CAPITAL : Honiara
FLAG : The flag consists of two triangles, the upper one blue, the lower one green, separated by a diagonal gold stripe; on the blue triangle are five white five-pointed stars.
ANTHEM : God Save the Queen.
MONETARY UNIT : The Solomon Islands dollar ( SI $), a paper currency of 100 cents, was introduced in 1977, replacing the Australian dollar, and became the sole legal tender in 1978. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1 dollar, and notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 dollars. SI $1 = US $0.14306 (or US $1 = SI $6.99) as of May 2003.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES : The metric system is in force.
HOLIDAYS : New Year's Day, 1 January; Queen's Birthday, celebrated as a movable holiday in June; Independence Day, 7 July; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Whitmonday.
TIME : 11 PM = noon GMT.
The climate is tropical. From December to March, northwest equatorial winds bring hot weather and heavy rainfall; from April to November, the islands are cooled by drier southeast trade winds. Damaging cyclones occasionally strike during the rainy season. The annual mean temperature is 27° C (81° F ); annual rainfall averages 305 cm (120 in), and humidity is about 80%.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Dense rain forest covers about 90% of the islands, with extensive mangrove swamps and coconut palms along the coasts. The islands abound in small reptiles (61 species), birds (163 breeding species), and mammals (53 species), as well as insect life. There are over 230 varieties of orchids and other tropical flowers.
In 1999, Melanesians constituted 93% of the total population. Also enumerated were Polynesians at 4%, Micronesians at 1.5%, Europeans at 0.8%, Chinese at 0.3%, and others accounting for0.4%. Melanesians live mainly on the larger islands; Polynesians tend to inhabit the smaller islands and atolls.
English is the official language but is only spoken by approximately 1–2% of the population. Melanesian pidgin is the lingua franca. Some 120 indigenous languages and dialects are spoken, each within a very restricted geographical area. Melanesian languages are spoken by about 85% of the population, Papuan languages by 9%, and Polynesian languages by 4%.
The islands are divided into nine administrative districts, of which eight are provinces, each with an elected assembly and and a premier; the ninth is the town of Honiara, governed by an elected council. In outlying areas, village headmen exercise administrative responsibilities.
The Solomon Islands has no military forces. There is a 500-member police force which also engages in border protection. Maritime surveillance is also provided by this police force, which is headed by a commissioner.
Fish are an essential part of the local diet, and fishing has become an important commercial activity. In 1991, the total catch reached a record high of 69,292 tons; the total catch in 2000 was 23,443 tons. In 2000, the annual catch of skipjack tuna was 8,276 tons. Exports of fish products in 2000 were valued at nearly $10.3 million.
Industrial activity in the Solomons is rudimentary, lacking in both the capital and the skilled labor necessary for significant development. The leading industries are fish processing and timber milling; soaps are made from palm oil and coconut oil. Small firms produce a limited array of goods for the local market: biscuits, tobacco products, rattan furniture, baskets and mats, concrete blocks, boats, and fiberglass products.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
The Solomon Islands College of Higher Education has schools of nursing, natural resources, marine and fisheries studies, and industrial development.
Insurance is sold through representatives of foreign firms. In 1997, GRE Insurance, the National Insurance Co. of New Zealand, QBE Insurance, and Zurich Australian Insurance were operating in the Solomon Islands.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates that in 2001 the Solomon Islands's central government took in revenues of approximately $38 million. Overall, the government registered a deficit of approximately 8% of GDP. External debt totaled $137 million. Foreign aid accounts for 50% of government expenditures.
The government encourages direct foreign investment through tax concessions, remission of customs duties, and other forms of assistance. Foreigners may repatriate profits (after taxes) and, under most conditions, capital investments. A primary role in the development of resources is reserved to the government. In 1990, Lever Brothers opened a coconut oil plant at Yandina.
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
The National Library (founded in 1974) in Honiara has two branches and a collection of over 100,000 volumes. The library at the Solomon Islands Center of the University of the South Pacific holds 9,000 volumes. The Solomon Islands National Museum and Cultural Center began collecting in the 1950s and opened a permanent site in 1969. The Center promotes and provides research into all aspects of Solomons culture.
Cooperative societies are important in rural areas for the distribution of locally produced goods. Honiara has a chamber of commerce. YMCA and YWCA chapters are active. There are also chapters of Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross.
FAMOUS SOLOMON ISLANDERS
Sir Peter Kenilorea (b.1943), Solomon Mamaloni (b.1943), and Ezekiel Alebua (b.1947) were the Solomons' political and government leaders from independence to the 1990s.
The Solomon Islands has no territories or colonies.
Bennett, Judith A. Wealth of the Solomons: A History of a Pacific Archipelago . Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.
Burt, Ben. Tradition and Christianity: The Colonial Transformation of a Solomon Islands Society. New York: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1994.
Feinberg, Richard. Polynesian Seafaring and Navigation: Ocean Travel in Anutan Culture and Society. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1988.
House, William J. Population Growth and Sustainable Development: The Case of the Solomon Islands. Suva, Fiji: UNFPA/CST, 1995.
Keesing, Roger M. Custom and Confrontation: The Kwaio Struggle for Cultural Autonomy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Oliver, D. L. A Solomon Island Society . Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1955.
Scott, Jonathan (ed.). The Solomon Islands Project: A Long-term Study of Health, Human Biology, and Culture Change. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
Trumbull, Robert. Tin Roofs and Palm Trees: A Report on the New South Seas. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978.
White, Geoffrey M. Identity through History: Living Stories in a Solomon Islands Society. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.