The official name is the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Located in the Western Pacific Ocean. The area is 181.3 km2, the population is 56.4 thousand people. (2003). The official languages are Marshallese and English. The capital is the city of Majuro (about 24 thousand people, 2002). Public holiday – Republic Proclamation Day May 1 (since 1979). The monetary unit is the US dollar.
Member of the UN (since 1991), IMF (since 1992), Pacific Islands Forum (formerly UTF, 1987).
Claims rights to Wake Island (US possession).
The Republic of the Marshall Islands is located north of the equator and east of the Federated States of Micronesia between 4° and 19° north latitude and 160° and 175° east longitude on parallel archipelagos: the western one is Ralik (“sunset”), including the world’s largest (taking into account the area of the huge lagoon) Kwajalein Atoll, and east – Ratak (“sunrise”), spread out in the ocean over an area of approx. 2 million km2. The archipelagos consist of 29 coral atolls (including 1225 islets and 870 reefs) and 5 individual coral islets. The length of the coastline is 370 km.
Low coral islands (highest point 10 m, Likiep Atoll) have limestone and sandy soils. The vegetation combines forest, shrubs, meadows and pastures. Coconut palms occupy 60% of the entire territory. Marine flora is represented by approximately 240 species of algae and beds of sea grass.
Mammals include the Polynesian rat, lizards, snakes, land crayfish, and 70 species of birds. In the surrounding waters there are more than 800 species of fish, approx. 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, several species of sea turtles.
The waters of the 200-mile economic zone (more than 2 million km2) are rich in fish, and there are potential reserves of minerals on the seabed.
The climate is hot and humid. The average annual temperature is +26°C. Rainy season: May-November. The frequency and strength of storms are increasing, threatening the very existence of the islands.
According to Countryaah, high natural population growth (about 4% per year) is partially offset by emigration. Marshallese (Micronesians, 90%) predominate, there are Europeans, Chinese, Koreans, people from other islands of Micronesia. Quite a few descendants of the Japanese. Two main dialects of the Marshallese language (Malayo-Polynesian group) and English are used, as well as Japanese. Competently 94% of the adult population. Life expectancy for men is 67 years, for women – 71 years. Infant mortality 31 people per 1000 newborns.
Residents profess a Christian, mostly Protestant, religion, heavily influenced by Mormons and Catholics.
The islands received their name in 1788 in honor of the English captain W. Marshall. In 1886, Germany declared them a protectorate (paying “compensation” to Spain). Japan occupied the islands in 1914. In 1944, after fierce fighting, they came under the control of the United States. Between 1946 and 1962, 66 tests of atomic weapons in the atmosphere and under water were carried out on Bikini Atoll and then on Eniwetok Atoll (both Ralik Archipelago). Since 1947, the Marshall Islands has been a United Nations mandated territory administered by the United States. Since 1979, the current Constitution of the country, which provided for self-government, has been in force, and a government has been formed. In 1982, the official name of the Republic of the Marshall Islands was established. In 1986, the Treaty of Free Association with the United States came into force, which granted independence to the republic. In 1990, the UN Security Council abolished the status of a mandated territory in relation to the Marshall Islands.
The Marshall Islands is a republic in free association with the United States.
It is administratively divided into 33 island municipalities.
Cities: the capital of Majuro (on the atoll of the same name in the Ratak archipelago, the area of the atoll is 425 km2, of which about 400 km2 is a lagoon); the second urban center is Ebeye Island (Kwajalein Atoll).
The head of state and government is the president (Kessai H. Note). The upper house of parliament – the Iroiji Council (12 tribal leaders) – advises the president on issues of traditions and customs. Legislative power is held by the lower house (Nitijela), consisting of 33 deputies elected by popular vote for 4 years (the last elections were held in November 2003). The parliament elects a president from among its members.
In the traditional sense, there are no political parties, there are two political groups that look like factions or interest groups: the Kabua Party (named after the first president) and the United Democratic Party.
Under the Treaty of “Free Association” the United States carries out the defense of the Republic.
A feature of foreign policy is the establishment in 1998 of diplomatic relations with Taiwan (in the hope of substantial economic assistance), which caused a break in relations with the PRC.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands has diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation (since 1992).
GDP per capita – approx. 2000 USD. The average annual GDP growth rate over the past 10 years is approx. 1%, in 2001-02 increased to 2 and 4% respectively. Employment by sectors: agriculture and fishing – 21%, industry and construction – 21%, tourism – 10%, banking and financial sector – 8%, other service industries – 40%. Rapid population growth is one of the main reasons for the high unemployment rate (30%).
Agriculture is semi-natural; tomatoes, melons, and breadfruit are grown on small farms. Pigs and poultry are bred.
Paved roads – 65 km (Majuro, Kwajalein). The only seaport is in Majuro. St. 240 foreign ships use it as their home port. Of the 15 airfields, 4 have paved runways. Majuro is connected by air with 28 islands of the republic and with the outside world (like Kwajalein).
Tourism is the main own source of foreign exchange, it is developing quite rapidly and is the only promising sector of the economy.
The country’s budget is formed by 30% of income from the rent of Kwajalein. In addition, under the Treaty of 1986, the Marshall Islands were provided with financial assistance (in 1986-2002 more than 1 billion US dollars) for the damage caused to the inhabitants of the Bikini and Eniwetok atolls, as well as the nearby Rongelap and Utirik atolls in exchange for the preservation of American military installations (including the largest ballistic missile test site at Kwajalein). In 2002-03, difficult negotiations were held to extend the said agreement.
The main exports are fish and fish products, coconut oil and copra, as well as handicrafts made from shells, wood and pearls. But 70% of the export value is fuel re-export (for fishing vessels). Food, finished products, equipment are imported. The main foreign economic partners are the USA, Japan, Australia.
The offshore banking sector is in the stage of initial development. The OECD has included the republic in the black list of countries that do not stop the laundering of “dirty money”. After promising to provide information on financial transactions, the Marshall Islands was removed from this list in June 2003.
8 years of schooling is compulsory. To continue education in several specialties (school teachers, nurses, etc.), the College of the Marshall Islands has been operating since 1993. There is a branch of the University of the South Pacific (Fiji).