macrohistory & world report

Republic of Kiribati

The Republic of Kiribati in the South Pacific

The Republic of Kiribati in the South Pacific

World Factbook as of November 14: "A remote country of 33 scattered coral atolls, Kiribati has few natural resources and is one of the least developed Pacific Islands. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence from the UK in 1979. Copra and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports. The economy has fluctuated widely in recent years. Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets. Tourism provides more than one-fifth of GDP. Private sector initiatives and a financial sector are in the early stages of development. Foreign financial aid from the EU, UK, US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UN agencies, and Taiwan accounts for 20-25% of GDP. Remittances from seamen on merchant ships abroad account for more than $5 million each year. Kiribati receives around $15 million annually for the government budget from an Australian trust fund."

Wikipedia: "Kiribati maintains cordial relations with most countries and has close relations with its Pacific neighbors, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, which provide the majority of the country's foreign aid.

Taiwan and Japan have specified-period licences to fish in Kiribati's waters. The licenses are a revenue source for Kiribati.

Estimated per capita GDP (2010 US dollars)
2010: $6,200

"Poor materialistically but not in happiness, as the people are cheerful despite the many difficulties of life."

Infant mortality (deaths before the age of one year per 1,000 live births)
2011: 38.89
2005: 48.52

Average life expectancy at birth:
2011: 64.39
2005: 61.75


July 2014: 104,488
July 2011: 100,743. At least nine-tenths of these are in the Gilbert Islands.

Population of the three inhabited Line Islands
2005 census: 8,809 – up from 300 in 1900, according to Wikipedia.

Population of Kanton Island
May 2010: 24 – 14 adults and 10 children

Birth and death rates per 1,000 population
2011: 22.73 births, 7.4 deaths

Births / deaths
2014: 21.85 / 7.18

New migration rate
2011: A net loss of 2.85 per 1,000 population.

Infant mortality rate
2014: 35.37 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth
2014: 65.47 years

Living in an urban area
2010: 44%

Ethnic groups
2000 census: Micronesian 98.8%, other 1.2%

2005 census: Roman Catholic 55%, Protestant 36%, Mormon 3.1%, Baha'i 2.2%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1.9%, other 1.8%


"A hot and humid climate." Oceania, straddling the equator. Thirty-three coral atolls. 811 squared kilometers, equivalent to 28.5 by 28.5 kilometers or roughly 18 by 18 miles. Three groups of islands. The Gilbert Islands are a chain of 16 inhabited atolls and coral islands. The Phoenix Islands are a group of eight atolls and two submerged coral reefs, uninhabited except for a few families on Kanton Island, a fueling station for aircraft until jet aircraft. Kanton has palm trees, no fresh water other than periodic rain, about nine inches per year, and the island's highest elevation is seven meters. The Line Islands area a chain of eleven atolls and low coral islands in the eight of which form part of Kiribati and three of which, not shown as dots on the map to the right, are US territories: Jarvis Island, Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef. Only three of the Line Islands belonging to Kiribati are inhabited, islands that were once called Washington Island, Christmas Island and Fanning Island.


Following parliamentary elections the new parliament nominates presidential candidates from among its members. These nominated candidates compete for the popular vote in a general election. The president is elected for a four-year term (eligible for two more terms). The vice president is appointed by the president. Parliament members serve four-year terms.

Defense assistance is provided by Australia and New Zealand.

Capital: Tarawa, in the Gilbert Islands.

Recent History

May 1939: Pan American World Airways arrives on Kanton Island to build a service station for a flying boat service to New Zealand. The service starts in July 1940.

Kanton Island (nine by three miles long and mostly lagoon) becomes a US Navy air base for stopover flights to Australia and New Zealand as well as a staging point for attacks on the Gilbert Islands.

November, 1943: The Battle of Tarawa was the site of one of the bloodiest in US Marine Corps history.

In November 1946, Pan Am resumes service to Australia and New Zealand via Kanton.

Line Islands were formerly used by the United States and Britain for nuclear weapons testing including hydrogen bombs in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Kanton Island is used as a tracking station for the Mercury program as a missile-tracking site through 1976.

July 12, 1979: the United States relinquishes authority of the Kiribati Islands, and Kiribati becomes and independent republic.

2000: The population of Kanton Island is 61.

2005: The population of Kanton Island is 41.

2008: The Phoenix Islands, including Kanton, become the world's largest marine protected area, covering a total area of 410,500 square kilometers of land and ocean.

December 13, 2008: Kiribati's president, Anote Tong, has been campaigning internationally for a more intense response to the global warming that threatens to submerge his nation under water in the next 50 to 60 years. He is upset with Europe's leaders, who have given more importance to economic growth than to adequate measures against global warming.

May 2010: While transporting a yacht from England to Australian Alex Bond finds the 24 people on Kanton short of food. A supply ship had not arrived as expected and the islanders had been living on fish and coconuts for several months. Bond used his cell phone to call the British Coast Guard who called the US Coast Guard to arrange relief supplies.

The World Factbook


The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by J. Maarten Troost. The author describes the two years he and his girlfriend spent living on the Tarawa in the 1990s.

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.