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



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Location: Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia

Geographic coordinates: 16 00 S, 167 00 E

Map references: Oceania

total: 14,760 sq km
land: 14,760 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes more than 80 islands

Area—comparative: slightly larger than Connecticut

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 2,528 km

Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: tropical; moderated by southeast trade winds

Terrain: mostly mountains of volcanic origin; narrow coastal plains

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Tabwemasana 1,877 m

Natural resources: manganese, hardwood forests, fish

Land use:
arable land: 2%
permanent crops: 10%
permanent pastures: 2%
forests and woodland: 75%
other: 11% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: tropical cyclones or typhoons (January to April); volcanism causes minor earthquakes

Environment—current issues: a majority of the population does not have access to a potable and reliable supply of water; deforestation

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: Desertification, Law of the Sea


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Population: 185,204 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 39% (male 36,865; female 35,576)
15-64 years: 58% (male 55,066; female 52,142)
65 years and over: 3% (male 3,013; female 2,542) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.07% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 29.18 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 8.44 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.19 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 61.27 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 61 years
male: 59.02 years
female: 63.07 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 3.74 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Ni-Vanuatu (singular and plural)
adjective: Ni-Vanuatu

Ethnic groups: indigenous Melanesian 94%, French 4%, Vietnamese, Chinese, Pacific Islanders

Religions: Presbyterian 36.7%, Anglican 15%, Catholic 15%, indigenous beliefs 7.6%, Seventh-Day Adventist 6.2%, Church of Christ 3.8%, other 15.7%

Languages: English (official), French (official), pidgin (known as Bislama or Bichelama)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 53%
male: 57%
female: 48% (1979 est.)


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Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Vanuatu
conventional short form: Vanuatu
former: New Hebrides

Data code: NH

Government type: republic

National capital: Port-Vila

Administrative divisions: 6 provinces; Malampa, Penama, Sanma, Shefa, Tafea, Torba

Independence: 30 July 1980 (from France and UK)

National holiday: Independence Day, 30 July (1980)

Constitution: 30 July 1980

Legal system: unified system being created from former dual French and British systems

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Jean Marie LEYE (since 2 March 1994)
head of government: Prime Minister Donald KALPOKAS (since 30 March 1998); Deputy Prime Minister Father Walter LINI (since 30 March 1998)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister, responsible to Parliament
elections: president elected by an electoral college consisting of Parliament and the presidents of the regional councils for a five-year term; election for president last held 2 March 1994 (next to be held NA 1999); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition is usually elected prime minister by Parliament from among its members; election for prime minister last held 6 March 1998 (next to be held NA 2002)
election results: Jean Marie LEYE elected president; percent of electoral college vote - NA; Donald KALPOKAS elected prime minister by Parliament with a total of 35 votes, other candidate, Rialuth Serge VOHOR, received 17 votes
note: the general legislative elections in November 1995 did not give a majority to any of the political parties; since the election, there have been four changes of government—all of which have been coalitions formed by Parliamentary vote; Rialuth Serge VOHOR was prime minister from November 1995 until he resigned 7 February 1996 when faced with a no-confidence vote in Parliament; Maxime Carlot KORMAN was then elected prime minister and served until he was ousted in a no-confidence motion on 30 September 1996; VOHOR was then elected prime minister for a second time; as a result of legislative elections in March 1998, KALPOKAS was elected prime minister and formed a coalition government with Father LINI's National United Party (NUP)

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (52 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 6 March 1998 (next to be held NA 2002)
election results: percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—VP 18, UMP 12, NUP 11, other and independent 11; note—political party associations are fluid; there have been four changes of government since the November 1995 elections
note: the National Council of Chiefs advises on matters of custom and land

Judicial branch: Supreme Court, chief justice is appointed by the president after consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, three other justices are appointed by the president on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission

Political parties and leaders: Union of Moderate Parties (UMP), Serge VOHOR; National United Party (NUP), Walter LINI; Vanuatu Party (VP), Donald KALPOKAS; Melanesian Progressive Party (MPP), Barak SOPE; Tan Union (TU), Vincent BOULEKONE; Na-Griamel Movement, Frankie STEVENS; Friend Melanesian Party, Albert RAVUTIA; John Frum Movement, leader NA; Vanuatu Republican Party, Maxime Carlot KORMAN

International organization participation: ACCT, ACP, AsDB, C, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), IOC, ITU, NAM, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WTrO (applicant)

Diplomatic representation in the US: Vanuatu does not have an embassy in the US

Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Vanuatu; the ambassador to Papua New Guinea is accredited to Vanuatu

Flag description: two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and green with a black isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) all separated by a black-edged yellow stripe in the shape of a horizontal Y (the two points of the Y face the hoist side and enclose the triangle); centered in the triangle is a boar's tusk encircling two crossed namele leaves, all in yellow


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Economy—overview: The economy is based primarily on subsistence or small-scale agriculture which provides a living for 65% of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism, with 46,000 visitors in 1996, are other mainstays of the economy. Mineral deposits are negligible; the country has no known petroleum deposits. A small light industry sector caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import duties. Economic development is hindered by dependence on relatively few commodity exports, vulnerability to natural disasters, and long distances from main markets and between constituent islands.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$231 million (1996 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 3% (1996 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$1,300 (1996 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 23%
industry: 13%
services: 64% (1996)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 2.2% (1997 est.)

Labor force:
total: NA
by occupation: agriculture 65%, services 32%, industry 3% (1995 est.)

Unemployment rate: NA%

revenues: $94.4 million
expenditures: $99.8 million, including capital expenditures of $30.4 million (1996 est.)

Industries: food and fish freezing, wood processing, meat canning

Industrial production growth rate: 6.4% (1996 est.)

Electricity—capacity: 11,000 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 30 million kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 173 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: copra, coconuts, cocoa, coffee, taro, yams, coconuts, fruits, vegetables; fish, beef

total value: $30 million (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: copra, beef, cocoa, timber, coffee
partners: Japan 28%, Spain 21%, Germany 14%, UK 7%, Cote d'Ivoire 7%, Australia, New Caledonia (1996 est.)

total value: $97 million (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: machines and vehicles, food and beverages, basic manufactures, raw materials and fuels, chemicals
partners: Japan 47%, Australia 23%, Singapore 8%, New Zealand 6%, France 3%, Fiji (1996 est.)

Debt—external: $63 million (1996 est.)

Economic aid:
recipient: ODA, $9.6 million from Australia (FY96/97 est.); $3.1 million from NZ (FY95/96)

Currency: 1 vatu (VT) = 100 centimes

Exchange rates: vatu (VT) per US$1—124.56 (January 1998), 115.87 (1997), 111.72 (1996), 112.11 (1995), 116.41 (1994), 121.58 (1993)

Fiscal year: calendar year


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Telephones: 4,000 (1994 est.)

Telephone system:
domestic: NA
international: satellite earth station—1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 0, shortwave 0

Radios: 49,000 (1994 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 1

Televisions: 2,000 (1994 est.)


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Railways: 0 km

total: 1,070 km
paved: 256 km
unpaved: 814 km (1996 est.)

Ports and harbors: Forari, Port-Vila, Santo (Espiritu Santo)

Merchant marine:
total: 88 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,407,737 GRT/1,761,413 DWT
ships by type: bulk 31, cargo 24, chemical tanker 2, combination bulk 1, liquefied gas tanker 4, oil tanker 5, refrigerated cargo 13, vehicle carrier 8
note: a flag of convenience registry; includes ships from 15 countries among which are ships of Japan 30, India 10, US 8, Netherlands 6, Greece 4, Hong Kong 4, Australia 2, Canada 1, China 1, and Poland 1 (1997 est.)

Airports: 31 (1997 est.)

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

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 29
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 10
under 914 m: 18 (1997 est.)


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Military branches: no regular military forces; Vanuatu Police Force (VPF; includes the paramilitary Vanuatu Mobile Force or VMF)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $NA

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: NA%

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: claims Matthew and Hunter Islands east of New Caledonia