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



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Location: Oceania, island group consisting of nine coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Australia

Geographic coordinates: 8 00 S, 178 00 E

Map references: Oceania

total: 26 sq km
land: 26 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area—comparative: 0.1 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 24 km

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

Climate: tropical; moderated by easterly trade winds (March to November); westerly gales and heavy rain (November to March)

Terrain: very low-lying and narrow coral atolls

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 5 m

Natural resources: fish

Land use:
arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 0%
forests and woodland: 0%
other: 100% (1993 est.)
note: Tuvalu's nine coral atolls have enough soil to grow coconuts and support subsistence agriculture

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: severe tropical storms are usually rare, but, in 1997, there were three cyclones

Environment—current issues: since there are no streams or rivers and groundwater is not potable, all water needs must be met by catchment systems with storage facilities; beachhead erosion because of the use of sand for building materials; excessive clearance of forest undergrowth for use as fuel; damage to coral reefs from the spread of the Crown of Thorns starfish; Tuvalu is very concerned about global increases in greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on rising sea levels, which threaten the country's underground water table

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


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Population: 10,444 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 35% (male 1,875; female 1,804)
15-64 years: 60% (male 2,980; female 3,290)
65 years and over: 5% (male 226; female 269) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.4% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 22.6 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 8.62 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: 0.91 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.84 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 26.23 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 63.88 years
male: 62.72 years
female: 65.09 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 3.11 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Tuvaluan(s)
adjective: Tuvaluan

Ethnic groups: Polynesian 96%

Religions: Church of Tuvalu (Congregationalist) 97%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1.4%, Baha'i 1%, other 0.6%

Languages: Tuvaluan, English

Literacy: NA; note—education is free and compulsory from ages 6 through 13


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Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Tuvalu
former: Ellice Islands

Data code: TV

Government type: constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy; began debating republic status in 1992

National capital: Funafuti

Administrative divisions: none

Independence: 1 October 1978 (from UK)

National holiday: Independence Day, 1 October (1978)

Constitution: 1 October 1978

Legal system: NA

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II of the UK (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Manuella TULAGA (since NA June 1994)
head of government: Prime Minister Bikenibeu PAENIU (since 23 December 1996) and Deputy Prime Minister Kokeiya MALUA (since 8 April 1998);
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister
elections: the queen is a hereditary monarch; governor general appointed by the queen on the recommendation of the prime minister; prime minister and deputy prime minister elected by and from the members of Parliament; election last held 8 April 1998 (next to be held NA 2002)
election results: Bikenibeu PAENIU reelected prime minister by a vote in Parliament of 10 to 2; Kokeiya MALUA elected deputy prime minister; percent of Parliament vote—NA

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Fale I Fono, also called House of Assembly (12 seats—two from each island with more than 1,000 inhabitants, one from all the other inhabited islands; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 26-27 March 1998 (next to be held by NA 2002)
election results: percent of vote—NA; seats—independents 12

Judicial branch: eight Island Courts; High Court; note—a chief justice visits twice a year to preside over sessions of the High Court

Political parties and leaders: there are no political parties but members of Parliament usually align themselves in informal groupings

International organization participation: AsDB, C (special), ESCAP, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), ITU, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WTrO (applicant)

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

Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Tuvalu; the US ambassador to Fiji is accredited to Tuvalu

Flag description: light blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant; the outer half of the flag represents a map of the country with nine yellow five-pointed stars symbolizing the nine islands


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Economy—overview: Tuvalu consists of a densely populated, scattered group of nine coral atolls with poor soil. The country has no known mineral resources and few exports. Subsistence farming and fishing are the primary economic activities. The islands are too small and too remote for development of a large-scale tourist industry. Government revenues largely come from the sale of stamps and coins and worker remittances. About 1,000 Tuvaluans work in Nauru in the phosphate mining industry. Nauru has begun repatriating Tuvaluans, however, as phosphate resources decline, which will present additional problems for Tuvalu's already stretched economy. Substantial income is received annually from an international trust fund established in 1987 by Australia, NZ, and the UK and supported also by Japan and South Korea. In an effort to reduce its dependence on foreign aid, the government is pursuing public sector reforms, including privatization of some government functions and personnel cuts of up to 7%. Low-lying Tuvalu is particularly vulnerable to any future global warming.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$7.8 million (1995 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 8.7% (1995)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$800 (1995 est.)

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

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 3.9% (average 1985-93)

Labor force: NA
by occupation: NA
note: people make a living mainly through exploitation of the sea, reefs, and atolls and from wages sent home by those working abroad (mostly workers in the phosphate industry and sailors)

Unemployment rate: NA%

revenues: $4.3 million
expenditures: $4.3 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1989 est.)

Industries: fishing, tourism, copra

Industrial production growth rate: NA%

Electricity—capacity: 2,600 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 3 million kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: NA kWh

Agriculture—products: coconuts; fish

total value: $165,000 (f.o.b., 1989)
commodities: copra
partners: Fiji, Australia, NZ

total value: $4.4 million (c.i.f., 1989)
commodities: food, animals, mineral fuels, machinery, manufactured goods
partners: Fiji, Australia, NZ

Debt—external: $NA

Economic aid:
recipient: ODA, $1.725 million from Australia (FY96/97 est.); $1.7 million from NZ (FY95/96); note: substantial annual support from an international trust fund

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

Exchange rates: Tuvaluan dollars ($T) or Australian dollars ($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: calendar year


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Telephones: 130 (1983 est.)

Telephone system:
domestic: radiotelephone communications between islands
international: NA

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

Radios: 4,000 (1993 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 0

Televisions: NA


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Railways: 0 km

total: 8 km (1996 est.)
paved: NA km
unpaved: NA km

Ports and harbors: Funafuti, Nukufetau

Merchant marine:
total: 14 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 53,220 GRT/83,118 DWT
ships by type: cargo 8, chemical tanker 4, oil tanker 1, passenger-cargo 1 (1997 est.)

Airports: 1 (1997 est.)

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


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Military branches: no regular military forces; Police Force (consists of 56 full- and part-time personnel)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $NA

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: NA%

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: none