Flag of Kiribati

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The Gilbert Islands were granted self-rule by the UK in 1971 and complete independence in 1979 under the new name of Kiribati. The US relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a 1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati.


Oceania, group of 33 coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean, straddling the equator; the capital Tarawa is about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Australia; note - on 1 January 1995, Kiribati proclaimed that all of its territory lies in the same time zone as its Gilbert Islands group (GMT +12) even though the Phoenix Islands and the Line Islands under its jurisdiction lie on the other side of the International Date Line

Geographic coordinates:

1 25 N, 173 00 E


total: 811 sq km
note: includes three island groups - Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands
water: 0 sq km
land: 811 sq km


tropical; marine, hot and humid, moderated by trade winds


mostly low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Banaba 81 m

Natural resources:

phosphate (production discontinued in 1979)

Land use:

arable land: 2.74%
permanent crops: 50.68%
other: 46.58% (2001)

Irrigated land:

NA sq km

Natural hazards:

typhoons can occur any time, but usually November to March; occasional tornadoes; low level of some of the islands make them very sensitive to changes in sea level

Environment - current issues:

heavy pollution in lagoon of south Tarawa atoll due to heavy migration mixed with traditional practices such as lagoon latrines and open-pit dumping; ground water at risk

Geography - note:

21 of the 33 islands are inhabited; Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Makatea in French Polynesia, and Nauru


100,798 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:

predominantly Micronesian with some Polynesian


Roman Catholic 52%, Protestant (Congregational) 40%, some Seventh-Day Adventist, Muslim, Baha'i, Latter-day Saints, and Church of God (1999)


I-Kiribati, English (official)

Government type:




Administrative divisions:

3 units; Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands; note - in addition, there are 6 districts (Banaba, Central Gilberts, Line Islands, Northern Gilberts, Southern Gilberts, Tarawa) and 21 island councils - one for each of the inhabited islands (Abaiang, Abemama, Aranuka, Arorae, Banaba, Beru, Butaritari, Kanton, Kiritimati, Kuria, Maiana, Makin, Marakei, Nikunau, Nonouti, Onotoa, Tabiteuea, Tabuaeran, Tamana, Tarawa, Teraina)

Economy - overview:

A remote country of 33 scattered coral atolls, Kiribati has few natural resources. 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. The financial sector is at an early stage of development as is the expansion of private sector initiatives. Foreign financial aid from UK, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and China is a critical supplement to GDP, equal to 25%-50% of GDP in recent years. Remittances from workers abroad account for more than $5 million each year.

Labor force:

7,870 economically active, not including subsistence farmers (2001 est.)

Unemployment rate:

2%; underemployment 70% (1992 est.)

Agriculture - products:

copra, taro, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, vegetables; fish

Exports - commodities:

copra 62%, coconuts, seaweed, fish

Exports - partners:

Japan 56.3%, South Korea 21.9%, Australia 6.3%, US 6.3% (2003 est.)

Imports - commodities:

foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, fuel

Imports - partners:

Australia 39.6%, Fiji 24.5%, New Zealand 7.5%, Japan 5.7%, South Korea 5.7% (2003 est.)


Australian dollar (AUD)

Telephones - main lines in use:

4,500 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

500 (2002)


total: 670 km
paved: NA km
unpaved: NA km (1999 est.)


5 km (small network of canals in Line Islands) (2003)

Ports and harbors:

Banaba, Betio, English Harbour, Kanton

Merchant marine:

total: 1 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 1,291 GRT/1,295 DWT
by type: passenger 1 (2003 est.)


20 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3 (2003 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 17
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 4 (2003 est.)

Military branches:

no regular military forces; Police Force (carries out law enforcement functions and paramilitary duties; small police posts are on all islands)

Military - note:

Kiribati does not have military forces; defense assistance is provided by Australia and NZ