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Official Name - Republic of Kiribati
Land Area - 811 sq km
Population - 110,000
Capital City - Bairiki, Tarawa
Religions - Roman Catholic (55%), Kiribati Protestant (41%)
Official Languages- I-Kiribati (also some level of English)
Currency - Australian Dollar
Exchange Rate - N/A
EEZ - 3.55 million sq km
Political system - An independent republic, Kiribati has a single chamber House of Assembly or Maneaba ni Maungatabu, with 44 elected members, one appointed MP to represent the Banaban community and the Attorney General who is an ex officio member.
National government - The President (Te Beretitenti) is both head of state and head of government. They are elected by popular vote from candidates nominated from within House of Assembly . The usual term of office is four years. President Anote Tong is currently serving his third term after being re-elected in 2011. Elections due October/November 2015. A person may not serve more than three terms as president.
National legislature - Cabinet comprises the President, vice-President, Attorney General and not more than 10 members of the Maneaba who are chosen by the President.
Last election - October 2011
Next election due - October/November 2015
Head of State -
HE President Anote Tong
Head of Government - HE President Anote Tong
HE Anote Tong
President, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration
Hon (Ms) Teima Onorio
Vice-President, Minister of Internal and Social Affairs
Hon Tinian Reiher
Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development
Hon Tom Murdoch
Minister of Finance and Economic Development
Hon Titabu Tabane
Main political parties - Maurin Kiribati and Karikirakean te I Kiribati – KTIK (both oppositions) Boutokaan te Koua (Supporting the Truth) Party (BTK). Parties are loose groupings, as there is no tradition of formally organised political parties in Kiribati.
GDP - US$163 million (2011)
GDP per capita - US$2,434.4 (2011)
Real GDP growth - --0.9 % (2009), 1.8% (2010), 3% (2011)
Exports - A$ 5 million (2011)
Main Exports - Copra, fish, seaweed
Imports - A$85 million
Inflation 0.8% (2010)
NZ Exports (FOB) -NZ$5 million (Dec 2011)
Main Exports - Wood products, prefabricated buildings, plastics
NZ Imports (CIF) -NZ$64,000 (Dec 2011)
Main Imports - Oil cake and other solid residues (ie copra)
Formerly called the Gilbert Islands, Kiribati (pronounced Kee-ree-bus) was first inhabited 3000 years ago, probably by people from further north in Micronesia. While ethnically Micronesian, Kiribati has strong cultural connections with Polynesia. The first contact with Europeans was in 1606 when Spanish explorer Pedro Fernandez de Quiros landed on modern day Kiribati. In 1892 the then Gilbert and Ellice Islands (the latter now modern day Tuvalu) became a British protectorate, and Banaba (Ocean) Island was annexed in 1900 following the discovery of phosphate deposits.
While World War One largely bypassed the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Tarawa and Banaba felt the full brunt of Japanese occupation in World War Two. In the 1943 Battle of Tarawa, when United States marines regained control of Tarawa, there were over 6,000 casualties: 4,713 Japanese and 1,677 American soldiers died. The first moves towards self-government came in 1963 when the British authorities appointed Kiribati nationals to executive and advisory councils. In 1975 the Ellice Islands separated from the protectorate to become Tuvalu, achieving independence in 1978. By 1979 the sparsely populated Phoenix and Line Island groups, which were not inhabited when Europeans came to the Pacific, joined the Gilbert Islands to become independent Kiribati.
The population is concentrated in the Gilbert Islands, with 50,000 (45%) living in the densely populated capital, South Tarawa. Kiritimati Island in the east with 5,600, is the second-largest population centre. Kiribati nationals from Banaba Island also live on Fiji’s Rabi Island. After World War Two, the ruling British authorities relocated most of the Banaba Island population to Rabi Island because phosphate mining had made most of the island uninhabitable. While around 450 people have returned to Banaba Island (and other areas of Kiribati), an estimated 5000 descendants remain on Rabi. While Rabi’s population are now Fijian nationals, they are represented by an MP in the Kiribati parliament.
The President (Te Beretitenti) is both Head of State and Head of Government, and is elected by popular vote every four years. Presidential candidates are nominated from within the House of Assembly. Individuals may serve up to three four-year terms. The Assembly comprises 46 MPs – 44 elected, one appointed to represent the Banaba community and the Attorney General who is a member ex officio. Cabinet comprises the President, vice-President, Attorney General and no more than ten others, selected by the President from within the Assembly. In the most recent elections, in November 2011, incumbent Anote Tong was re-elected President. Next elections are due to be held in October/November 2015.
Kiribati is classified by the United Nations as a least developed country. Economic development is severely constrained by its dispersed and isolated atoll geography, which provides limited fresh water supplies and a narrow resource base. While there is little potential for agricultural development, the vast territorial waters contain a significant fishery resource. Low-lying atolls are threatened by any substantial rise in sea levels. There is a minimal manufacturing sector and agriculture is predominantly subsistence. The major commercial activity in the outer islands is the harvesting of coconuts for the export of copra and coconut oil. The main sources of formal employment are the public sector and the German merchant vessels.
Half of Kiribati’s national income is derived from external sources, namely ODA, fishing license fees, seafarers’ remittances, and revenue from Kiribati’s offshore investment fund, the Revenue Equalisation Reserve Fund (RERF). Kiribati is one of the largest recipients of aid in the world relative to recipient country GDP, and has the second largest EEZ in the world, home to a rich tuna fishery.
Fishing is a vital subsistence activity and exploitation of Kiribati’s extensive marine resources, primarily varieties of tuna (skipjack and yellowfin), is a major source of income through the licensing of foreign fishing vessels. Kiribati, like other Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members, also receives revenue from a multilateral treaty signed with the United States and European Union. It has bilateral fisheries arrangements with Japan, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and Spain. In 2009, Kiribati joined with other Central Pacific Nations in the “Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) aimed at increasing both sustainability of the tuna fisheries resource, and the share of revenues staying in the Pacific.
The end of phosphate mining on Banaba Island in 1979 had a serious impact on the Kiribati economy. Reserves from the phosphate mining company were used in 1956 to establish a Trust fund, the Revenue Equalisation Reserve Fund (RERF), which now has a value of around A$570 million. Drawdowns of interest and capital from the RERF are used to fund the annual fiscal deficit. The RERF’s value has been eroded in recent years by exposure to investments in failed Icelandic banks and capital drawdowns to fund the budget deficit.
Government income has declined - 2011 tax revenue was lower than 2004 – while spending has increased, for example on rises in public service wages and subsidies for non-performing State-owned enterprises (SOEs). This produced a budget deficit estimated at 37% in 2011. Faced with an escalating deficit, the Government decided in late 2012 to make a significant drawdown from the RERF to pay off commercial borrowing, and at the same time take urgent steps to limit its deficit spending.
The Government is also considering SOE reforms focused on the privatisation and restructuring of financially distressed SOEs. Donors have indicated that they may be prepared to provide direct budget support in support of Government’s reforms.
Main Exports FOB from NZ to Kiribati to Dec 2010 included petroleum oil and gases ($700,000), wood products ($500,000), structures of iron ($280,000), account books and diaries ($170,000), woven fabric ($120,000), transmission/radio equipment ($110,000), and plastics ($100,000). Of total Imports CIF to NZ from Kiribati ($64,000) oil cake/copra accounted for some $61,000 (ADB Pacific Monitor).
Kiribati is extremely fragile economically, environmentally and socially. Limited economic opportunities in outer islands have resulted in substantial migration to South Tarawa and Kiritimati Island. In South Tarawa, where the population density is 3,200 per square kilometre, there are serious health and social problems due to the lack of functional sewerage, water reticulation or waste disposal systems, limited potable water, coastal erosion, and over-fishing. 36.1 percent of the population is aged under 15, and the population is expected to double in the next 20 years, exacerbating these problems.
Donor (top 4)
Aid Flow (A$)
Education, Workforce Skills, Growth and Economic Management, Infrastructure
Urban Development, Workforce Skills,
Bonriki Airport Upgrade, Agriculture
Climate Change Adaptation
New Zealand’s development cooperation programme is focused on urban development; improving workforce skills, and lifting economic performance. The key initiatives are noted below. New Zealand’s bilateral development support for Kiribati grew from $3m in 2007/08 to $21m in 2011/12, and total spending from all sources of New Zealand aid was estimated at $26m million in 2011/12. $37m has been allocated for bilateral assistance over 2012/13-14/15.
The main themes within New Zealand’s development cooperation programme with Kiribati over 2012-2014 are:
Urban areas that make a positive contribution to the social, economic and environmental well-being of their inhabitants.
Activities are underway to address over-crowding in urban areas and associated public health and environmental problems. The urban development programme will also help with Kiribati's adaptation to climate change. Over 2012 to 2015 the programme is delivering:
Skilled workforce able to seek gainful employment overseas and contributing to economic growth.
One of the Government of Kiribati's top priorities is the creation of employment opportunities and a skilled workforce that can access the national and international labour market. The New Zealand Aid Programme has supported the Kiribati Marine Training Centre since 1983. New Zealand’s support has helped ensure that MTC qualifications are recognised internationally. Its graduates are employed on German merchant vessels throughout the world and this provides a valuable source of foreign exchange income.
A 5 year programme, beginning in Jan 2013, will support the creation of a fisheries department at MTC following the merger of the Fisheries Training Centre with the MTC. A construction tender is underway for buildings to house fisheries trainees, administration offices and a medical clinic, and the buildings should be completed by 2014. Support will also be provided to the MTC to improve training resources and capacity of its other departments. Overall support for 2012/13-14/15 is valued at $9.4m.
The New Zealand Aid Programme also sponsors tertiary and professional development training overseas and within Kiribati.
Improved economic performance and strengthened public financial management; Increased tourism income, including improved aviation services.
The IMF and the World Bank are providing analysis and policy advice to Kiribati on public financial management and economic reform options aimed at helping to reduce the Government’s fiscal deficit and stimulate the economy. New Zealand has joined a group of donors that has indicated a willingness to support the reform process. In mid-2012, New Zealand contributed $1.4m to a telecommunications and information technology reform project that should result in improved and lower-cost telecommunications for Kiribati.
New Zealand also contributed towards ensuring Kiribati’s links with the outside world are maintained through funding the rehabilitation of the runway at Kiritimati Island, which was completed in mid-2012 at a cost of $17.6.
Partnerships that channel New Zealand expertise and resources for the benefit of Kiribati.
New Zealand Government agencies and non-governmental organisations are contributing to Kiribati in areas such as policing (through NZ Police – eg the domestic violence prevention programme), judicial development, water quality testing, conservation and control of invasive species, family planning, marine safety and surveillance, enhancement of the Recognised Seasonal Employer programme. Volunteer Service Abroad is also contributing volunteers to assist with the delivery of programme activities.
Kiribati is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, Commonwealth, and the United Nations. The Republic of China (Taiwan), Australia, New Zealand and Cuba have diplomatic representation in Tarawa, while Kiribati opened its first overseas diplomatic mission in Fiji in 2001. Kiribati established full diplomatic relations with Taiwan soon after President Tong was elected in 2003. Kiribati has no defence treaties and its key relationships are with Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and Pacific Islands Forum states. It is also a member of the subregional group of Micronesian countries. It is a member of the European Union grouping of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
New Zealand and Kiribati have a strong and friendly bilateral relationship based on people to people links and a shared Pacific geography. There is a vibrant I-Kiribati community of over 2,000 people in New Zealand. Both countries share membership of regional and international organisations, such as the Pacific Islands Forum, and a common interest in issues such as sustainable development, maritime security and climate change.
The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme between New Zealand and Pacific states is supporting the development of the relationship, as does the annual allocation of 75 residential permits under the Pacific Access Category. Under the RSE scheme Kiribati (and other Pacific Island Country) people may be recruited for temporary work in New Zealand in the horticulture and viticulture industries. Trade between Kiribati and New Zealand is limited, and can fluctuate widely from year to year. Key exports from New Zealand include timber and building supplies, machinery and medicaments.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force assists Kiribati with maritime surveillance flights to help police its huge exclusive economic zone against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. At 3.55 million square kilometres, it is the second largest EEZ in the world. On 10 June 2009 Ministers McCully and Heatley met (in NZ) with fisheries Ministers and officials from Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu, together with representatives of the New Zealand fishing industry to discuss ways of working together to achieve sustainable economic development in the fisheries sector.
New Zealand is represented in Kiribati through its High Commission in Tarawa.
The High Commissioner is HE Mike Walsh.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not issued a specific travel advisory for Kiribati. Links to other nations' advice, and New Zealand's Pacific regional advice, can be found at Safe Travel website [external link].