Kiribati [Country Flag of Kiribati]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Kiribati]



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Location: Oceania, group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, straddling the equator, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Australia; note—on 1 January 1995, Kiribati unilaterally moved the International Date Line from the middle of the country to include its easternmost islands and make it the same day throughout the country

Geographic coordinates: 1 25 N, 173 00 E

Map references: Oceania

total: 717 sq km
land: 717 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes three island groups—Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands

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

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 1,143 km

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

Climate: tropical; marine, hot and humid, moderated by trade winds

Terrain: mostly low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Banaba 81 m

Natural resources: phosphate (production discontinued in 1979)

Land use:
arable land: NA%
permanent crops: 51%
permanent pastures: NA%
forests and woodland: 3%
other: 46% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: typhoons can occur any time, but usually November to March; occasional tornadoes

Environment—current issues: heavy pollution in lagoon of south Tarawa atoll due to heavy migration mixed with traditional practices such as lagoon latrines and open-pit dumping; ground water at risk

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography—note: 20 of the 33 islands are inhabited; Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean—the others are Makatea in French Polynesia and Nauru


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Population: 83,976 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: NA
15-64 years: NA
65 years and over: NA

Population growth rate: 1.82% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 26.46 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 7.62 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: -0.66 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 49.69 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 62.61 years
male: 60.79 years
female: 64.68 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 3.13 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: I-Kiribati (singular and plural)
adjective: I-Kiribati

Ethnic groups: Micronesian

Religions: Roman Catholic 53%, Protestant (Congregational) 41%, Seventh-Day Adventist, Baha'i, Church of God, Mormon 6% (1985 est.)

Languages: English (official), Gilbertese

Literacy: NA


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Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Kiribati
conventional short form: Kiribati
note: pronounced kir-ih-bahss
former: Gilbert Islands

Data code: KR

Government type: republic

National capital: Tarawa

Administrative divisions: 3 units; Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands
note: in addition, there are 6 districts (Banaba, Central Gilberts, Line Islands, Northern Gilberts, Southern Gilberts, Tarawa) and 21 island councils—one for each of the inhabited islands (Abaiang, Abemama, Aranuka, Arorae, Banaba, Beru, Butaritari, Kanton, Kiritimati, Kuria, Maiana, Makin, Marakei, Nikunau, Nonouti, Onotoa, Tabiteuea, Tabuaeran, Tamana, Tarawa, Teraina)

Independence: 12 July 1979 (from UK)

National holiday: Independence Day, 12 July (1979)

Constitution: 12 July 1979

Legal system: NA

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President (Beretitenti) Teburoro TITO (since 1 October 1994); Vice President (Kauoman-ni-Beretitenti) Tewareka TENTOA (since 12 October 1994); note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President (Beretitenti) Teburoro TITO (since 1 October 1994); Vice President (Kauoman-ni-Beretitenti) Tewareka TENTOA (since 12 October 1994); note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president from among the members of the House of Assembly, includes the president, vice president, attorney general, and up to eight other ministers
elections: president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; note—the House of Assembly chooses the presidential candidates from among their members and then those candidates compete in a general election; election last held 30 September 1994 (next to be held by NA September 1998); vice president appointed by the president
election results: Teburoro TITO elected president; percent of vote—Teburoro TITO 51.2%, Tewareka TENTOA 18.3%, Roniti TEIWAKI 16.0%, Peter Taberannang TIMEON 14.5%

Legislative branch: unicameral House of Assembly or Maneaba Ni Maungatabu (41 seats; 39 elected by popular vote, one ex officio member, and one nominated to represent Banaba; members serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 22 July 1994 (next to be held by NA July 1998)
election results: percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—Maneaban Te Mauri Party 13, National Progressive Party 7, independents 19

Judicial branch: Court of Appeal, judges at all levels are appointed by the president; High Court, judges at all levels are appointed by the president; 26 Magistrates' courts judges at all levels are appointed by the president

Political parties and leaders: National Progressive Party, Teatao TEANNAKI; New Movement Party, leader NA; Liberal Party, Tewareka TENTOA; Maneaban Te Mauri Party, Teburoro TITO
note: there is no tradition of formally organized political parties in Kiribati; they more closely resemble factions or interest groups because they have no party headquarters, formal platforms, or party structures

International organization participation: ACP, AsDB, C, ESCAP, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, IDA, IFC, IMF, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, ITU, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WTrO (applicant)

Diplomatic representation in the US: Kiribati does not have an embassy in the US; there is an honorary consulate in Honolulu

Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Kiribati; the ambassador to the Marshall Islands is accredited to Kiribati

Flag description: the upper half is red with a yellow frigate bird flying over a yellow rising sun, and the lower half is blue with three horizontal wavy white stripes to represent the ocean


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Economy—overview: A remote country of 33 scattered coral atolls, Kiribati has few national resources. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence from the UK in 1979. Copra and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports. The economy has fluctuated widely in recent years. Real GDP growth has declined from about 10% in 1988 to about 2.6% in 1995 and 1.9% in 1996. Growth in 1997 was expected to parallel the 1996 performance. Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets. The financial sector is at an early stage of development as is the expansion of private sector initiatives. Foreign financial aid, largely from the UK and Japan, is a critical supplement to GDP, equal in amount to 25%-50% of GDP in recent years. Remittances from workers abroad account for more than $5 million each year.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$62 million (1996 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 1.9% (1996 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$800 (1996 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 14%
industry: 7%
services: 79% (1996 est.)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: -0.6% (1996 est.)

Labor force:
total: 7,870 economically active, not including subsistence farmers (1985 est.)

Unemployment rate: 2%; underemployment 70% (1992 est.)

revenues: $33.3 million
expenditures: $47.7 million, including capital expenditures of $NA million (1996 est.)

Industries: fishing, handicrafts

Industrial production growth rate: 0.7% (1992 est.)

Electricity—capacity: 2,000 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 7 million kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 88 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: copra, taro, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, vegetables; fish

total value: $6.7 million (f.o.b., 1996 est.)
commodities: copra 62%, seaweed, fish
partners: US, Australia, NZ (1996)

total value: $37.4 million (c.i.f., 1996 est.)
commodities: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, fuel
partners: Australia 46%, Fiji, Japan, NZ, US (1996)

Debt—external: $7.2 million (1996 est.)

Economic aid:
recipient: ODA, $4.725 million from Australia (FY96/97 est.); $2.175 million from NZ (FY95/96)

Currency: 1 Australian dollar ($A) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: Australian dollars ($A) per US$1—1.5281 (January 1998), 1.3439 (1997), 1.2773 (1996), 1.3486 (1995), 1.3667 (1994), 1.4704 (1993)

Fiscal year: NA


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Telephones: 1,400 (1984 est.)

Telephone system:
domestic: NA
international: satellite earth station—1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)
note: Kiribati is being linked to the Pacific Ocean Cooperative Telecommunications Network, which should improve telephone service

Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 0, shortwave 0

Radios: 15,000 (1992 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 0 (1988 est.)

Televisions: 0 (1988 est.)


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Railways: 0 km

total: 670 km (1996 est.)
paved: NA km
unpaved: NA km

Waterways: small network of canals, totaling 5 km, in Line Islands

Ports and harbors: Banaba, Betio, English Harbor, Kanton

Merchant marine:
total: 2 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 3,248 GRT/4,496 DWT
ships by type: oil tanker 1, passenger-cargo 1 (1997 est.)

Airports: 21 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 5 (1997 est.)


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Military branches: no regular military forces; Police Force (carries out law enforcement functions and paramilitary duties; small police posts are on all islands)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $NA

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: NA%

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: none