Country Profiles



The Gilbert Islands became a British protectorate in 1892 and a colony in 1915; they were captured by the Japanese in the Pacific War in 1941. The islands of Makin and Tarawa were the sites of major US amphibious victories over entrenched Japanese garrisons in 1943. 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.


South Tarawa

Official Languages           

English, Gilbertese


Kiribati dollar
Australian dollar (AUD)



Oceania, group of 33 coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean, straddling the Equator; the capital Tarawa is about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, Kiribati is the only country in the world to fall into all four hemispheres (northern, southern, eastern, and western)


Total: 811 sq. km Land: 811 sq. km Water: 0 sq. km


Tropical; marine, hot and humid, moderated by trade wind

Land use

Agricultural land: 42%, arable land 2.5%; permanent crops 39.5%; permanent, pasture 0%,forest: 15%,other: 43%



A remote country of 33 scattered coral atolls, Kiribati has few natural resources and is one of the least developed Pacific Island countries. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets. The public sector dominates economic activity, with ongoing capital projects in infrastructure including the road rehabilitation, water and sanitation projects, and renovations to the international airport, spurring some growth. Earnings from fishing licenses and seafarer remittances are important sources of income. In 2013, the International Monetary Fund estimated that fishing licenses revenues contributed close to half of government’s total revenue and total remittances from seafarers were equivalent to 6% of GDP. However, remittances and the number of seafarers employed have declined since the global crisis. Kiribati is dependent on foreign aid, which was estimated to have contributed over 43% in 2013 to the government’s finances. The country’s sovereign fund, the Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund (RERF), which is held offshore, had an estimated balance of $668 million in 2013, equivalent to 381% of GDP. The RERF seeks to avoid exchange rate risk by holding investments in more than 20 currencies, including the Australian dollar, United States dollar, the Japanese yen and the Euro. Drawdowns from the RERF helped finance the government’s annual budget.

Agriculture Products

Copra, breadfruit, fish


Fishing, handicrafts

Exports Commodities

Fish, coconut products

Imports Commodities

Food, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, fuel

Useful Links

Parliament of Kiribati

Ministry of Finance and Economic Development

Ministry of labour and human recourse management

Kiribati Chamber of Commerce and Industry