of some 33 low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs with a total land area of 800 square kilometers. Kiribati gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Kiribati has an elected President and a legislative assembly. Tarawa is the capital of Kiribati. Kiribati has few natural resources, and its economy is very small. The islands are not self-sufficient in food. Tourist facilities are not widely available.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport with a minimum of six months validity until expiration date and a visa are required. Kiribati strictly enforces its immigration/visa requirements. Westerners, including American citizens, have been detained for visa violations. There is no Embassy of Kiribati in the United States, but there is a Consulate of Kiribati in Hawaii, which is the only Kiribati Consular Representative in North America. For information on entry requirements, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati, 95 Nakolo Place, Rm. 265, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819, tel. (808) 834-6775, fax (808) 834-7604, or via e-mail [email protected] See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Kiribati and other countries.

Safety and Security: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

Crime: Although the crime rate in Kiribati is low, visitors should not be complacent regarding personal safety or the protection of valuables.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while over-seas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney, if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime at http://travel.state.gov/travel/brochure_victim_assistance.html.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Health care facilities in Kiribati are adequate for routine medical care, but extremely limited in availability and quality. Serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization or evacuation to the United States or elsewhere may cost thousands of dollars. All water should be regarded as a potential health risk. Visitors should therefore refrain from drinking any water that is not bottled, boiled or otherwise sterilized. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit should be peeled before it is eaten.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web-site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kiribati is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic moves on the left side of the road in Kiribati. Roads in urban Tarawa and Christmas Island, while satisfactory in some areas, are generally in need of repair. After heavy rains, some road sections experience temporary flooding. Vehicle traffic proceeds at a relatively slow rate. Drinking and driving is a common practice, especially on the weekends. Since visibility is poor with no streetlights, drivers should be careful when driving at night. For specific information concerning Kiribati drivers' permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, HI. Please refer to our Road Safety page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_roadsafety.html for more information.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Kiribati, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Kiribati's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. At 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's web site, http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Special Circumstances: Kiribati's customs authorities strictly prohibit the importation of firearms, ammunition, explosives and indecent publications. Strict quarantine laws govern the import of any part of plants, fruits or vegetables, as well as soil, animals and animal products. Visitors are not allowed to export human remains, artifacts that are 30 or more years old, traditional fighting swords, traditional tools, dancing ornaments or suits of armor. For more information, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, HI.

The Australian dollar is the legal currency in Kiribati. Traveler's checks and all major currencies are accepted by banks and may also be exchanged for local currency at some local hotels. Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most hotels.

Kiribati is located in an area of high seismic and tropical cyclone activity. Strong winds are common, especially during the rainy season from November to April. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under the U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kiribati's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kiribati are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: There is no U.S. Embassy in Kiribati. Americans living or traveling to Kiribati are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji or through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain up-to-date information on travel and security within Kiribati. Americas without Internet access may register directly with the nearest Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 31 Loftus Street, Suva, Fiji; telephone (679) 331-4466; fax (679) 330-2267. Information may also be obtained by visiting the U.S. Embassy's homepage at http://www.amembassy-fiji.gov.

views updated

KIRIBATI

Compiled from the September 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Kiribati


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

719 sq. km (266 sq. mi.) in 32 atolls and one island.

Cities:

Capital—Tarawa (pop. 30,000).

Terrain:

Archipelagos of low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs.

Climate:

Maritime equatorial or tropical.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—IKiribati (for both singular and plural).

Population (2005 est.):

103,092. Age structure—38.9% under 14; 3.3% over 65.

Growth rate:

2.25%.

Ethnic groups:

Micronesian 98%.

Religion:

Roman Catholic 52%, Kiribati Protestant 40%.

Language:

English (official), Gilbertese/I-Kiribati (de facto).

Health:

Life expectancy—male 58.71 yrs., female 64.86 yrs. Infant mortality rate—48.52/1,000.

Work force:

Majority engaged in subsistence activities.

Government

Type:

Republic.

Independence (from United Kingdom):

July 12, 1979.

Constitution:

July 12, 1979.

Branches:

Executive—president (head of state and government, known as Te Beretitenti), vice president, cabinet. Legislative—unicameral House of Assembly. Judicial—High Court, court of appeal, magistrates' courts.

Major political parties:

Parties are only very loosely organized—Maneaban Te Mauri (Protect the Maneaba), National Progressive Party, Liberal Party.

Economy

(all figures in U.S.$)

GDP (2004):

$70 million

GNI 2003):

$83 million.

GDP per capita (2004):

$760.

GDP composition by sector:

Services 75%, agriculture 14%, industry 11%.

Industry:

Types—tourism, copra, fish.

Trade:

Exports—$33.5 million: copra, pet fish, seaweed. Export markets—Japan, South Korea, Australia, United States, Thailand, U.S. Imports—$87.2 million: food, manufactured goods. Import sources—Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, South Korea, JapanAid per capita (2003): $191.

Currency:

Australian dollar (A$).


GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE

Kiribati (pronounced "keer-ih-bahs") consists of 32 low-lying atolls and one raised island scattered over an expanse of ocean equivalent in size to the continental United States. The islands straddle the Equator and lie roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The three main groupings are the Gilbert Islands, Phoenix Islands, and Line Islands. In 1995 Kiribati unilaterally moved the International Date Line to include its easternmost islands, making it the same day throughout the country.

Kiribati includes Kiritimati (Christmas Island), the largest coral atoll in the world, and Banaba (Ocean Island), one of the three great phosphate islands in the Pacific. Except on Banaba, very little land is more than three meters above sea level.

The original inhabitants of Kiribati are Gilbertese, a Micronesian people. Approximately 90% of the population of Kiribati lives on the atolls of the Gilbert Islands. Although the Line Islands are about 2,000 miles east of the Gilbert Islands, most inhabitants of the Line Islands are also Gilbertese. Owing to an annual population growth rate of around 2.5% and severe overcrowding in the capital on South Tarawa, a program of migration has been implemented to move nearly 5,000 inhabitants to out-lying atolls, mainly in the Line Islands. The Phoenix Islands have never had any permanent population. A British effort to settle Gilbertese there in the 1930s failed due to lack of water. A new program of settlement to the Phoenix Islands was begun in 1995.


HISTORY

The I-Kiribati people settled what would become known as the Gilbert Islands between 1000 and 1300 AD. Subsequent invasions by Fijians and Tongans introduced Micronesian and Polynesian elements to the Microne-sian culture, but extensive intermarriage has produced a population reasonably homogeneous in appearance and traditions.

European contact began in the 16th century. Whalers, slave traders, and merchant vessels arrived in great numbers in the 1800s, fomenting local tribal conflicts and introducing often fatal European diseases. In an effort to restore a measure of order, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (the Ellice Islands are now known as Tuvalu) consented to becoming British protectorates in 1892. Banaba (Ocean Island) was annexed in 1900 after the discovery of phosphate-rich guano deposits, and the entire collection was made a British colony in 1916. The Line and Phoenix Islands were incorporated piecemeal over the next 20 years.

Japan seized the islands during World War II. In November 1943, U.S. forces assaulted heavily fortified Japanese positions on Tarawa Atoll in the Gilberts, resulting in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific campaign. The battle was a turning point in the Central Pacific.

Britain began expanding self-government in the islands during the 1960s. In 1975 the Ellice Islands separated from the colony and in 1978 became the independent country of Tuvalu. The Gilberts obtained internal self-government in 1977, and formally became an independent nation on July 12, 1979, under the name of Kiribati.

Post-independence politics were initially dominated by Ieremia Tabai, Kiribati's first President, who served from 1979 to 1991, stepping down due to Kiribati's three-term limit for presidents. Teburoro Tito's tenure as President, 1994-2003, also was curtailed by the three-term limit, though in his case his third term lasted only a matter of months before he lost a no confidence motion in Parliament. (See the next section for an explanation of Kiribati's unique presidential system.) In July 2003, Anote Tong defeated his elder brother, Harry Tong, who was backed by former President Tito and his allies. An ensuing court challenge which alleged violations of campaign finance laws could have unseated President Tong. However, in October 2003, a judge specially brought in from Australia to ensure strict neutrality ruled in President Tong's favor.


GOVERNMENT

The constitution promulgated at independence establishes Kiribati as a sovereign democratic republic and guarantees the fundamental rights of its citizens.

The unicameral House of Assembly (Maneaba) has 42 members: 40 elected representatives, one appointed member from Banaba island, and the Attorney General on an ex officio basis. All of the members of the Maneaba serve 4-year terms. The speaker for the legislature is elected by the Maneaba from outside of its membership and is not a voting member of Parliament.

After each general election, the new Maneaba nominates at least three but not more than four of its members to stand as candidates for president, locally referred to as "His Excellency Te Beretitenti." The voting public then elects the president from among these candidates. A cabinet of up to 10 members is appointed by the president from among the members of the Maneaba. Although popularly elected, the president can be deposed by a majority vote in Parliament. In this case, a new election for President must be held. A person can serve as president for only three terms, no matter how short each term is. As a result of this provision, former Presidents Tabai and Tito are constitutionally forbidden from serving as president again.

The judicial system consists of the High Court, a court of appeal, and magistrates' courts. All judicial appointments are made by the president.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/14/2005

President: Atone TONG
Vice President: Teima ONORIO
Min. for Commerce, Industry, & Cooperatives: Ioteba REDFERN
Min. for Communications, Transport, & Tourism Development: Naatan TEEWE
Min. for Education, Youth, & Sport Development: Teima ONORIO
Min. for Environment, Lands, & Agricultural Development: Martin TOFINGA
Min. for Finance & Economic Development: Nabuti MWEMWENIKARAWA
Min. for Foreign Affairs: Atone TONG
Min. for Health & Medical Services: Natanera KIRATA
Min. for Human Resources Development: Bauro TONGAAI
Min. for Internal Affairs & Social Development: Amberoti NIKORA
Min. for the Line and Phoenix Islands: Tawita TEMOKU
Min. for Natural Resources Development: Tetabo NAKARA
Min. for Public Works & Utilities: James TAOM


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Political parties exist but are more similar to informal coalitions in behavior. They do not have official platforms or party structures. Most candidates formally present themselves as independents. Campaigning is by word of mouth and informal gatherings in traditional meeting houses.

While he is head of a minority party, President Anote Tong enjoys a comfortable majority in Parliament. The biggest political issue today is finding employment opportunities for a crowded and growing population. In 2003, the losses incurred by government-owned Air Kiribati became a major political issue as well.

An emotional issue has been the protracted bid by the residents of Banaba Island to secede and have their island placed under the protection of Fiji. Because Banaba was devastated by phosphate mining, the vast majority of Banabans moved to the island of Rabi in the Fiji Islands in the 1940s. They enjoy full Fiji citizenship. The Kiribati Government has responded by including several special provisions in the constitution, such as the designation of a Banaban seat in the legislature and the return of land previously acquired by the government for phosphate mining. Only 200-300 people remain on Banaba.


ECONOMY

Kiribati's per capita GNP of less than U.S. $1,000 makes it one of the poorest countries in the world. Phosphates had been profitably exported from Banaba Island since the turn of the century, but the deposits were exhausted in 1979.

The end of phosphate revenue in 1979 had a devastating impact on the economy. Receipts from phosphates had accounted for roughly 80% of export earnings and 50% of government revenue. Per capita GDP was more than cut in half between 1979 and 1981. A trust fund financed by phosphate earnings over the years—the Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund—still exists and contained more than U.S. $400 million in 2003.

Kiribati has received high marks for its prudent management of the reserve fund, which is vital for the long-term welfare of the country.

In one form or another, Kiribati gets a large portion of its income from abroad. Examples include fishing licenses, development assistance, worker remittances, and tourism. In particular, about 2000 I-Kiribati work as sailors on foreign merchant ships. Given Kiribati's limited domestic production ability, it must import nearly all of its essential foodstuffs and manufactured items, and it depends on these external sources of income for financing.

Fishing fleets from South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, and the United States pay licensing fees to operate in Kiribati's territorial waters. These licenses produce revenue worth U.S. $20 million to $35 million annually. Due to its small land mass and huge maritime area, however, Kiribati also loses untold millions of dollars per year from illegal, unlicensed fishing in its exclusive economic zone.

Another U.S. $20 million to $25 million of external income takes the form of direct financial transfers. Official development assistance amounts to between U.S. $15 million and $20 million per year. The largest donors are Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. In addition, Taiwan is widely expected to become an important bilateral donor in the coming years. U.S. assistance is provided through multilateral institutions. Remittances from Kiribati workers living abroad provide more than $7.5 million annually.

Tourism is a relatively small, but important domestic sector. Between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors per year provide U.S. $5 million to $10 million in revenue. Attractions include World War II battle sites, game fishing, ecotourism, and the Millennium Islands, situated just inside the International Date Line and the first place on earth to celebrate New Year. The vast majority of American tourists only visit Christmas Island in the Line Islands on fishing and diving vacations via weekly charter flights from Honolulu.

Most islanders engage in subsistence activities ranging from fishing to the growing of food crops like bananas, breadfruit, and papaya. The leading export is the coconut product, copra, which accounts for about two-thirds of export revenue. Currently, copra is exported to Bangladesh for processing, but there are plans to process copra in Tarawa. Other exports include pet fish, shark fins, and seaweed. Kiribati's principal trading partners are Australia and Japan.

Transportation and communications are a challenge for Kiribati. International air links to the capital of Tarawa are provided only by the near-bankrupt Air Nauru. Air Kiribati provides service to most of the populated atolls in the Gilberts using small planes flying from Tarawa. Small ships serve outlying islands, including in the Line Islands, with irregular schedules. Hawaiian Air flies to Christmas Island once a week. It is not possible to travel from the Line Islands to the Gilbert Islands by air without traveling via Hawaii and either Fiji or the Marshall Islands.

Telecommunications are expensive, and service is mediocre. There is no broadband. The monopoly Internet provider on Tarawa is one of the most expensive in the world.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Kiribati maintains friendly relations with most countries and has particularly close ties to its Pacific neighbors—Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Under President Tito, Kiribati had particularly close relations with China and allowed Beijing to establish a satellite tracking station on South Tarawa. In November 2003, however, President Tong announced the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Taiwan. China's tracking station closed shortly thereafter. Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom maintain resident diplomatic missions in Kiribati.


U.S.-KIRIBATI RELATIONS

Relations between Kiribati and the United States are excellent. Kiribati signed a treaty of friendship with the United States after independence in 1979. The United States has no consular or diplomatic facilities in the country. Officers of the American Embassy in Suva, Fiji, are concurrently accredited to Kiribati and make periodic visits. The U.S. Peace Corps has maintained a program in Kiribati since 1967. Currently there are about 50 Peace Corps volunteers serving in the county.

Kiribati became a member of the United Nations in 1999, but does not maintain a resident ambassador in New York. In September 2003, President Tong requested authority from Parliament to establish a UN mission. Kiribati also is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth, International Monetary Fund, the Pacific Community, and the World Bank. Kiribati is particularly active in the Pacific Islands Forum. The only Kiribati diplomatic missions overseas are a high commission in Fiji and an honorary consulate in Honolulu.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

The U.S. Embassy responsible for Kiribati is located in Suva, Republic of the Fiji Islands.

SUVA (E) Address: 31 Loftus Street, Suva; Phone: 00679-331-4466; Fax: 00679-330-5106; Workweek: 0800 - 1700; Website: www.Amembassy-Fiji.gov.

AMB:Larry M. Dinger
AMB OMS:Cherisa K. Roe
DCM:Ted A. Mann
POL:Brian J. Siler
COM:Heidi L. Hanneman
CON:Kirk D. Lindly
MGT:Jeffrey J. Robertson
AFSA:Rydell C. Fletcher
CLO:Sarah C. Oddo
DAO:Patrick D. Reardon
ECO:Brian J. Siler
EEO:Keisha K. Lafayette
FMO:Jeffrey J. Robertson
GSO:Jonathan P. Floss
ICASS Chair:Kirk D. Lindly
IMO:Rydell C. Fletcher
ISO:Rydell C. Fletcher
ISSO:Rydell C. Fletcher
RSO:James T. Suor
Last Updated: 1/8/2006

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

July 15, 2005

Country Description:

The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced kir-ree-bas) is an island group in the Western Pacific Ocean. It consists of an archipelago of some 33 low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs, with a total land area of 800 square kilometers. Kiribati gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Kiribati has an elected President and a legislative assembly. The capital city of Kiribati is Tarawa. Kiribati has few natural resources, and its economy is very small. Tourist facilities are not widely available.

Entry Requirements:

A valid passport with a minimum of six months validity until expiration date and a visa are required. Kiribati strictly enforces its immigration/visa requirements. Westerners, including American citizens, have been detained for visa violations. There is no Embassy of Kiribati in the United States, but there is a Consulate of Kiribati in Hawaii, which is the only Kiribati Consular Representative in North America. For information on entry requirements, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati, 95 Nakolo Place, Rm. 265, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819, tel. (808) 834-6775, fax (808) 834-7604, or via e-mail [email protected]

Safety and Security:

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov/, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

Although the crime rate in Kiribati is low, visitors should not be complacent regarding personal safety or the protection of valuables.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney, if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Health care facilities in Kiribati are adequate for routine medical care, but extremely limited in availability and quality. Serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization or evacuation to the United States or elsewhere may cost thousands of dollars. All water should be regarded as a potential health risk. Visitors should therefore refrain from drinking any water that is not bottled, boiled or otherwise sterilized. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit should be peeled before it is eaten.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kiribati is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic moves on the left side of the road in Kiribati. Roads in urban Tarawa and Christmas Island, while satisfactory in some areas, are generally in need of repair. After heavy rains, some road sections experience temporary flooding. Vehicle traffic proceeds at a relatively slow rate. Drinking and driving is a common practice, especially on the weekends. Since visibility is poor with no streetlights, drivers should be careful when driving at night. For specific information concerning Kiribati drivers' permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, HI.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Kiribati, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Kiribati's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. At 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

Special Circumstances:

Kiribati's customs authorities strictly prohibit the importation of firearms, ammunition, explosives and indecent publications. Strict quarantine laws govern the import of any part of plants, fruits or vegetables, as well as soil, animals and animal products. Visitors are not allowed to export human remains, artifacts that are 30 or more years old, traditional fighting swords, traditional tools, dancing ornaments or suits of armor. For more information, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, HI.

The Australian dollar is the legal currency in Kiribati. Traveler's checks and all major currencies are accepted by banks and may also be exchanged for local currency at some local hotels. Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most hotels.

Kiribati is located in an area of high seismic and tropical cyclone activity. Strong winds are common, especially during the rainy season from November to April. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under the U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kiribati's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kiribati are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

There is no U.S. Embassy in Kiribati. Americans living or traveling to Kiribati are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji, or through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain up-to-date information on travel and security within Kiribati.

Americas without Internet access may register directly with the nearest Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Fiji is located at 31 Loftus Street in the capital city of Suva; telephone (679) 331-4 466; fax (679) 330-2 267. Information may also be obtained by visiting the Embassy's home page at http://www.amembassy-fiji.gov/.

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Kiribati

ETHNONYMS: Gilbertese (Gilbert Islands), I-Kiribati, Tungaru

Orientation

Identification. Almost all of the citizens of Kiribati have at least some I-Kiribati ancestors and have inherited land rights in the Gilbert Islands. The indigenous inhabitants of Banaba (Ocean Island) speak a Gilbertese dialect and practice a variant of Gilbertese culture but consider themselves a separate people politically. Most of the Banabans have lived on Rabi Island in Fiji since 1945. Another Gilbertese dialect is spoken on Nui in Tuvalu. The Gilbert Islands were named in honor of Thomas Gilbert, a British captain whose ship sighted some of the islands after transporting convicts to Australia in 1788. In default of a generally acceptable indigenous name, it was decided at the time of independence to adopt "Kiribati" (pronounced "kiribass"), the local respelling of "Gilberts," for the new nation. The poetic "Tungaru" usually connotes the ancestors and their savage or superhuman feats.

Location. The Gilberts comprise sixteen inhabited coral reef islands and atolls between 3° N and 3° S and between 173° and 177° E. The territory of the Republic of Kiribati also includes the raised coral island of Banaba, about 400 kilometers west of the Gilberts, and the Phoenix and Line Islands lying as much as 2,800 kilometers to the east. The average annual rainfall diminishes from north to south. The islands south of the equator and Banaba suffer from periodic droughts.

Demography. According to the 1985 census, Kiribati had a total population of 63,883. The average population density for the Gilbert Islands, which have a combined area of 279 square kilometers, was 219 persons per square kilometer. The growth rate averaged 2.0 percent per annum in the 6 ½ years between censuses. A third of the population was enumerated in the urbanized area of South Tarawa.

Linguistic Affiliation. I-Kiribati and Banabans speak a single language, usually known as Gilbertese. Linguists agree that Gilbertese belongs to the Oceanic Branch of the Austronesian languages, and its closest relatives are the other Nuclear Micronesian languages: Trukese, Ponapean, Kosraean (Kusaian), and Marshallese. The more distant connections of Nuclear Micronesian within Oceanic Austronesian are still being debated, but they seem to point toward the southern Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, with the languages of San Cristobal and Malaita as perhaps the strongest candidates. The pioneer American missionary, Hiram Bingham, Jr., devised a written form of Gilbertese based on the Latin alphabet that is still in general use, having undergone only minor modifications.

History and Cultural Relations

On linguistic and archaeological grounds, it is likely that voyagers from southern Melanesia arrived in the Gilberts long before a.d. 600, the earliest radiocarbon date obtained up to now. Kiribati language and culture show signs of borrowing from western Polynesia at some time after the islands were settled. The political and social structure of all the islands except for Butaritari-Makin and Banaba was forcibly unified, possibly in the seventeenth century, when armies led by Kaitu, Beru, and Uakeia of Nikunau introduced the meetinghouse organization. Regular contacts with Europeans and Americans began when merchant ships sailing new routes across the Pacific, New England whalers, and exploring expeditions discovered or rediscovered all the islands between 1765 and 1826. Resident traders bought coconut oil from 1846 to the 1870s and then switched to copra, which remains Kiribati's sole agricultural export. A British protectorate was proclaimed over the Gilberts and their Polynesian neighbors, the Ellice Islands, in 1892. The Japanese occupation of the Gilberts early in World War II ended with an American victory in the "particularly bloody battle at Tarawa" (as Richard Overy has aptly termed it) fought in November 1943. The phosphate mine on Banaba provided most of the colony's revenue and employment for its people from 1900 until the deposits were exhausted in the year of independence; I-Kiribati still mine phosphate on the neighboring independent island of Nauru. Since 1967, the Marine Training School has made it possible for many young men to get jobs as seamen on West German ships and to add greatly to their families' incomes through remittances. Four years after the Ellice Islands had separated from the colony to become the state of Tuvalu, the Gilberts also became independent as the Republic of Kiribati on 12 July 1979.

Settlements

Precolonial villages were social and political units centered on a meetinghouse (te mwaneaba). The settlement pattern was one of dispersed hamlets on descent-group lands, which usually ran across islets from west to east. Around 1900 the Resident Commissioner and government agents ordered Villages consolidated along a road running parallel to the Western (leeward) shore of each inhabited islet, even if that meant forcing people to move off their hereditary lands. They also compelled the islanders to build houses according to a uniform pattern. A house consists essentially of a roof covered with coconut- or pandanus-leaf thatch and supported by four or six wooden posts. Unlike most precolonial houses, the new-style ones have raised floors of split coconut-leaf midribs and can comfortably accommodate only one nuclear family. Following a colonial regulation, each family still builds separate houses for sleeping and eating. In the 1980s some relatively affluent people, such as the families of merchant seamen, and members of clubs organized for that purpose were erecting cement-block houses with galvanized-iron roofs and facilities for catching rainwater. Large meetinghouses are still constructed in more or less the traditional style, not only as sites for village councils and festivities but also by church congregations and neighborhoods.

Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The only crop that I-Kiribati cultivate regularly is the atoll taro Cyrtosperma chamissonis, which is grown in gardens dug down to the level of the freshwater lens or in natural swamps. The slower-growing varieties are often fertilized for years with mixtures of humus and leaf compost sprinkled into "pots" of plaited coconut fronds or braided pandanus leaves, until the leaves are as much as 3.5 meters high. The huge corms that develop as a result of this treatment are suitable for feasts and formal Presentations. Smaller varieties, allowed to clone and not usually fertilized, are an everyday food on the northern islands. The only other important native vegetable foods are tree cropscoconuts, pandanus, and, mainly in the north, breadfruit. The coconut palm is also the source of toddy, the juice of the unopened flower spathe which is collected in a coconut shell as a fresh drink, boiled into molasses, or allowed to ferment. The numerous fishing methods include trolling behind a canoe furnished with a sail or an outboard motor, unrolling a line with baited hook into deep water from a smaller paddling canoe, catching flying fish with a coconut-leaf torch or kerosene lantern and a scoop net, searching the holes and pools of the nighttime reef with a scoop net and machete, netting on the reef at high tide, angling from the edge of the reef, and trapping fish behind a stone weir. Domestic animals, all of which are eaten, include dogs, chickens, and introduced pigs.

Industrial Arts. There are part-time builders of canoes, houses, and meetinghouses in every village. These men, like the few remaining navigators, enjoy respect and deference, but they receive no pay except their food while at work and perhaps a waist cloth when the job is finished.

Trade. Most adults hold shares in their village cooperative store, which is affiliated with a national federation. There are many even smaller general stores belonging to individuals, partnerships, and clubs. Women sell or give away all of their husbands' catches of tuna, flying fish, and shark that exceed household requirements.

Division of Labor. Men cultivate and harvest Cyrtosperma in the south, where the corms are a luxury food. In the north women do most of the routine fertilizing, and the custom that only a woman may dig up a corm is used as an argument for marriage. The I-Kiribati also believe that only men should climb trees. Men do the bulk of the fishing; women collect shellfish and catch land crabs, but occasionally they engage in other kinds of fishing as well. Work with leaves is restricted to women, who make mats, baskets, and thatch and produce cordage from fiber obtained from coconut husks. Men build houses and canoes and make smaller wooden objects. Women normally fetch water, cook meals, and wash clothes. The division of labor is not rigid, but persons who habitually perform tasks associated with the opposite sex are regarded as having changed their gender identity, like North American Indian berdaches.

Land Tenure. Both men and women inherit land rights from both parents, rights that are inseparable from one's Status as a blood relative and a member of the community. The colonial administration abrogated the old rules, under which sons received larger shares than daughters and an eldest son (and sometimes an eldest daughter) more than younger Children, in favor of an equal division. Parents customarily divide their lands in a way that assures each of their children of rights in as many of the parental descent groups as possible. 1f someone dies without leaving natural or adopted children, his land will be divided among his siblings or, lacking these, will revert to the estate of his father and mother. Most of the lands (though not the Cyrtosperma gardens) on Butaritari and Makin are the joint property of descent groups, necessitating a system of annual or weekly turns for collecting coconuts. A widespread Micronesian distinction between provisional titleholders or caretakers (who actually work the land and utilize its products) and residual titleholders (whose claims must be acknowledged by gifts and assistance) is the basis for several social relationships, such as those between brother and married sister and between guardian and ward.


Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. Descent, like inheritance, is ambilineal. Everyone is affiliated with the descent groups (ramages) of several ancestors, although he or she is most active in a group associated with his or her own or the parents' place of residence. Before the introduction of lands registers, inactive memberships tended to lapse after a few generations, especially if the link to the group was a female ancestor. Members of a descent group who together with their spouses and children occupied a communal dwelling or hamlet on its estate constituted a residential group (te kaainga, a term used for a descent group conceived of as a landholding corporation and also for the land itself). Each descent group has traditionally been associated with a place in the meetinghouse (te inaki, literally "a vertical row of thatch," or te boti).

Kinship Terminology. Cousin terminology is Hawaiian-type: everyone with whom one shares an ancestor an equal number of generations removed can be referred to by the terms for "sibling of the same sex" or "sibling of the opposite sex." Other cognatic and affinal relatives are also classified by generation. Native kinship terms are not used in address.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. First marriages, in particular, ideally are arranged by the parents or at least require their consent, but elopements are becoming more common. In theory, persons who share an ancestor within three generations, or who trace descent from a more distant common ancestor but themselves belong to different generations, are forbidden to marry. In practice, reaction to a proposed marriage that would join together distant relatives depends on whether the immediate families of the young people have been treating one another as kinsfolk. Some families still follow the old custom of rejoicing publicly when a bride has demonstrated her virginity. Most young married people reside with the husbands' parents until they are considered ready for independent life. Until recently, they were also expected to reside permanently on land the husband had inherited either through his father or through his mother. A man who agreed to live with his wife's kin was thought to yield much of his authority over his household. A permanently separated couple is regarded as divorced by the community if not by the church. Once children have been born, kin on both sides will put pressure on the spouses to reconcile or will try to persuade an unmarried sibling to act as stepparent. Sororal polygyny is dying out.

Domestic Units. The people who cook and eat meals together are considered a family. The teenage boys and young unmarried men of the neighborhood often sleep in an unoccupied house but eat with their families. A nuclear family or a currently unmarried woman and her children are ordinarily the minimal family units. As their own children grow up and leave home, couples often begin rearing a second family of grandchildren or wards. Other helpful or dependent kinsfolk may be present as well. Families outside South Tarawa average 5.8 persons.

Inheritance. Parents leave their house to one of their Children, often when they retire to stay with each of their children in turn. Portable artifacts are probably distributed informally, but large canoes tend to be treated like land. Items of esoteric knowledge, which are considered a kind of personal property, may be bestowed on a favorite child, on another young relative, or even on an outsider.

Socialization. A good deal of personal independence is conceded even to young children, who at least in theory have the right to own property and to decide with whom they will live. Small children are treated indulgently by everyone, even when they act aggressively. Older children are expected to help with household tasks, to show respect for senior kinsfolk, and to refrain from calling attention to themselves when adults are present. Physical punishment is acceptable once a child has reached the age of reason. Threats, ridicule, and scary stories about punitive agents from outside the family are commoner sanctions, however.

Sociopolitical Organization

Kiribati is a democracy with a popularly elected president and House of Assembly.

Social Organization. Chiefs were present in the central and northern Gilberts, but on several islands no single chief managed to hold undisputed power for very long. The most stratified societies in the late precolonial and early colonial periods were Butaritari-Makin and Abemama, which had conquered the neighboring islands of Aranuka and Kuria. The Butaritari-Makin hierarchy, which resembled those of other Micronesian societies to the north, was headed by a high chief who was a focus for redistributive activities. Below the high chief and his siblings and children were aristocrats, commoners, and descendants of strangers from other islands. Since the 1970s life-styles have reflected differences in family incomes, even in the villages.

Political Organization. The government of the republic provides a system of courts and health, educational, and agricultural services on the national and island levels. Elected island councils are responsible for repairing roads, maintaining schools, granting permission to build new houses, and filling some off-island jobs. Lands courts approve the inheritance and transfer of real property and resolve disputes over boundaries and the rights of coowners. Especially since independence, many of the powers of the island councils have been assumed by unofficial bodies of village elders that developed out of the traditional councils of heads of descent groups. The elders legislate on matters ranging from trips by the local soccer team to the prohibition of alcohol. They punish violators with fines, beatings, and occasionally exile. Wider consensus is reached by inviting delegates from other villages to a joint meeting or, as on Nonouti in the late 1960s, by organizing a single council for the whole island.

Social Control. The Kiribati ethos holds that an adult should be prepared to fight if challenged and be ready to avenge an injury or insult against himself or a member of his family. On the other hand, the wisdom and control over the passions that comes with age gives some older people the Status of acknowledged peacemakers. Any assembly is thought to assert social norms over the selfish or shortsighted impulses of individuals. The fear of gossip and of secret or open mockery by neighbors are commonplace checks on deviant behavior.

Conflict. In the past, villages and intervillage factions fought to avenge offenses, to seize land, and to gain a chieftainship for their candidate. Wars became more destructive in the nineteenth century, when steel weapons and firearms were widely available and the activities of labor recruiters, traders, and missionaries weakened the social order and created new causes for conflict. In the presidential election preceding independence, the voters of Kiribati decided against having an army.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The forerunners of the present-day Kiribati Protestant Church (K.P.C.), the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the London Missionary Society, arrived in the northern and southern islands, respectively, in 1857 and 1870. The French Roman Catholic fathers of the Order of the Sacred Heart began work on Nonouti in 1888. Catholics (53 percent of the indigenous population) are in the majority from Tarawa northward. The K.P.C. (41 percent) holds a near-monopoly on Arorae and Tamana and retains majorities on a few of the other southern islands. About 2½ percent of the I-Kiribati adhere to the Baha'i faith. Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and members of other Christian sects make up the remainder of the population. A good deal of social, recreational, and even economic activity centers on the churches.

Religious Practitioners. The expatriate (mostly French) Catholic clergy has been largely replaced by I-Kiribati priests and nuns. Local catechists conduct services on most islands between occasional visits by a priest. K.P.C. ministers are all I-Kiribati (except for a few from Tuvalu) but do not serve on their home islands. The priests of the old pagan religion interpreted omens and made offerings to deities that descended from time to time onto pillars of coral limestone and other shrines or took animal forms. Spirit mediums are probably still active, although they are possessed by recently introduced supernaturals and are regarded with great ambivalence. I-Kiribati deities (some with western Polynesian names) were believed to have been ancestors of descent groups that obeyed their taboos and relied on them for protection. Their associations with animals and natural phenomena gave them significance for the community as a whole.

Ceremonies. Early in the colonial period, indigenous dancing was permitted only on Christmas, New Year's, and the Queen's birthday. These holidays, with Independence Day replacing the Queen's birthday and Easter and Youth Day added, are still occasions for public feasting and dancing. Catholics celebrate the major feasts of the church in the same ways and sometimes by mass visits to their coreligionists in other villages.

Arts. The patterns of plaited sleeping mats, created by alternating light- and dark-colored strips of dried pandanus leaf, show off women's esthetic sense as well as their technical skills. Durable ornaments are made of spondylus, mother-of-pearl, and marine snail shells; in former times, dolphin, whale, and human teeth were also used. Kiribati sitting and standing dances, accompanied by singing and by clapping hands or beating on a box, are famous. Songs are still composed by traditional methods, although usually on a Western tonal scale.

Medicine. Illness is generally attributed to material causes, although attacks by ghosts, retribution for offending a parent or other superior, sorcery, soul loss, and divine punishment are advanced as explanations in particular cases. Indigenous curing methods include the use of proprietary herbal medicines and systems of massage and cautery.

Death and Afterlife. Nineteenth-century travelers reported that the body was kept in the house for three to nine days and even longer if the deceased had been prominent. Some months after burial the skull was removed and thereafter oiled and offered food and tobacco. Mission influence has been opposed to drawn-out funerals and of course to the custom of keeping a relative's skull on a shelf or carrying it around. The wake is still attended by a large number of kinsfolk, who contribute Cyrtosperma corms and money and eulogize the departed. Burial is in a village cemetery or in a grave next to the house. Despite strong Christian beliefs in an afterlife of rewards or punishments, people remember the old story that the god Nakaa welcomes souls at the north end of the Gilberts.

See also Nauru, Rotuma, Tuvalu

Bibliography

Geddes, William H. (1977). "Social Individualisation on Tabiteuea Atoll." Journal of the Polynesian Society 86:371-392.

Macdonald, Barrie (1982). Cinderellas of the Empire: Towards a History of Kiribati and Tuvalu. Canberra: Australian National University Press.

Silverman, Martin G. (1971). Disconcerting Issue: Meaning and Struggle in a Resettled Pacific Community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Waiters, Ray, and Nancy J. Pollock, project directors (1983). Atoll Economy: Social Change in Kiribati and Tuvalu. 6 vols. Canberra: Australian National University Press.

BERND LAMBERT

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Kiribati

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Kiribatians

35 Bibliography

Republic of Kiribati

CAPITAL: Tarawa

FLAG: Above a blue and white heraldic representation of Pacific waters, a golden sun rises against a red background, with a golden frigate bird at the top.

ANTHEM: Troika kain Kiribati (Stand Kiribati).

MONETARY UNIT: The Australian dollar is the national currency. a$1 = us$0.76336 (or us$1 = a$1.31) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Kiribati is in transition from imperial to metric standards.

HOLIDAYS: New Year’s Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 12 July; Youth Day, 4 August; Christmas Day, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Queen’s Birthday (June), Bank Holiday (August), and Prince of Wales’s Birthday (November).

TIME: Midnight = noon GMT.

1 Location and Size

Kiribati (pronounced “Kiribass”) consists of 33 islands in the central Pacific, situated near the point at which the International Date Line intersects the equator. Scattered over more than 5 million square kilometers (2 million square miles) of ocean, Kiribati’s total land area is 811 square kilometers (313 square miles). Comparatively, the area occupied by Kiribati is about four times the size of Washington, D.C. It has a total coastline is 1,143 kilometers (710 miles).

Kiribati’s capital city, Tarawa, is located on the small island of Tarawa (between Abaiang and Maiana).

2 Topography

Kiribati is made up of three island groups: the Gilbert Islands (on the equator), the Phoenix Islands (to the east), and the Line Islands (north of the equator). Most of the islands are coral atolls built on a submerged volcanic chain. Christmas Island is the largest atoll in the world, with an area of 606 square kilometers (234 square miles). The highest point of the country is an unnamed point on the island of Banaba, which reaches a peak of 81 meters (266 feet). The lowest point is at sea level (Pacific Ocean).

3 Climate

Tempered by prevailing easterly trade winds, the islands have a maritime equatorial climate, with

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 811 sq km (313 sq mi)

Size ranking: 172 of 194

Highest elevation: 81 meters (266 feet) at an unnamed location on Banaba

Lowest elevation: Sea level at the Pacific Ocean

Land Use*

Arable land: 3%

Permanent crops: 48%

Other: 49%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: 163 centimeters (64 inches)

Average temperature in January: 28°c (82°f)

Average temperature in July: 28°c (82°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

high humidity during the November-April rainy season. Rainfall varies from an average of 102 centimeters (40 inches) near the equator to 305 centimeters (120 inches) in the extreme north and south. Daily temperatures range from 25°c (77°f) to 32°c (90°f), with an annual average temperature of 28°c (82°f).

4 Plants and Animals

The extreme poverty of the soil and the variability of the rainfall make cultivation of most crops impossible. Only babai (a kind of taro root), coconut palms, and pandanus trees grow easily on most islands. Pigs and poultry were probably introduced by Europeans. Sea life abounds.

5 Environment

Changes in the level of the sea are serious concerns for the nation. A rise in sea level by even two feet (60 centimeters) would leave Kiribati uninhabitable. Agricultural chemicals have polluted coastal waters. The lagoon of the south Tarawa atoll has been heavily polluted by solid waste disposal. Like other Pacific islands, Kiribati is sensitive to the dangers of pollution and radiation from weapons tests and nuclear waste disposal. A United Nations report describes the wildlife in these areas as “among the most critically threatened in the world.” Endangered or extinct species include the green sea turtle and mukojima bonin honeyeater.

According to a 2006 report, threatened species included five types of birds, four species of fish, and one type of mollusk.

6 Population

The estimated population in 2005 was estimated at 92,000. The projected population for 2025 was 141,000. As of 2005, a total of 42,000 people lived in the capital of Tarawa. Some islands remain uninhabited.

7 Migration

Fiji, Nauru, and the Solomon Islands are popular places for western Kiribatians to resettle in search of work. Internal migration occurs mainly to the Line Islands’ copra (dried coconut meat) plantations. During 1988–93, 4,700 people were resettled on the Teraira and Tabuaeran atolls of the Line Islands because of overcrowding on the main island group. The total number of migrants in 2000 was 2,000. In 2005, the estimated net migration rate was zero.

8 Ethnic Groups

About 98.8% of the people are Gilbertese of Micronesian extraction. Polynesians (mainly from Tuvalu) make up 0.5% of the total; Europeans and people of mixed races, make up 0.7%.

9 Languages

The principal languages spoken are Gilbertese (also called Kiribatese) and English. The official language is English, but it is seldom used on the outer islands. Gilbertese is an Austronesian language related to many other Pacific tongues.

10 Religions

Most of the population is Christian. According to 2002 government statistics, 55% of the population were Roman Catholics and 37% belong to the Kiribati Protestant Church (formerly called the Congregational Church). Religious minorities include the Seventh-day Adventists, the Church of God, Assemblies of God, Mormons, and Baha’is. About 5% of the population claimed no religious affiliation.

11 Transportation

There are only about 670 kilometers (416 miles) of roads, mostly on Tarawa Island. There is no rail, river, or lake transport. The port near Tarawa is equipped for handling containers. The airports on Kiritimati (Christmas Island) and at Tarawa are used for scheduled overseas flights. In 1997 (the latest year for which data was available), 28,000 passengers were carried on scheduled airline flights.

12 History

Early History European discovery dates from 1537, when Kiritimati (Christmas Island) was

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Name: Anote Tong

Position: President of a republic

Took Office: 10 July 2003

Birthdate: 1952

Education: University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, bachelor of science; London School of Economics, master’s degree

Spouse: Meme Bernadette

Children: Eight children

Of interest: Anote Tong won the 2003 election with a slim majority over his brother, Dr. Harry Tong.

sighted by Spanish explorers. Commercial activities (by the British) began early in the 19th century. Trading ships stopped there regularly by the 1850s and a flourishing copra (dried coconut meat) and coconut trade was established by the 1860s, as well as an illegal slave trade. In the late 19th century, the British set up local native governments on the annexed Kiritimati (Christmas Island), Fanning, Washington, Phoenix, Gilbert, and Ellice Islands (now Tuvalu) and a period of stability followed.

Ocean Island was annexed by Britain in 1900, following Sir Albert Ellis’s discovery of its valuable phosphate deposits. The British declared colonies on Ellice Island (now Tuvalu) in 1916, Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in 1919, and the uninhabited Phoenix group in 1937. During World War II (1939–45), the same islands were occupied by Japanese forces. In 1943, the Japanese were driven out by United States military forces, with heavy casualties on both sides. Ocean Island was liberated by the Australians in 1945.

Independence In a 1974 referendum, the Ellice Islands voted for separation, becoming the independent nation of Tuvalu. The Gilbert Islands became the independent Republic of Kiribati on 12 July 1979. Ieremia Tabai, chief minister at the time of independence, became president of the new republic in 1979 and was reelected in May 1982 and February 1983.

The Banabans, who had been resettled in 1946 on Rabi (Fiji) so that strip mining could be pursued on their native island, sued for damages in 1975. After a lengthy legal battle, a settlement was reached in 1981, providing for creation of a trust fund of nearly us$10.5 million for Banaban development.

Kiribati began resettling more than 4,700 people on outlying atolls in August 1988 to relieve overcrowded conditions on the Tarawa atolls. In September 1988, Kiribati ratified the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Treaty, which permits U.S. tuna ships to operate within its 200-mile exclusive zone. In early 1992, the house of assembly told the government to seek payment from the United States for damage done to the country during World War II (1939–45).

In 1999, Kiribati was admitted to the United Nations (along with Nauru and Tonga).

Teburoro Tito was elected to a four-year term as president in 1994 and reelected in 1998 and 2003. Tito lost power in a no-confidence vote after serving just one day in office of his third term, however. New elections had to be held. In July 2003, Anote Tong defeated his brother, Harry Tong, for the presidency. In November of that same year, Kiribati became the fifth Pacific nation to recognize Taiwan. As a result, China cut its diplomatic ties and removed a space tracking station on Tarawa. However, China did keep a three-person diplomatic staff at its embassy.

Long-term elevation of the surrounding sea level due to global warming remains a serious concern for Kiribati. It has already lost two uninhabited islands and has been forced to move segments of its population inland, away from coastal regions.

13 Government

Kiribati is a democratic republic within the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly known as the British Commonwealth of Nations or the British Commonwealth). It has a single-chamber legislative assembly, Maneaba ni Maungatabu. The beretitenti (president), who is both head of state and head of government, is elected directly by popular vote from among members of the assembly. The islands are divided into 6 districts, which are further divided into 21 island councils.

14 Political Parties

In 1985 opponents of a Soviet fishing agreement founded the Christian Democratic party. Since 1991 the Liberal Party, the Maneaba Party, the New Movement Party, and the Health Peace and Honour Party have been formed. Today, the only recognizable parties are the Maneaban te Mauri Party (formerly the Christian Democratic Party) and the Boutokaan te Koaua Party.

15 Judicial System

The 1979 constitution provides for a high court to act as the supreme court. There is also a court of appeal and magistrates’ courts. Island courts were established in 1965 to deal with civil and criminal offenses. Native land courts handle property claims.

The judiciary is independent and free from government influence. The constitution guarantees civil rights and liberties, which are respected in practice.

Yearly Growth Rate

This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.

16 Armed Forces

There have been no armed forces in Kiribati since legislation providing for the establishment of a defense force of 170 men was repealed in 1978. There is, however, a small police force. Defense assistance is provided by Australia and New Zealand.

17 Economy

The nation relies on fishing, subsistence agriculture, and exports of copra (dried coconut meat) and is heavily dependent on aid from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Japan, and investment from Australia. Tourism provides about 20% of the gross domestic product (GDP). The country remains heavily dependent on remittances from workers abroad and on foreign aid.

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

18 Income

In 2004, Kiribati’s gross domestic product (GDP) was us$206 million, or about us$2,700 per person. The annual growth rate of GDP in 2005 was estimated at 0.3%. The average inflation rate was 0.5%.

19 Industry

Several small industries have been established, including a soft-drink plant, a biscuit factory, boat-building shops, construction companies, furniture plants, repair garages, and bakeries. The government also promotes local handicrafts.

20 Labor

In 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), the labor force totaled an estimated 7,870 economically active people, not including subsistence farmers. About 90% of the labor force was engaged in agriculture or fishing. Overseas workers sent most of their wages home to Kiribati. The minimum age for employment is 14, which is enforced in the industrial sector, but

many children perform light work in the traditional fishing economy.

There is no mandated minimum wage, although wage levels tend to be set by the government through the relatively large public sector.

21 Agriculture

Agriculture is limited chiefly to coconut and pandanus production. An estimated 103,000 tons of coconuts, 5,000 tons of bananas, and 5,900 tons of vegetables and melons were produced in 2004. Agricultural trade in 2004 consisted of us$1.8 million in exports and us$14.3 million in imports. Agriculture contributes 9% to the economy.

22 Domesticated Animals

There were 12,400 pigs in Kiribati in 2005. Annual pork production was 876 tons. The Agricultural Division has introduced improved breeds of livestock.

23 Fishing

Sea fishing is excellent, particularly for skipjack tuna around the Phoenix Islands. The total sea

Yearly Balance of Trade

The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).

catch in 2003 was 35,947 tons. Kiribati also receives revenue from the sales of licenses permitting foreign vessels to fish its offshore waters. Seaweed is also exported. In 2003, exports of fish products were valued at us$4.26 million.

24 Forestry

The forested area was estimated to cover 38.4% of the islands in 2000, but there is little useful timber on the islands.

25 Mining

There has been no mining in Kiribati since the closing of the Banaba phosphate industry in 1979.

26 Foreign Trade

Copra (dried coconut meat), fish, and seaweed are major export products. Imports consist largely of food, fuel, consumer goods, industrial supplies, machinery, and transportation equipment. Key trading partners are the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Japan, and China.

In 2002, Kiribati’s exports were valued at us$35 million, while imports totaled $83 million that same year.

27 Energy and Power

The government maintains electricity-generating plants on Tarawa Island and Kiritimati (Christmas Island). In 2002 electric power generating capacity was 3,000 kilowatts. Production of electricity totaled 12 million kilowatt-hours in that same year.

Kiribati has no known reserves of oil, natural gas, or coal. As a result all fossil fuel needs are met by imports.

28 Social Development

A government system provides old-age, disability, and survivor benefits for all employees over 14 years old, with the exception of domestic workers. Workers’ compensation is available for some employed persons, with the cost covered by the employer.

Women are granted the same legal rights as men, but they have traditionally found themselves in a subordinate role in society. However, they are gradually entering both skilled and unskilled occupations. Although there are signs of affirmative action in government hiring and promotions, Domestic violence is a significant

problem, and child abuse appears to be a growing problem.

29 Health

All health services are free. Tuberculosis remains the most serious public health problem. Other endemic diseases are leprosy, dysentery, and Vitamin A deficiency, which frequently causes night blindness. In 2002, average life expectancy was 61.71 years.

Most Kiribatians live in small villages composed of 10 to 150 houses. They construct their own dwellings from local materials. The use of more permanent building materials, such as concrete with corrugated aluminum roofing, is becoming common in urban areas.

31 Education

Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15 years. They attend seven years of primary school and five years of secondary school. In 1997 (the latest year for which data was available) there were 17,594 students attending 86 primary schools, with 727 teachers. The pupil-to-teacher ratio stood at 24 to 1. In secondary schools, there were 215 staff and 4,403 students in that same year. Secondary-school pupils earn the New Zealand school certificate. The estimated adult literacy rate is 90%.

Higher-education courses are available at the Kiribati Extension Center of the University of the South Pacific (Fiji) in Tarawa. The Tarawa Technical Institute offers instruction in technical and vocational skills.

32 Media

As of 2004, there were three radio stations, two of which were government-owned, but no national television stations in operation. As of 1997 (the latest year for which data was available), there were 17,000 radios and 1,000 televisions in use nationwide. In 2002, there were 2,000 Internet subscribers.

All publications are government- or church-sponsored. The Information Department at Tarawa publishes Atoll Pioneer, a weekly newspaper. Te Itoi ni Kiribati, a weekly newsletter, is published by the Roman Catholic Church. Te Kaotan te Ota is a newspaper published monthly by the Protestant Church.

33 Tourism and Recreation

Tourism is undeveloped because of a lack of regular transport. A visitors’ bureau at Tarawa provides access to fishing, swimming, and boating facilities on Tarawa Island and arranges trips by sea or air to other islands.

Traditional dancing and singing styles have survived, and modern forms of recreation are developing, especially soccer.

In 2001 a total of 4,555 foreign visitors arrived in Kiribati, of which over half were from East Asia. In 2002 there were 162 hotel rooms.

34 Famous Kiribatians

Ieremia Tabai (1950–) was president from the year of Kiribati’s independence until 1991.

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Grimble, Arthur Francis, Sir. Tungaru Traditions: Writings on the Atoll Culture of the Gilbert Islands. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989.

Mason, Leonard, ed. Kiribati: A Changing Atoll Culture. Suva, Fiji: University of the South Pacific, 1985.

WEB SITES

Commonwealth Country Profiles. www.thecommonwealth.org/Templates/YearbookHomeInternal.asp?NodeID=139195. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/eap/ci/kr/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

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Kiribati

Culture Name

I-Kiribati or kaini Kiribati. "Kiribati" is a transliteration of "Gilberts," the British colonial name for part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony.

Alternative Names

The Kiribati name for the Gilbert Islands is Tungaru, and the archipelago's inhabitants sometimes refer to themselves as I-Tungaru. Island of origin is an important aspect of identification that predates colonialism, and I-Kiribati differentiate themselves by birthplace.

Orientation

Identification. Kiribati is located at the interface of the Micronesian and Polynesian cultural areas and is generally considered Micronesian. The over-whelming majority of the population is I-Kiribati, with very small minorities (less than 2 percent) of Tuvaluans and I-Matang (Westerners).

Location and Geography. The country consists of 33 islands in three primary groupsthe western Tungaru chain (sixteen islands), the Phoenix Islands (eight islands), and the Line Islands (eight of the ten islands in the chain)plus Banaba (Ocean Island) at the western edge of the nation. Ocean-rich and land-poor, these equatorial islands are scattered over millions of square kilometers of the central Pacific Ocean, with a total land area of about 284 square miles (736 square kilometers). Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in the northern Line Islands accounts for about 48 percent of this land area. Banaba is a raised limestone island, but the other islands are all coral atolls, and most have lagoons. These atolls rise less than thirteen feet (four meters) above sea level, raising concerns over rising sea levels as a result of global warming. The thin alkaline soils are extremely infertile, and there is no fresh surface water. Mean daily temperatures vary only slightly, averaging approximately 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius). The north of the Tungaru chain is wetter, more verdant, and less prone to drought than the south.

Demography. Banaba and the sixteen most westerly islands have been inhabited for over three thousand years by ancestors of the contemporary I-Kiribati. The Phoenix Islands and Line Islands were not permanently inhabited before the twentieth century. Twenty of the islands are permanently settled. The majority of the population (92 percent) lives in the Tungaru chain, with over one-third living on urban South Tarawa.

The population reached 84,000 in 1998, and is growing at a rate of 1.41.8 percent per year. Population has been growing rapidly since the early 1900s, and overpopulation is a serious concern of the government. While family-planning methods were introduced in 1968 and are delivered free, fertility remains moderately high and large families are culturally valued. Despite government efforts to maintain and improve life on the outer islands, there has been substantial migration to the capital on South Tarawa. There are several thousand I-Kiribati in other countries, most serving as temporary workers. There is a small migrant community of I-Kiribati in Vanuatu. Most Banabans were resettled on Rabi Island in Fiji, and became Fijian citizens in 1970. However, they retain ownership of land on Banaba and rights of residence and representation in Kiribati.

Linguistic Affiliation. The I-Kiribati language, sometimes referred to as Gilbertese, is a Micronesian language in the Austronesian family and is spoken in a relatively uniform manner throughout the islands. While the language shows considerable borrowing from Polynesia, it is distinct from the language of neighboring Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands. English is the official language and is taught in primary and secondary schools. Many adults on the outer islands speak little English.

Symbolism. Symbols of nationalism are linked centrally to independence. The primary symbol of the republic is the flag, which depicts a frigate bird over an ocean sunrise. Seventeen rays of sunlight represent the sixteen Tungaru islands and Banaba, and three waves represent the Tungaru, Phoenix, and Line island groups. On the flag is the motto te mauri te raoi ao te tabomoa ("Good Health, Peace, and Honor"). The national anthem is Teirake kaini Kiribati (Stand Up, I-Kiribati ).

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. In 1892, the Gilbert Islands became a protectorate of Great Britain and were joined with the Ellice Islands protectorate in 1916 to form the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. In that year, Banaba, Fanning Island (Tabuaeran), Washington Island (Teraina), and the Union Islands (Tokelau) became part of the colony, as did Kiritimati in 1919 and most of the Phoenix Islands in 1937.

Despite a centralized colonial government, a schism developed over time between the culturally and linguistically different Gilbert and Ellice Islanders concerning jobs and other political issues. This ultimately resulted in the separation of the Ellice Islands to become Tuvalu in 1978. In contrast to Kiribati, Tuvalu opted for membership in the British Commonwealth. In July 1979, the Gilberts, Banaba, and the Phoenix and Line Islands became the independent Republic of Kiribati.

Several islands in northern and central Kiribati were occupied by the Japanese in World War II, and the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943 was one of the bloodiest of that war. However, there was little ongoing impact from the Japanese occupation.

National Identity. Precolonially, the people of the Tungaru islands formed small, shifting political units, and there was no unified economic or political system or cultural identity. A single national identity emerged only after World War II as a result of colonial policies intended to move the area toward political independence.

Differences between the northern, central, and southern islands of Tungaru, especially in terms of social and political organization, traditions, and group characteristics, are clearly identified by I-Kiribati and underlie national politics. Traditionally, the north had a more complex social organization with a kingship and chiefly classes compared with the more egalitarian social structure of the south. Currently the north and central islands are seen as more progressive than the south, which is more politically and socially conservative.

Ethnic Relations. I-Kiribati can be considered culturally and ethnically homogeneous, with a shared genetic history, cultural traditions, values, historical experience, and language. I-Kiribati distinguish themselves from neighboring island groups and see the greatest conceptual divide between themselves and I-Matang ("Westerners"). The culture and language of Banaba are basically I-Kiribati. The primary issue in Banaban independence movements has been the distribution of phosphate revenues, not cultural differences.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Rural houses usually are built of traditional materials and are open-sided rectangular structures with thatched roofs and raised floors. In towns, more houses are built with imported materials such as concrete block and corrugated iron. The most symbolically important structure is the rectangular, open-sided maneaba (meeting house), which may be owned by a family, church community, or village. The maneaba functions as a central place for formal and informal group activities. Maneaba built with modern materials follow the traditional prescriptions of style, aspect, and orientation. The floor is composed of unmarked but known sitting places termed boti arranged around the perimeter, with one belonging to each family represented in the maneaba ; this is the place from which a representative (usually the oldest male) of each family participates in community discussions and decision making. Churches are architecturally European and often are the largest structures in a village.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Fish and marine resources are a primary food source, as the ecological nature of atolls mean that only the most hardy plants can grow there. Local crops include coconut, giant swamp taro, breadfruit, pandanus, and a native fig. Coconut is central to the diet and is especially valued for the sweet, vitamin-rich toddy (sap) cut from the flower spathe. Toddy is used as a children's drink or as a base for syrup. It can also be soured into vinegar and fermented into an alcoholic drink. Drunkenness is a widespread problem that is dealt with on some islands by the prohibition of alcohol. Imported goods, especially rice, but also flour, canned butter, and canned fish and meat, are becoming increasingly important in the daily diet.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. The display and eating of prestige foods is central to all celebrations and banquets. Although imported goods are increasingly available, local foods are more important in feasting, such as crayfish, giant clam, pig, chicken, and giant swamp taro. The most symbolically valued crop is giant swamp taro, which is grown in pits dug into the water lens under each atoll.

Basic Economy. Around 80 percent of the population engages in subsistence agriculture and fishing. The cash economy is limited largely to South Tarawa, where the private sector of the economy is very small and there are few manufacturing enterprises. Independence in 1979 coincided with the end of phosphate mining on Banaba, which in 1978 had accounted for 88 percent of the nation's export earnings. The cash economy has now shifted to dependence on remittances from I-Kiribati employed in phosphate mining on Nauru or working as seamen on foreign-owned merchant ships, as well as foreign aid. Accounting for some 60 percent of the gross domestic product in 1995, aid is received mainly from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the European Union. The government has determined that there is potential for the development of tourism. However, economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and geographic remoteness.

Land Tenure and Property. Access to and ownership of land underlie and cement social relations. A vital unit in I-Kiribati society, the utu includes all those people who are linked as kin and share common ownership of land plots. Everyone on an island belongs to several utu; people may inherit the land rights for each utu from either parent. The kainga, or family estate, sits at the heart of each utu, and those who live on the particular kainga of one of their utu have the greatest say in utu affairs and the largest share of produce from the land in that utu. The colonial government attempted to reorganize the land tenure system to encourage the codification of individual land holdings, in part to reduce land disputes. As a result, land transfers are now registered.

Commercial Activities. Marine resources have emerged as the most important natural resource for Kiribati, particularly the licensing of foreign fishing vessels to fish in the two hundred nautical miles of the exclusive economic zone in the waters surrounding the islands. Efforts to develop a competitive local fishing company have been less successful but large stocks of tuna fish remain in Kiribati waters. Copra, fish, and farmed seaweed are major exports.

Trade. The primary imports are food, manufactured goods, vehicles, fuel, and machinery. Most consumer goods are imported from Australia, and the Australian dollar is the unit of currency.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Generally, postcolonial Kiribati can be considered a relatively classless society. A new social class of young leaders is emerging, however, threatening the village-based traditional authority of elders. There are also growing income disparities, and access to higher education is emerging as a key differentiating factor.

Political Life

Government. The boti, or clan, system, which according to oral tradition was imported from Samoa around 1400 c.e., remained the central focus of social and political life in Tungaru until around 1870. By the time of the establishment of the British protectorate in 1892, the traditional boti system had largely been eradicated, replaced judicially and administratively by a central government station on each island. Another major change came when the colonial administration completely reorganized the land tenure system before the 1930s, taking households that had been dispersed as hamlets in the bush and lining them up in villages along a central thoroughfare. At that time, control over village and family activities started to move to the heads of families. In 1963, the British colonial government abolished the kingship (uea ) system that was part of the traditional political structure of the northern islands. The council of elders (unimane ) that historically included all the male senior family heads is now responsible for overseeing village and island affairs. Local government consists of statutory island councils with elected members and limited administrative and financial powers and government-appointed administrators.

The government consists of a Maneaba ni Maungatabu, or parliament, which is unicameral. The Beretitenti, or president, is elected by popular vote every four years and is both head of government and chief of state. There is no tradition of formal political parties, although there are loosely structured political parties. There is universal suffrage at age 18.

Leadership and Political Officials. The council of elders in each community continues to be an effective local political force. The village household is the most important unit, and within it the most important person is the oldest male.

Social Problems and Control. The judicial branch of the government includes a court of appeals and a high court, as well as a magistrate's court on each inhabited island. The jurisdiction of the magistrates' courts is unlimited in land matters but limited in criminal and civil cases. There are small police forces on all the islands. Emerging substantial problems include embezzlement (often connected with the practice of bubuti, or requests by kin that cannot be refused), robbery, sexual coercion, and child and domestic abuse, often linked to alcohol use.

Military Activity. There is no standing army. Kiribati has shown some assertiveness in its foreign relations, for example, in the 1986 fishing rights treaty that was negotiated with the Soviet Union despite strong opposition from the United States.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Nongovernmental organizations (NGO) include the Catholic and Protestant women's organizations and the Scouting Association and Guiding Association. An NGO of traditional healers was recently formed. Australian, British, Japanese, and American volunteer organizations are active in Kiribati.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Labor is divided by gender, with men fishing and collecting toddy and doing heavy construction tasks, while women handle child care and cook and keep house; both genders cultivate crops. While women may fish and often collect shellfish in the lagoon, only men may collect toddy. There is a clear status ranking in each household, which is usually headed by the oldest male unless he is too elderly to be active. The control of domestic activities lies with a senior married woman.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. While Kiribati society is currently egalitarian, democratic, and respectful of human rights, in the traditional culture women occupy a subordinate role. Job opportunities for women are limited, and there is no law against gender discrimination. Few women have served in key governmental or political positions. Women have started to play a more prominent role through women's associations and they now occasionally speak in the maneaba.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Although historically polygamy was practiced, the marriage system is now monogamous. Arranged marriages remain common, especially in rural areas. "Love matches" and elopements have become more common and are tolerated by most families. Virginity tests of the bride remain valued despite criticism by churches. Marriage is almost universal, and divorce is unpopular and uncommon.

Domestic Unit. The household is commonly based on a single nuclear family and may include aging parents and adoptive kin. Patrilocal residence remains common in rural areas, with married women moving to live on the husband's kainga.

Kin Groups. The main kinship units are mwenga ("household"), utu ("related family"), and kainga. Membership in mwenga is determined by residence, in utu by kin relations, and in kainga by common property holding and descent from a common ancestor. Inheritance of property and kinship are traced through both the mother's and the father's families. Adoption is widely practiced, especially between close kin.

Socialization

Infant Care. In this pro-natal society, infants are showered with attention and care by both parents and by the extended family. In the first few months after a birth, the mother stays in the house with the baby, and breast-feeding on demand is standard until at least six months of age. Kiribati has one of the highest infant death rates in the world as a result of diarrheal disease and respiratory infection.

Child Rearing and Education. After infancy, care by siblings, especially sisters, is very common, even by siblings as young as eight years. Children are indulged until they are about four years old, after which they become subject to strict parental and kin authority reinforced by corporal punishment. Crying and emotional outbreaks are not tolerated, and a good child is obedient, helpful, and respectful. By age eight or nine, children are expected to start helping around the house.

Schooling is compulsory for children from age six. Approximately 20 percent of primary students go on to receive secondary education. Education is highly valued by parents as a means of increasing their children's wage-earning abilities.

Higher Education. Higher education is expanding and increasingly valued. Kiribati participates with eleven other Pacific Island countries in funding the University of the South Pacific with its main campus in Suva, Fiji. Technical education is available in South Tarawa at the Teacher's Training College, Tarawa Technical Institute, and the Marine Training Centre.

Etiquette

The most important aspect of etiquette for locals and guests involves behavior in the maneaba, where there are appropriate places and ways to sit and interact. In all aspects of life, humility and humbleness are admired. Direct eye contact is uncommon, and it is inappropriate to look directly at one of higher status or cut between the gaze of talking individuals. Touching of heads is considered extremely intimate, and the top of the head is a taboo area. Modest dress is important for women, and cleanliness of the body and clothing is valued.

Religion

Religious Beliefs. According to I-Kiribati mythology, the giant spider Nareau was the creator, followed by spirits (anti ), half spirits, half humans, and finally humans. The anti were the most important figures in I-Kiribati worship before Christian missionaries arrived, and they remain respected in everyday life.

Conversion activity began in 1852 with the arrival of Protestant missionaries. There was a rivalry between the Catholic and Protestant missions, resulting in deep-seated animosities that remain as an undercurrent in national and island politics. Just over half of all I-Kiribati are Catholic, almost half are Protestant, and the remainder are Seventh-Day Adventist, Baha'i, and members of the Church of God and the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

Medicine and Health Care

Life expectancy is low, and the most common causes of adult death are infectious diseases, including tuberculosis. Liver cancer is a common cause of male death, exacerbated by widespread infection with hepatitis B and heavy alcohol use. There have been several cases of AIDS. Traffic-related accidents are increasing.

While a new central hospital was completed in Tarawa in 1992 and the Ministry of Health and Family Planning provides free medical care in most villages, medical supplies and services are not always available. A pluralistic system of traditional herbal and massage treatments is maintained alongside biomedical services, and many women give birth at home. Healing traditions are passed on as special knowledge within families.

Secular Celebrations

The most important holiday is the annual celebration of independence on 12 July, which includes sports competitions, parades, and feasts. Other national holidays include New Year's Day, Easter, Christmas, and Youth Day (4 August).

Bibliography

Brewis, Alexandra. Lives on the Line: Women and Ecology on a Pacific Atoll, 1996.

Grimble, Arthur Francis and H. E. Maude, eds. Tungaru Traditions: Writings on the Atoll Culture of the Gilbert Islands, 1989.

Macdonald, Barrie. Cinderellas of the Empire: Toward a History of Kiribati and Tuvalu, 1982.

Mason, Leonard, ed. Kiribati: A Changing Atoll Culture, 1984.

Talu et al. Kiribati: Aspects of History, 1979.

Van Trease, Howard, ed. Atoll Politics: The Republic of Kiribati, 1993.

Alexandra Brewis and Sandra Crismon