Marshall Islands [Country Flag of Marshall Islands]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Marshall Islands]

Marshall Islands


[Top of Page]

Location: Oceania, group of atolls and reefs in the North Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Papua New Guinea

Geographic coordinates: 9 00 N, 168 00 E

Map references: Oceania

total: 181.3 sq km
land: 181.3 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes the atolls of Bikini, Enewetak, and Kwajalein

Area—comparative: about the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 370.4 km

Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: wet season from May to November; hot and humid; islands border typhoon belt

Terrain: low coral limestone and sand islands

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Likiep 10 m

Natural resources: phosphate deposits, marine products, deep seabed minerals

Land use:
arable land: NA%
permanent crops: 60%
permanent pastures: NA%
forests and woodland: NA%
other: 40%

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: occasional typhoons

Environment—current issues: inadequate supplies of potable water

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol

Geography—note: two archipelagic island chains of 30 atolls and 1,152 islands; Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites; Kwajalein, the famous World War II battleground, is now used as a US missile test range


[Top of Page]

Population: 63,031 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 50% (male 16,073; female 15,432)
15-64 years: 48% (male 15,408; female 14,695)
65 years and over: 2% (male 669; female 754) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 3.85% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 45.39 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 6.9 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: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 44.54 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 64.48 years
male: 62.89 years
female: 66.14 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 6.72 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Marshallese (singular and plural)
adjective: Marshallese

Ethnic groups: Micronesian

Religions: Christian (mostly Protestant)

Languages: English (universally spoken and is the official language), two major Marshallese dialects from the Malayo-Polynesian family, Japanese

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93%
male: 100%
female: 88% (1980 est.)


[Top of Page]

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of the Marshall Islands
conventional short form: Marshall Islands
former: Marshall Islands District (Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands)

Data code: RM

Government type: constitutional government in free association with the US; the Compact of Free Association entered into force 21 October 1986

National capital: Majuro

Administrative divisions: none

Independence: 21 October 1986 (from the US-administered UN trusteeship)

National holiday: Proclamation of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, 1 May (1979)

Constitution: 1 May 1979

Legal system: based on adapted Trust Territory laws, acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary laws

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Imata KABUA (since 14 January 1997); note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Imata KABUA (since 14 January 1997); note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president from among the members of Parliament
elections: president elected by Parliament from among its own members for a four-year term; election last held 14 January 1997 (next to be held NA January 2000); note—Imata KABUA elected to succeed and complete the term of the late President Amata KABUA
election results: Imata KABUA elected president; percent of Parliament vote—63%

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Nitijela (33 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 20 November 1995 (next to be held NA 2000; note—new elections will be held upon the completion of the term of the late President Amata KABUA)
election results: percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—NA
note: the Council of Chiefs is a 12-member body that advises on matters affecting customary law and practice

Judicial branch: Supreme Court; High Court

Political parties and leaders: traditionally there have been no formally organized political parties; what has existed more closely resembles factions or interest groups because they do not have party headquarters, formal platforms, or party structures; the following two "groupings" have competed in legislative balloting in recent years—Our Islands Party, leader NA, and Ralik/Ratak Democratic Party (RRDP), Ramsey REIMERS

International organization participation: AsDB, ESCAP, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IFC, IMF, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, ITU, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, WHO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Banny DE BRUM
chancery: 2433 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 234-5414
FAX: [1] (202) 232-3236
consulate(s) general: Honolulu

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Joan M. PLAISTED
embassy: Oceanside, Mejen Weto, Long Island, Majuro
mailing address: P. O. Box 1379, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands 96960-1379
telephone: [692] 247-4011
FAX: [692] 247-4012

Flag description: blue with two stripes radiating from the lower hoist-side corner—orange (top) and white; there is a white star with four large rays and 20 small rays on the hoist side above the two stripes


[Top of Page]

Economy—overview: US Government assistance is the mainstay of the economy, constituting an important supplement to GDP. Agricultural production is concentrated on small farms, and the most important commercial crops are coconuts, tomatoes, melons, and breadfruit. Small-scale industry is limited to handicrafts, fish processing, and copra. The tourist industry, now a small source of foreign exchange employing less than 10% of the labor force, remains the best hope for future added income. The islands have few natural resources, and imports far exceed exports. The government is drafting economic reforms designed to increase revenue and compensate for reductions in US Government grants—in FY95/96, the US Government provided grants of $68 million, equal to roughly 70% of the country's GDP. More than 25% of the government's FY95/96 budget was devoted to debt repayment. In 1996, efforts to stabilize the economy included a 27% reduction in the government's work force and a 10% cut in the budget.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$98 million (1996 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 2% (1996 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$1,680 (1996 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 15%
industry: 13%
services: 72% (1995)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 4% (FY95/96)

Labor force:
total: 4,800 (1986)
by occupation: NA

Unemployment rate: 16% (1991 est.)

revenues: $80.1 million
expenditures: $77.4 million, including capital expenditures of $19.5 million (FY95/96 est.)

Industries: copra, fish, tourism, craft items from shell, wood, and pearls, offshore banking (embryonic)

Industrial production growth rate: NA%

Electricity—capacity: 16,000 kW (1994)

Electricity—production: 57 million kWh (1994)

Electricity—consumption per capita: NA kWh

Agriculture—products: coconuts, cacao, taro, breadfruit, fruits; pigs, chickens

total value: $17.5 million (f.o.b., 1996 est.)
commodities: fish, coconut oil, fish, trochus shells
partners: US, Japan, Australia

total value: $71.8 million (c.i.f., 1996 est.)
commodities: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels, beverages and tobacco
partners: US, Japan, Australia, NZ

Debt—external: $128 million (FY95/96)

Economic aid:
recipient: under the terms of the Compact of Free Association, the US is to provide approximately $68 million in aid annually

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

Exchange rates: US currency is used

Fiscal year: 1 October—30 September


[Top of Page]

Telephones: 2,000 (1997 est.)

Telephone system: telex services
domestic: Majuro Atoll and Ebeye and Kwajalein islands have regular, seven-digit, direct-dial telephones; other islands interconnected by shortwave radiotelephone (used mostly for government purposes)
international: satellite earth stations—2 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean); US Government satellite communications system on Kwajalein

Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 1

Radios: NA

Television broadcast stations: 1

Televisions: NA


[Top of Page]

Railways: 0 km

total: NA km
paved: NA km
unpaved: NA km
note: paved roads on major islands (Majuro, Kwajalein), otherwise stone-, coral-, or laterite-surfaced roads and tracks

Ports and harbors: Majuro

Merchant marine:
total: 128 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 6,274,057 GRT/10,641,686 DWT
ships by type: bulk 57, cargo 5, chemical tanker 1, combination ore/oil 1, container 25, oil tanker 36, roll-on/roll-off cargo 2, vehicle carrier 1
note: a flag of convenience registry; includes the ships of Canada 1, China 1, Germany 1, Japan 1, and US 7 (1997 est.)

Airports: 16 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 5 (1997 est.)


[Top of Page]

Military branches: no regular military forces (a coast guard may be established); Police Force

Military—note: defense is the responsibility of the US

Transnational Issues

[Top of Page]

Disputes—international: claims US territory of Wake Island