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Official Name - Guam
Land Area - 549 sq km
Population - 163,456 (2008 estimate). Chamorra 37 percent, Filipino 26 percent.
Capital City - Hagatna (Agana)
Religion - Roman Catholic 85%
Official Languages - English (official), Chamorro, Japanese
Currency - US Dollar
Political System - An unincorporated territory of the US with limited self-governing authority.
National Government - Cabinet comprises executive department heads appointed by the Governor.
National Legislature - A unicameral legislature with 15 seats. Members are elected by popular vote and hold two year terms.
Last Election - Nov 2008 (for the legislature)
Next Election Due - 2011
Head of State - US President Barack Obama
Head of Government - Governor Felix P Camacho
Key Ministers - Lt Governor Michael W Cruz Attorney-General, Hon Alicia G Limitico Public Auditor, Hon Doris Flores Brooks
Main Political Parties - Democratic and Republican
GDP - US$2.5 billion
GDP per capita - US$15,000 (2005 US Census)
Real GDP growth - nil
Exports - US$45 million (2005)
Main Exports - Fisheries, services, leather products
Imports - US$701 million (2005)
Main Imports -
Inflation - 2.5%
NZ Exports (fob) - NZ$9 million (December 2009)
Main Exports - Meat, milk products, Fish
NZ Imports (cif) - NZ$65,000 (December 2009)
Main imports - Electrical machinery parts, Leather products
New Zealand’s relations with Guam were greatly enhanced by a Guest of Government visit to New Zealand in June 2008. The visit included trade and political calls, with a focus both on encouraging a northern Pacific state to look “south” for bilateral linkages, and to promote business opportunities in Guam associated with the United States military base expansion there.
More generally, ties are limited. Guam is an unincorporated territory of the US, and naturally looks to the US for its economic and security future. New Zealand has developed warm relations with Guam’s representative to the US House of Representatives, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, who has been a supporter of New Zealand completing a free trade agreement with the US.
The indigenous people of Guam are the Chamorro race. Linguistic and cultural similarities tie the Chamorro race to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.; The island's first known contact with the western world was on 6 March 1521 when the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe, remained on Guam for three days to refurbish his three ship convoy. Although Magellan was considered the first European explorer to step foot on Guam's beaches, Guam and the other Mariana Islands were formally claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1565 by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
The Spanish maintained control on Guam and the Mariana Islands for 333 years. The island was ceded to the United States following the Spanish American War of 1898. President William McKinley issued an executive order placing Guam within the administration of the Department of Navy. On 10 December 1941, Guam surrendered to the Japanese South Seas detachment forces. Guam was renamed 'Omiya Jima' or Great Shrine Island and was brought under Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. On 21 July 1944, known locally as Liberation Day, US forces landed and together with the Chamorro fought the Japanese for three weeks to claim the island again for the US. The island's strategic position was quickly recognised by the US military and was used as a command post for US Western Pacific operations until the end of the Second World War in the Pacific Theatre on September 2, 1945. In 1949, US President Harry S. Truman signed the Organic Act, making Guam an unincorporated territory with limited self-governing authority and United States citizenship was granted to the people of Guam.
The Governor and Lieutenant Governor (currently Felix P. Camacho and Michael W Cruz) are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a four-year term. The Cabinet is made up of executive department heads appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Guam legislature. The Legislative branch is a unicameral Legislature with 15 seats. Members are elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms. The last legislative election was held in November 2008 and the next Governor’s election is to be held in November 2010. Guam also elects one non-voting delegate to the US House of Representatives when legislative elections are held. Guam’s delegate is currently Madeleine Bordallo (Democratic Party). Policy relations between Guam and the United States are under the jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department of the Interior.
The Guam economy depends on US military spending, tourism, and the export of fish and handicrafts. Over the past 20 years, the tourist industry has grown rapidly, creating a construction boom for new hotels and the expansion of older ones. More than one million tourists visit Guam each year (approximately 90% are from Japan). Total US grants, wage payments and procurement outlays amounted to $1.3 billion in 2004.
In late 2003, the Guam Economic Development and Commerce Authority created the Governor’s Economic Stimulus Plan. The list of hub opportunities provided by the Plan include aquaculture; trans-shipment and regional distribution; aviation training; telecommunications; regional solid waste facility; regional arbitration centre; and regional support centre for US companies doing business in Asia.
One of the enhancing aspects to Guam’s economy has been the rise in recent years of the military presence in Guam. Guam is the largest refuelling point outside the continental United States for all military forces. A US-Japan agreement released on 29 October 2005 provided for the transfer of personnel and equipment from US military bases in Okinawa to Guam. As a result, US military personnel in Guam are projected to rise by 8000 marines and 1000 air crew over the next decade. The greater presence will lead to significantly increased revenues for the Guam Government, which retains the taxes of its citizens, in the order of an additional US$100 million per year. Infrastructure and military contracts will total approximately US$15 billion for the relocation, while the population will increase by 25 percent.
The combined dollar value of civilian and military construction projects on Guam surged to US$649.2 million this fiscal year 2010, up by 47.1 percent and the figures are projected to double next year as the actual construction phase for the military buildup begins. This year, 6,500 new jobs were created on Guam and its unemployment rate remains at single-digit. It is estimated that 38,000 new jobs will be created by 2014.
This will need to tap into the combined labour pool from Guam, its neighbouring territory of the Northern Marianas, and island-nations in Micronesia freely associated with the United States. Currently, Guam is home to about 12,000 Micronesians. This figure is projected to quadruple in the years ahead. Foreign construction workers, estimated at about 15,000, through the H2-B visa, will be allowed to enter Guam to work on different projects, within and outside the fence.
Citizens from the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and other U.S. insular areas like the Northern Marianas, American Samoa and even the far-flung U.S. Virgin Islands, have started to flock to Guam in search of greener pastures.
Presently, regular flights connect Guam with numerous Asia/Pacific countries, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, and the Philippines, as well as Nauru, the neighbouring Micronesian islands, and the United States.
For the year ending December 2009, New Zealand exports to Guam were worth NZ$9.3 million with the main exports being frozen bovine meat, cheese and curd. For the year ending December 2009, New Zealand imports from Guam were worth NZ$65,000 with the main imports being electrical machinery parts, handbags, wallets and jewellery. Trade prospects are hampered by the lack of direct air links.
New Zealand’s Honorary Consul in Guam is John Scragg. He has been in this role since 1991. Contact details for the New Zealand Consulate are: 290 Salas Street (PO Box 8196) Tamuning, Guam 96931; Tel: (+671) 646 7662; Fax: (+671) 646 1061
New Zealand has not issued a specific travel advisory for Guam. General travel advice can be found on the Safe Travel website [external link].