(pronounced "teh-BOO-roar-o TEA-toe")
"As people become more politically aware, it will be much more difficult for politicians to stand up and make promises. A better pattern of governing will develop, which will reflect the fundamental values of Kiribati culture."
The Republic of Kiribati consists of 33 coral atolls of three groups (Gilbert group, Phoenix Islands, and Line Islands), scattered over 7,770,000 sq km (3,000,000 sq mi) of the central Pacific Ocean. Its neighbors are Nauru to the west; Samoa, Tuvalu, and Tokelau Islands to the south. Formerly part of a British Crown Colony known as Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Kiribati's land mass, 717 sq km (277 sq mi), is about the size of New York City; its population was estimated at 96,335 in 2002. Except Banaba (Ocean Island), all islands are low-lying atolls composed of coral sand and rock fragments subject to erratic rainfall. Water is as precious as gasoline. Kiribati is the only country that sits on the International Date Line. Its capital, largest city, and principal port is Bairiki in southern Tarawa, with a population of approximately 25,900.
Kiribati is a nation that was heavily influenced by American and British missionaries. According to estimates, 41% of the people are Protestant (Kiribati Protestant Church); 53% are Catholic; and 6% other. About 96% of the population is I-Kiribati (Gilbertese) Micronesian, speaking English and I-Kiribati. Approximately 70% of the population is under age 30.
Phosphate mining was the major economic activity of Kiribati before independence, but most deposits were depleted shortly afterwards. Lacking fertile soil, the economy and government of Kiribati are assisted by large sums of foreign aid—including those from the UK, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and China—to fund development projects. Like many South Pacific nations, Kiribati suffers from a massive trade imbalance. Its primary exports are copra (dried coconut meat), fish, seaweed, and postage stamps; primary imports are food and fuel. Recently expanding commercial fishing in Kiritimati and licensing of foreign fishing vessels also provide some income. Tourism provides more than one-fifth of GDP. About 2,500 I-Kiribati work overseas, primarily on Nauru in phosphate mines, and their remittances are an important source of income. Major trading partners are Fiji, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The monetary unit is the Australian dollar. Kiribati's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) has been estimated at US $840.
Office of President
P.O. Box 68
Republic of Kiribati