Northern Mariana Islands
(commonwealth in political union with the US)
[Country Flag of Northern Mariana Islands]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Northern Mariana Islands]

Northern Mariana Islands


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Location: Oceania, islands in the North Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines

Geographic coordinates: 15 12 N, 145 45 E

Map references: Oceania

total: 477 sq km
land: 477 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes 14 islands including Saipan, Rota, and Tinian

Area—comparative: 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 1,482 km

Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: tropical marine; moderated by northeast trade winds, little seasonal temperature variation; dry season December to June, rainy season July to October

Terrain: southern islands are limestone with level terraces and fringing coral reefs; northern islands are volcanic

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Agrihan 965 m

Natural resources: arable land, fish

Land use:
arable land: 21%
permanent crops: NA%
permanent pastures: 19%
forests and woodland: NA%
other: NA%

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: active volcanoes on Pagan and Agrihan; typhoons (especially August to November)

Environment—current issues: contamination of groundwater on Saipan may contribute to disease; clean-up of landfill; protection of endangered species conflicts with development

Environment—international agreements:
party to: NA
signed, but not ratified: NA

Geography—note: strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean


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Population: 66,561 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 24% (male 8,110; female 7,869)
15-64 years: 74% (male 23,847; female 25,659)
65 years and over: 2% (male 518; female 558) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 4.2% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 22.81 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 2.28 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 21.42 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.93 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 6.53 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 75.82 years
male: 72.76 years
female: 79.08 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.89 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: NA
adjective: NA

Ethnic groups: Chamorro, Carolinians and other Micronesians, Caucasian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean

Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic majority, although traditional beliefs and taboos may still be found)

Languages: English, Chamorro, Carolinian
note: 86% of population speaks a language other than English at home

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97%
male: 97%
female: 96% (1980 est.)


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Country name:
conventional long form: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
conventional short form: Northern Mariana Islands

Data code: CQ

Dependency status: commonwealth in political union with the US; federal funds to the Commonwealth administered by the US Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs

Government type: commonwealth; self-governing with locally elected governor, lieutenant governor, and legislature

National capital: Saipan

Administrative divisions: none

Independence: none (commonwealth in political union with the US)

National holiday: Commonwealth Day, 8 January (1978)

Constitution: Covenant Agreement effective 4 November 1986 and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Legal system: based on US system except for customs, wages, immigration laws, and taxation

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal; indigenous inhabitants are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections

Executive branch:
chief of state: President of the US William Jefferson CLINTON (since 20 January 1993); Vice President Albert GORE, Jr. (since 20 January 1993)
head of government: Governor Pedro P. TENORIO (since NA January 1998) and Lieutenant Governor Jesus R. SABLAN (since NA January 1998)
cabinet: NA
elections: governor and lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms; election last held in NA November 1997 (next to be held NA November 2001)
election results: Pedro P. TENORIO elected governor of Northern Mariana Islands in three-way race; percent of vote—Pedro P. TENORIO (Republican) 47%

Legislative branch: bicameral Legislature consists of the Senate (9 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year staggered terms) and the House of Representatives (18 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
elections: Senate—last held NA November 1997 (next to be held NA November 1999); House of Representatives—last held NA November 1997 (next to be held NA November 1999)
election results: Senate—percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—NA (Republicans retained a majority of the seats); House of Representatives—percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—NA (Republicans retained a majority of the seats)
note: the Commonwealth does not have a nonvoting delegate in Congress; instead, it has an elected official or "resident representative" located in Washington, DC; seats by party—Republican 1 (Juan N. BABAUTA)

Judicial branch: Commonwealth Supreme Court; Superior Court; Federal District Court

Political parties and leaders: Republican Party, Benigno R. FITIAL, leader; Democratic Party, chairman (currently vacant)

International organization participation: ESCAP (associate), SPC

Flag description: blue with a white five-pointed star superimposed on the gray silhouette of a latte stone (a traditional foundation stone used in building) in the center, surrounded by a wreath


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Economy—overview: The economy benefits substantially from financial assistance from the US. The rate of funding has declined as locally generated government revenues have grown. An agreement for the years 1986 to 1992 entitled the islands to $228 million for capital development, government operations, and special programs. Since 1992, funding has been extended one year at a time. The commonwealth received $27.7 million from FY93/94 through FY95/96. For FY96/97 through FY02/03, funding of $11 million will be provided for infrastructure, with an equal local match. A rapidly growing chief source of income is the tourist industry, which now employs about 50% of the work force. Japanese tourists predominate. The agricultural sector is of minor importance and is made up of cattle ranches and small farms producing coconuts, breadfruit, tomatoes, and melons. Garment production is the fastest growing industry with employment of 12,000 mostly Chinese workers and shipments of $800 million to the US in 1997 under duty and quota exemptions.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$524 million (1994 est.)
note: GDP numbers reflect US spending

GDP—real growth rate: NA%

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$10,500 (1994 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 6.5% (1994 est.)

Labor force:
total: 7,476 total indigenous labor force; 2,699 unemployed; 22,560 foreign workers (1995)
by occupation: NA

Unemployment rate: 14% (residents)

revenues: $190.4 million
expenditures: $190.4 million, including capital expenditures of $19.1 million (FY94/95)

Industries: tourism, construction, garments, handicrafts

Industrial production growth rate: NA%

Electricity—capacity: NA kW

Electricity—production: NA kWh

Electricity—consumption per capita: NA kWh

Agriculture—products: coconuts, fruits, vegetables; cattle

Exports: NA
commodities: garments
partners: NA

Imports: NA
commodities: food, construction equipment and materials, petroleum products
partners: US, Japan

Debt—external: $NA

Economic aid: none

Currency: 1 United States dollar (US$) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: US currency is used

Fiscal year: 1 October—30 September


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Telephones: 13,618 (1993 est.)

Telephone system:
domestic: NA
international: satellite earth stations—2 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 3

Radios: 15,460 (1995 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 1
note: there is 1 cable TV station

Televisions: 15,460 (1995 est.)


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Railways: 0 km

total: 362 km (1991 est.)
paved: NA km
unpaved: NA km

Waterways: none

Ports and harbors: Saipan, Tinian

Merchant marine: none

Airports: 5 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (1997 est.)

Heliports: 1 (1997 est.)


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Military—note: defense is the responsibility of the US

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: none