CAPITAL : Funafuti
FLAG : The national flag has the Union Jack in the upper quarter nearest the hoist; nine yellow stars on a light blue field are arranged in the same pattern as Tuvalu's nine islands.
ANTHEM : Tuvalu mo te Atua (Tuvalu for the Almighty) .
MONETARY UNIT : Both the Australian dollar ( A $) and the Tuvaluan dollar ( T $) of 100 cents are legal tender. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 Tuvaluan cents; 1 and 5 Tuvaluan dollars; and notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 Australian dollars. T $1 = US $0.61728 (or US $1 = T $1.62) as of May 2003.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES : The metric system is being introduced, but imperial measures are still commonly employed.
HOLIDAYS : New Year's Day, 1 January; National Children's Day, first Monday in August; Tuvalu Day, 1 October; Christmas Day, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable holidays include Commonwealth Day (March), Queen's Official Birthday (June), and Prince of Wales's Birthday (November); movable religious holidays include Good Friday and Easter Monday.
TIME : Midnight = noon GMT.
Tuvalu has a tropical climate with little seasonal variation. The annual mean temperature of 30° C (86° F ) is moderated by trade winds from the east. Rainfall averages over 355 cm (140 in), with most rain falling between November and February. Although the islands lie north of the main cyclone belt, Funafuti was devastated in 1894, 1972, and 1990.
The surrounding sea is rich in flora and fauna, but land vegetation is limited to coconut palm, pandanus, and imported fruit trees. Pigs, fowl, and dogs, all of which were imported in the 19th century, flourish on the islands. The only indigenous mammal is the Polynesian rat. Birds include reef herons, terns, and noddies. There are 22 known species of butterfly and moth.
During the 19th century, recruitment of Tuvaluans to work on plantations in other Pacific islands, Australia, and South America reduced the resident population from about 20,000 to 3,000; the islands have only recently recovered from the population loss. Migrants account for about 3% of the total population. The net migration rate was zero in 1999. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.
Apart from a few Europeans, the islanders are almost entirely Polynesian (96%) and have strong ties with the Samoans and Tokelauans. There is no evidence of pre-Polynesian settlement. Language and tradition indicate that the Tuvaluans were part of a Samoan-Tongan migration from the 14th through the 17th century.
English and Tuvaluan, a Polynesian tongue related closely to Samoan, are the principal languages. A Gilbertese dialect is spoken on Nui.
There are no political parties, and political life and elections are dominated by personalities. Small island constituencies with a few hundred kin-related electors judge the leaders by their service to the community.
Tuvalu has no armed forces except for the local police, which includes a maritime surveillance unit. For defense the islands rely on Australian-trained volunteers from Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
Although agriculture is the principal occupation, it contributes only 26% to the GDP. Agriculture is limited because of poor soil quality (sand and rock fragments), uncertain rains, and primitive catchment. Coconuts form the basis of both subsistence and cash cropping; the coconut yield in 1999 was about 2000 tons. Other food crops are pulaka (taro), pandanus fruit, bananas, and papayas.
The Agricultural Division, based on Vaitupu, has attempted to improve the quality and quantity of livestock to lessen the islands' dependency on imports. Pigs and fowl, which were imported in the 19th century, have been supplanted by goats and rabbits. In 2001, there were some 13,200 pigs on the islands. Honey is also produced.
There is little useful timber on the islands.
There was no commercial mining.
There is no advanced science and technology except for that imported under foreign aid programs.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 1998 the purchasing power parity of Tuvalu's exports was $0.276 million while imports totaled $7.2 million resulting in a trade deficit of $6.924 million.
Insurance plays a minimal role in Tuvaluan life.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates that in 1989 Tuvalu's central government took in revenues of approximately $4.3 million and had expenditures of $4.3 million. Government jobs are the only steady and salaried jobs in the country. Government revenues comes from sales of stamps and coins, fishing licenses, income from the Tuvalu Trust Fund, and the lease of its highly fortuitous .tv Internet domain suffix.
Since a single-line tariff was implemented on 1 January 1975, trade preferences are no longer granted to imports from Commonwealth countries. Tariffs, applying mostly to private imports, are levied as a source of revenue. Most duties are ad valorem, with specific duties on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, certain chemicals, petroleum, cinematographic film, and some other goods.
Most islanders live in small villages and provide their own housing from local materials. After the 1972 hurricane, Funafuti was rebuilt with imported permanent materials, but there is still a critical housing shortage on Funafuti and Vaitupu. Government-built housing is largely limited to that provided for civil servants.
The first book published in Tuvalu was the Bible, in 1977. Apart from school facilities, the only library is the Parliamentary Library in Funafuti (600 volumes), which also houses the Archives.
Tuvalu's remoteness has discouraged tourism; the few visitors are on commercial or official business. In 1998, 1,077 tourists visited Tuvalu. That year there were 59 rooms in hotels and other facilities and tourism receipts totaled $200,000.
The US State Department estimated in 1999 that the daily cost of staying in Tuvalu was $97.
Tuvalu's first prime minister was Toaripi Lauti (b. Papua New Guinea, 1928).
Tuvalu has no territories or colonies.
Geddes, W. H., et al. Atoll Economy: Social Change in Kiribati and Tuvalu. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1982.
MacDonald, Barrie. Cinderellas of the Empire. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1982.