Republic of Kiribati
CAPITAL : Tarawa
FLAG : Above a blue and white heraldic representation of Pacific waters, a golden sun rises against a red background, with a golden frigate bird at the top.
ANTHEM : Troika kain Kiribati (Stand Kiribati).
MONETARY UNIT : The Australian dollar is the national currency. A $1 = US $0.6173 (or US $1 = A $1.62) as of May 2003.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES : Kiribati is in transition from imperial to metric standards.
HOLIDAYS : New Year's Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 12 July; Youth Day, 4 August; Christmas Day, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Queen's Birthday (June), Bank Holiday (August), and Prince of Wales's Birthday (November).
TIME : Midnight = noon GMT.
The extreme poverty of the soil and the variability of the rainfall make cultivation of most crops impossible. Only babai (a kind of taro root), coconut palms, and pandanus trees grow easily on most islands. Pigs and poultry were probably introduced by Europeans. Sea life abounds.
About 99% of the people are Gilbertese of Micronesian extraction. Polynesians (mainly from Tuvalu) make up 0.5% of the total; Europeans and people of mixed races, 0.6%.
The principal languages spoken are Gilbertese (also called Kiribatese) and English. The official language is English, but it is seldom used on the outer islands. Gilbertese is an Austronesian language related to many other Pacific tongues.
Legislation providing for the establishment of a defense force of 170 men was repealed in 1978. There is a small police force. Australia and New Zealand provide defense assistance.
Kiribati participates in many Commonwealth activities and hosted the South Pacific Forum in 1981. Kiribati was admitted to the UN on 14 September 1999. It is also a member of the ESCAP, ICAO, IBRD, IMF, ICFTU, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, IMF, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, ITU, SPC, SPF, UNESCO, UPU, and WHO. Kiribati participates in the Asian Development Bank and G-77 and is an applicant to the WTO.
There were 10,800 pigs in Kiribati in 2001; annual pork production is about 1,100 tons. The Agricultural Division has introduced improved breeds of livestock.
The forested area was estimated to cover 38.4% of the islands in 2000, but there is little useful timber on the islands.
There has been no mining in Kiribati since the closing in 1979 of the Banaba phosphate industry. In its last year of operation, 445,700 tons of phosphates worth US $18 million were exported.
The government maintains electricity-generating plants on Tarawa and Christmas Island, and there are private generators on Banaba and several other islands. In 2001, electric power generating capacity was 2,000 kW. Production of electricity in 2000 totaled 7 million kWh, of which 100% was from fossil fuels. Consumption of electricity in 2000 was 6.5 million kWh.
The Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific, founded in 1982 and located at Bairiki, Tarawa, provides technical assistance for agriculture and nutrition programs.
The Bank of Kiribati in Tarawa is jointly owned by the Westpac Banking Corp. (Australia) and the government of Kiribati (49%). The Kiribati Development Bank, opened in 1987, was to take over the assets of the National Loans Board when it became fully operational.
Individual coverage is available in Tarawa through private and government agencies.
Most Kiribatians live in small villages of from 10 to 150 houses and construct their own dwellings from local materials. The use of more permanent building materials, such as concrete with corrugated aluminum roofing, is becoming common in urban areas. Loans to prospective homeowners are provided by the National Loans Board. Dwellings range from traditional houses with thatched roofs to nontraditional houses with metal roofs.
The National Library and Archives in Tarawa has a collection of 50,000 volumes, including those in small units throughout the islands. The University of the South Pacific has a campus in Tarawa with a small library of 5,700 volumes. Items are being stored in the National Archives in anticipation of the formation of the national museum which is to be in Tarawa.
The most important organization is the mronron (a word meaning "sharing"), a cooperative society based on kinship or locality. There is a national Credit Union League and a teachers' union. National youth organizations include the Kiribati Students' Association, the Kiribati Scouts Association, and the Kiribati Girl Guides Associations.
Ieremia Tabai (b.1950) was president from independence until 1991.
Kiribati has no territories or colonies.
American University. Oceania: A Regional Study. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1984.
Geddes, W. H., et al. Atoll Economy: Social Change in Kiribati and Tuvalu. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1982.
Graham, Michael B. Mantle of Heroism: Tarawa and the Struggle for the Gilberts, November 1943. Novato, Calif.: Presidio, 1993.
Smith, George W. Carlson's Raid: The Daring Marine Assault on Makin. Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 2001.
Wilson, Craig. Kiribati: State of the Environment Report, 1994. Apia, Western Samoa: South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, 1994.
Wright, Derrick. Tarawa, 20–23 November 1943: A Hell of a Way to Die. Marlborough: Crowood Press, 2002.