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World Factbook (1990) Kiribati.jpg

 See regional map X


Total area: 717 km²; land area: 717 km²; includes three island groups—Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands

Comparative area: slightly more than four times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries: none

Coastline: 1,143 km

Maritime claims:

Exclusive fishing 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

Natural resources: phosphate (production discontinued in 1979)

Land use: NEGL% arable land; 51% permanent crops; 0% meadows and pastures; 3% forest and woodland; 46% other

Environment: typhoons can occur any time, but usually November to March; 20 of the 33 islands are inhabited

Note: Banaba or Ocean Island is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific (the others are Makatea in French Polynesia and Nauru)


Population: 70,012 (July 1990), growth rate 1.7% (1990)

Birth rate: 34 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 13 deaths/ 1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: -5 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 65 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 52 years male, 57 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 4.3 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Kiribatian(s); adjective—Kiribati

Ethnic divisions: Micronesian

Religion: 48% Roman Catholic, 45% Protestant (Congregational), some Seventh-Day Adventist and Baha'i

Language: English (official), Gilbertese

Literacy: 90%

Labor force: 7,870 economically active (1985 est.)

Organized labor: Kiribati Trades Union Congress—2,500 members


Long-form name: Republic of Kiribati

Type: republic

Capital: Tarawa

Administrative divisions: 3 units; Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands; note—a new administrative structure of 6 districts (Banaba, Central Gilberts, Line Islands, Northern Gilberts, Southern Gilberts, Tarawa) may have been changed to 20 island councils (one for each of the inhabited islands) named Abaiang, Abemama, Aranuka, Arorae, Banaba, Beru, Butaritari, Kiritimati, Kuria, Maiana, Makin, Marakei, Nikunau, Nonouti, Onotoa, Tabiteuea, Tabuaeran, Tamana, Tarawa, Teraina

Independence: 12 July 1979 (from UK; formerly Gilbert Islands)

Constitution: 12 July 1979

National holiday: Independence Day, 12 July (1979)

Executive branch: president, vice president, Cabinet

Legislative branch: unicameral House of Assembly (Maneaba Ni Maungatabu)

Judicial branch: Court of Appeal, High Court

Leaders: Chief of State and Head of Government—President Ieremia T. TABAI (since 12 July 1979); Vice President Teatao TEANNAKI (since 20 July 1979)

Political parties and leaders: Gilbertese National Party; Christian Democratic Party, Teburoro Tito, secretary; essentially not organized on basis of political parties

Suffrage: universal at age 18

Elections: President—last held on 12 May 1987 (next to be held May 1991); results—Ieremia T. Tabai 50.1%, Tebruroro Tito 42.7%, Tetao Tannaki 7.2%;

National Assembly—last held on 19 March 1987 (next to be held March 1991); results—percent of vote by party NA; seats—(40 total; 39 elected) percent of seats by party NA

Member of: ACP, ADB, Commonwealth, ESCAP (associate member), GATT (de facto), ICAO, IMF, SPF, WHO

Diplomatic representation: Ambassador (vacant) lives in Tarawa (Kiribati); US—none

Flag: 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


Overview: The country has few national resources. Phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence in 1979. Copra and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports. The economy has fluctuated widely in recent years. Real GDP declined about 8% in 1987, as the fish catch fell sharply to only one-fourth the level of 1986 and copra production was hampered by repeated rains. Output rebounded strongly in 1988, with real GDP growing by 17%. The upturn in economic growth came from an increase in copra production and a good fish catch. Following the strong surge in output in 1988, GDP remained about the same in 1989.

GDP: $34 million, per capita $500; real growth rate 0% (1989)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.1% (1988)

Unemployment rate: 2% (1985); considerable underemployment

Budget: revenues $22.0 million; expenditures $12.7 million, including capital expenditures of $9.7 million (1988)

Exports: $5.1 million (f.o.b., 1988); commodities—fish 55%, copra 42%; partners—EC 20%, Marshall Islands 12%, US 8%, American Samoa 4% (1985)

Imports: $21.5 million (c.i.f., 1988); commodities—foodstuffs, fuel, transportation equipment; partners—Australia 39%, Japan 21%, NZ 6%, UK 6%, US 3% (1985)

External debt: $2.0 million (December 1987 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate NA%

Electricity: 5,000 kW capacity; 13 million kWh produced, 190 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: fishing, handicrafts

Agriculture: accounts for 30% of GDP (including fishing); copra and fish contribute 95% to exports; subsistence farming predominates; food crops—taro, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, vegetables; not self-sufficient in food

Aid: Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-87), $245 million

Currency: Australian dollar (plural—dollars); 1 Australian dollar ($A) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: Australian dollars ($A) per US$1—1.2784 (January 1990), 1.2618 (1989), 1.2752 (1988), 1.4267 (1987), 1.4905 (1986), 1.4269 (1985)

Fiscal year: NA


Highways: 640 km of motorable roads

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

Ports: Banaba and Betio (Tarawa)

Civil air: 2 Trislanders; no major transport aircraft

Airports: 22 total; 21 usable; 4 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 2,439 m; 5 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: 1,400 telephones; stations—1 AM, no FM, no TV; 1 Pacific Ocean INTELSAT earth station

Defense Forces

Branches: NA

Military manpower: NA

Defense expenditures: NA