Kiribati 2016 Country Review
2016 Country Review
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 1
Country Overview 1
Country Overview 2
Key Data 4
Pacific Islands 6
Chapter 2 8
Political Overview 8
Political Risk Index 28
Political Conditions 10
Political Stability 42
Freedom Rankings 57
Human Rights 69
Government Functions 71
Government Structure 73
Principal Government Officials 75
Leader Biography 77
Leader Biography 77
Foreign Relations 80
National Security 86
Defense Forces 87
Chapter 3 89
Economic Overview 89
Economic Overview 90
Nominal GDP and Components 92
Population and GDP Per Capita 93
Real GDP and Inflation 94
Government Spending and Taxation 95
Money Supply, Interest Rates and Unemployment 96
Foreign Trade and the Exchange Rate 97
Data in US Dollars 98
Energy Consumption and Production Standard Units 99 Energy Consumption and Production QUADS 100
World Energy Price Summary 101
CO2 Emissions 102
Agriculture Consumption and Production 103
World Agriculture Pricing Summary 105
Metals Consumption and Production 106
World Metals Pricing Summary 108
Economic Performance Index 109
Chapter 4 121
Investment Overview 121
Foreign Investment Climate 122
Foreign Investment Index 125
Corruption Perceptions Index 138
Competitiveness Ranking 149
Stock Market 159
Partner Links 159
Chapter 5 160
Social Overview 160
Human Development Index 162
Life Satisfaction Index 166
Happy Planet Index 177
Status of Women 186
Global Gender Gap Index 189
Culture and Arts 198
Travel Information 201
Diseases/Health Data 211
Chapter 6 217
Environmental Overview 217
Environmental Issues 218
Environmental Policy 230
Greenhouse Gas Ranking 231
Global Environmental Snapshot 242
Global Environmental Concepts 253 International Environmental Agreements and Associations 267
Bibliography 292 Kiribati
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Kiribati won independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Like other Pacific island countries,
Kiribati is far from major markets, has few natural resources and a narrow economic base.
Production and exports are limited to copra, fish and seaweed, and the economy is vulnerable to fluctuations in world commodity demand and prices.
Once known as the Gilbert Islands, Kiribati is made up of 33 coral atolls and sits amidst two million square miles of Pacific Ocean. With its highest point only six feet above sea level, Kiribati has been particularly vulnerable to the rise of sea level as a result of global climate change.
In Kiribati, ecological concerns and the climate crisis have also been dominant themes with life and death consequences for the people of Kiribati . Indeed, their very livelihoods of fishing and subsistence farming remain at risk as a result of ecological and environmental changes. Yet even so, Kiribati is threatened by increasingly high storm surges, which could wipe out entire villages and contaminate water supplies. Accordingly, Kiribati's very existence is thus at severe risk of being obliterated from the map.
Not surprisingly, policies in Kiribati have centered on emergency planning for worst case scenarios in this vulnerable country. Yet with the existential threat of being wiped off the map in the offing,
Kiribati's government has concluded that the people will have to choice but to leave the islands and it has called on the international community to assist in this regard. This call has come after years of attempting to draw international attention to the plight of global climate change and its dire consequences for small island states.
Note: The case of Kiribati illuminates the emerging global challenge of environmental refugees
Editor's Note on Environment:
Like so many small island nations in the world, Kiribati is vulnerable to the threats posed by global warming and cimate change, derived from carbon emissions, and resulting in the rise in sea level.
Political policy in the country is often connected to ecological issues, which have over time morphed into an existential crisis of sorts.
Kiribati Review 2016 Page 2 of 304 pages
Indeed, in most small island countries not just in the Pacific, but also the Caribbean and Indian
Ocean, ecological concerns and the climate crisis have been dominant themes with dire life and death consequences looming in the background for their people. Small island nations in these region are already at risk from the rise of sea-level, tropical cyclones, floods. But their very livelihoods of fishing and subsistence farming were also at risk as a result of ecological and environmental changes. Increasingly high storm surges can wipe out entire villages and contaminate water supplies. Accordingly, the very existence of island are at severe risk of being obliterated from the map. Yet even with the existential threat of being wiped off the map in the offing, the international community has been either slow or restrictive in its efforts to deal with global warming, climate change, economic and ecological damage, as well as the emerging global challenge of environmental refugees.
A 2012 report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Pacific Regional
Environment Program underlined the concerns of small island nations and their people as it concluded that the livelihoods of approximately 10 million people in Pacific island communities were increasingly vulnerable to climate change. In fact, low-lying islands in that region would likely confront losses of up to 18 percent of gross domestic product due to climate change, according to the report. The report covers 21 countries and territories, including Fiji, Kiribati,
Samoa and Tonga, and recommended environmental legislation intended to deal with the climate crisis facing the small island countries particularly. As noted by David Sheppard, the director general of the Pacific Regional Environment Program that co-sponsored this study: “The findings... emphasize the need more than ever to raise the bar through collective actions that address the region's environmental needs at all levels."
Kiribati Review 2016 Page 3 of 304 pages Kiribati
Region: Pacific Islands
Climate: Tropical; marine, hot and humid, moderated by trade winds.
Languages: English (official), Gilbertese
Currency: 1 Australian dollar ($A) = 100 cents
Holiday: Independence Day is 12 July (1979), Youth Day is 4 August
Area Total: 717
Area Land: 717
Coast Line: 1143
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The first recorded European encounter with Kiribati was by the Spanish explorer Quiros in 1606.
By the 1820s, all of the islands had been charted. At that time, the Russian hydrographer A.I.
Krusenstern gave the group the name Gilbert Islands. Until about 1870, many British and American whaling vessels hunted for sperm whales in area waters, eventually depleting the stock.
Starting in 1850, trading vessels passed through, seeking first coconut oil and then copra.
In the 1860s, "black-birders" (slave ships) carried off islanders to work on plantations in Peru and, later, in Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii and Australia. Not only did this practice reduce the number of men on the islands, it also introduced European diseases such as measles, against which the islanders had little resistance. With the people's consent, the Ellice Islands (now Tuvalu) and the Gilbert Islands
(now Kiribati) became a British protectorate in 1892, in the hope of eradicating slave raids and incessant tribal warfare.
In 1900, phosphate was discovered on Ocean Island. This sparked a surge of British interest in the area, and more islands were placed under the British protectorate. Phosphate was the predominant source of income for Kiribati until 1979, when deposits were exhausted.
Japan seized the islands in 1941. On Nov. 21, 1943, American forces launched their first penetration of Japan's ring of island defenses by attacking the Tarawa islet of Betio. Tarawa Atoll was the setting for one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific and was a major turning point in the war for the Allies.
One of the most important post-war moves in the main islands was the strengthening of the islanders' economic cooperatives. New rules made it unprofitable for overseas trading firms to reestablish themselves. I-Kiribati gained a stronger voice in the affairs of the colony during the 1950s and 1960s, when an advisory council and, later, the House of Assembly with powers of recommendation were created. In 1974, the colony moved forward to a ministerial form of government.
In 1975, the Ellice Islands seceded from the colony and became the independent nation of Tuvalu.
On July 12, 1979, Kiribati obtained its own independence from the United Kingdom and became a republic within the British Commonwealth.
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Note on History: In certain entries, open source content from the State Department Background
Notes and Country Guides have been used. A full listing of sources is available in the Bibliography.
A divisive political issue in Kiribati has been a protracted bid by the residents of Banaban Island to secede and have their island placed under the protection of Fiji. The government's attempts to placate the Banabans include specific provisions in the constitution, such as giving them a seat in the House of Assembly and returning to them land on Banaban acquired by the government for phosphate mining.
In terms of political developments, elections for the house of assembly were last in late September
1998. non-partisan candidates took 15 seats and the Maneaaban te Mauri Party (MTM) won 14 seats while the Boutokanto Koaua Party (BKP) won 11. (Note: Maneaban Te Mauri translates into Protect the Maneaba and Boutokan Te Koaua translates into Pillars of Truth.)
President Teburoro Tito was re-elected in the presidential election of Nov. 27, 1998. He won 52.3 percent of the vote, followed by Harry Tong with 45.8 percent. Amberoti Nikora of the Boutokanto Koaua Party received 1.8 percent.
The Kiribati government received some negative press concerning illicit activity by officials. In early 1999, there was a dispute when the opposition asserted that cabinet ministers were receiving preferential treatment from public utilities companies. It was revealed that some ministers had outstanding electric bills of up to $800. More recently the North Tarawa Member of Parliament,
John Kumkee, was fined and sentenced to four years in prison for bribery and customs evasion.
Kumkee appealed and remained in office for three months, but his appeals were ultimately rejected.
A dispute between the Kiribati Overseas Seamen's Union (KIOSU) and the German-owned firm
South Pacific Marine Services (SPMS) over wages and contracts began in May 1999 and was finally resolved amidst controversy in September. The KIOSU accused SPMS of paying lower wages to I-Kiribati seamen than required by the International Transport Workers Federation
(ITWF). The Ministry of Labor denied that the seamen were treated unfairly.
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After a few months of negotiations, SPMS agreed to pay a better wage with a longer-term contract. The government then accused the ITWF and KIOSU of not acting on behalf of the seamen in the wage negotiations with the SPMS. The KIOSU claimed that it was fully involved with the negotiations and retaliated by claiming that the government had made the allegations to cover up its own complicity in the exploitation of I-Kiribati seamen.
In November 1999 the Ministry of Education announced a plan to implement nine years of free education for all children. The plan included the establishment of 18 junior secondary schools by
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) voiced its approval of the government's economic policies in October 1999. while the IMF was impressed with Kiribati's ability to increase growth and maintain low inflation, the organization recommended that the government reduce trade barriers and encourage foreign investment, improve the infrastructure, reduce reliance on the public service as a source of employment and promote the private sector. The IMF also called for health education, improved social welfare services and measures to improve environmental protection.
Shortly before the IMF called for the reduction of trade barriers, Kiribati had voiced opposition to a proposed free-trade zone in the South Pacific. President Tito referred to free trade as a form of colonization that had few benefits for a small nation. Tito feared that the nation would lose control over what goods would be imported and that its natural resources would be threatened. As an alternative he proposed the encouragement of small businesses and the continuation of bilateral agreements between neighboring countries. The free-trade zone proposal presented at the South
Pacific Forum called for a gradual reduction of import duties over the course of eight years.
President Tito's government faced more criticism in late 1999 for interfering with the media.
Michael Field, a reporter for Pacific Islands Monthly, was banned from the country in late 1999 after writing several articles critical of Kiribati's environmental damage and development level.
Reporters Sans Frontières, an international journalists' organization that campaigns against press restrictions, called on the government to lift the ban in early December. Former President Ieremia
Tabai was fined in December 1999 for attempting to broadcast on an FM radio station without a license. This was seen by some as an attempt to prevent the airing of opposition voices.
In May 2000, Tabai and some associates launched publication of a weekly independent newspaper, intended to compete with the existing government-owned paper, also a weekly.
Meanwhile, in 1995 Kiribati unilaterally moved the International Date Line eastward to consolidate
all of its 33 islands on the same side, a change that all nations subsequently accepted. This shift
also enabled Kiribati to claim that it would be the first country to greet the arrival of the year 2000.
The government spent about US$600,000 preparing for festivities, including the construction of Kiribati Review 2016 Page 11 of 304 pages Kiribati permanent facilities on its easternmost point, renamed Millennium Island. President Tito admitted after the event that tourist arrivals were light, and the endeavor's balance sheet was in the red. But
he maintained that the effort generated worthwhile publicity that would pay off with stronger tourism to Kiribati in the long run. Opposition politicians countered that the funds would have been better spent on basic services such as education and public health.
In major announcement in March 2000, Japan's space agency finalized its choice of Kiribati's
Christmas Island as the landing base for an unmanned shuttle; the spacecraft will blast off from southern Japan. Over the next three years Japan will spend about US$12.9 million to develop the necessary infrastructure. The maiden space voyage of the craft, named HOPE-X, will take place in
2004. Environmentalists have raised some concerns about the project because Christmas Island is a key nesting site for millions of seabirds, which are both of scientific interest and a resource in
Kiribati's efforts to promote eco-tourism. Christmas Island also contains archeological sites providing important clues in the rediscovery of Oceania's prehistory.
In their attempts to mount an effective challenge to the government, the Kiribati opposition parties suffer from a major handicap. The media has become increasingly controlled by the government
(see above) and hence, it is severely limiting the reach of the opposition parties to the people.
Former President Ieremia Tabai, who is now an opposition member of the house, has been trying
to start a radio station in Kiribati for several years now but has not yet succeeded. In 1999, Tabai was fined by a Kiribati court for trying to import broadcast equipment into Kiribati without having the necessary licenses for the same. Tabai accused the government of trying to suffocate the opposition and deny them the right to propagate their own views.
In May 2000, the opposition parties scored a significant victory over the government in their battle for the control of media in the country. The government faced challenge from a new direction
when the opposition launched its own newspaper to challenge the government newspaper that had so far a monopoly over the country. Kiribati New Star, a newsweekly, hit the streets in May 2000,
positioned opposite Te Uekera, the government-owned weekly newsmagazine. The New Star is owned by former President Tabai and two other Kiribati nationals. The newsweekly promised investigative reporting, specially on the issues which the government run magazine does not cover.
In May 2000, Kiribati signed an agreement with New Zealand covering the financial aid that New
Zealand will provide to Kiribati over the financial year 2000-2001 which began in June 2000.
Under the agreement, New Zealand agreed to provide about $2 million for various development projects in Kiribati, including health and gender activities. New Zealand also agreed to continue the current provision where by New Zealand receives patients from Kiribati who can not be treated in local hospitals.
By 2002, Kiribati and many other small Pacific island nation states were faced with the disturbing environmental consequences of climate change. In recent academic studies, attention has been
Kiribati Review 2016 Page 12 of 304 pages Kiribati focused on the threat to island coastal areas as temperatures increase, polar ice caps melt and sea level rises as a result. The impact upon small island nations around the world is potentially dangerous.
Until recently, less attention has been given the more immediate effect, which is the matter of freshwater quality and availability. At present, between 50 and 70 percent of the residents of Samoa have access to safe and drinkable water; in Kiribati and Tuvalu, the number drops to less than 45 percent. Other island nations, such as the Marshall Islands and Micronesia have had to deal with droughts and as rainwater or groundwater are their only freshwater resources, the effects on the population in the region is potentially dangerous. With global warming, droughts are
predicted to increase along with the possibility of water shortages; the loss of freshwater resources
could cause island nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu to be uninhabitable.
Meanwhile, islands such as Kiribati are under threat of being washed away if increases in sea level continue, as a consequence of global warming. Some studies suggest that these islands could cease to exist in 50 years as a result of climate change. Indeed, in 1999, it was reported that two islands -
- Tebua Tarawa and Abanuea - (which, interestingly translates in meaning to "the beach which is long-lasting") disappeared as a result of rising seas. Both islands, which were part of Kiribati, were not inhabited, however, they were used at times by fishermen.
The pollution caused by developed countries has become a major bone of contention in the view of small Pacific island states. In this regard, the leaders of Kiribati, Tuvalu and Maldives, intend to
launch a lawsuit and other legal measures against polluting countries. Because of its close
proximity, Australia is one of the first countries targeted for legal action, which will be decided in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Because Australia accepts ICJ jurisdiction, it is considered to be a prime target in such lawsuits.
The need for transnational policy on the matter is urgent; however, the countries of this region
have very little leverage in the international sphere, especially since the United States and Australia have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Environmental issues of this sort are becoming the primary concern of the people and policy-makers in Pacific countries. Resultantly, in March 2002,
Kiribati announced its joint decision with Tuvalu and the Maldives to pursue legal action against the United States for refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol and to participate within the Kyoto system.
The frustration felt by the leaders of Kiribati has also been illustrated by the critical comments made by the heads of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in Kiribati. Bishop Paul Mwea of the Roman Catholic church and Baiteke Nabetari of the Protestant Church accused industrialized nations of causing global warming and the resulting rise of sea level by developing their economies with new technologies, while detrimentally affecting the mere existence of smaller and poorer countries. They also noted that biodiversity, such as marine resources, is being depleted because of overfishing and other such practices aimed at Western-style economic development.