Marshall Islands


Marshall Islands
Marshallese /-sheuh leez", -lees"/, n., pl. -ese, adj.
n.pl.
a group of 34 atolls in the W central Pacific: formerly a part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; since 1986 a self-governing area associated with the U.S. 60,652; 70 sq. mi. (181 sq. km).

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Marshall Islands

Introduction Marshall Islands -
Background: After almost four decades under US administration as the easternmost part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands attained independence in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association. Compensation claims continue as a result of US nuclear testing on some of the atolls between 1947 and 1962. The Marshall Islands have been home to the US Army Base Kwajalein (USAKA) since 1964. Geography Marshall Islands
Location: Oceania, group of atolls and reefs in the North Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Australia
Geographic coordinates: 9 00 N, 168 00 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 181.3 sq km note: includes the atolls of Bikini, Enewetak, Kwajalein, Majuro, Rongelap, and Utirik water: 0 sq km land: 181.3 sq km
Area - comparative: about the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 370.4 km
Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 NM territorial sea: 12 NM exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
Climate: wet season from May to November; hot and humid; islands border typhoon belt
Terrain: low coral limestone and sand islands
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m highest point: unnamed location on Likiep 10 m
Natural resources: coconut products, marine products, deep seabed minerals
Land use: arable land: 16.67% permanent crops: 0% other: 83.33% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 0 sq km
Natural hazards: infrequent typhoons Environment - current issues: inadequate supplies of potable water; pollution of Majuro lagoon from household waste and discharges from fishing vessels Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note: two archipelagic island chains of 30 atolls and 1,152 islands; Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites; Kwajalein, the famous World War II battleground, is now used as a US missile test range People Marshall Islands -
Population: 73,630 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 49.1% (male 18,443; female 17,704) 15-64 years: 48.9% (male 18,347; female 17,628) 65 years and over: 2% (male 720; female 788) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.89% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 44.98 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 6.07 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.91 male(s)/ female total population: 1.04 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 38.68 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 66.18 years female: 68.09 years (2002 est.) male: 64.35 years
Total fertility rate: 6.49 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: NA% HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Marshallese (singular and plural) adjective: Marshallese
Ethnic groups: Micronesian
Religions: Christian (mostly Protestant)
Languages: English (widely spoken as a second language, both English and Marshallese are official languages), two major Marshallese dialects from the Malayo-Polynesian family, Japanese
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 93.7% male: 93.6% female: 93.7% (1999) Government Marshall Islands -
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of the Marshall Islands conventional short form: Marshall Islands former: Marshall Islands District (Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands)
Government type: constitutional government in free association with the US; the Compact of Free Association entered into force 21 October 1986
Capital: Majuro Administrative divisions: 33 municipalities; Ailinginae, Ailinglaplap, Ailuk, Arno, Aur, Bikar, Bikini, Bokak, Ebon, Enewetak, Erikub, Jabat, Jaluit, Jemo, Kili, Kwajalein, Lae, Lib, Likiep, Majuro, Maloelap, Mejit, Mili, Namorik, Namu, Rongelap, Rongrik, Toke, Ujae, Ujelang, Utirik, Wotho, Wotje
Independence: 21 October 1986 (from the US- administered UN trusteeship)
National holiday: Constitution Day, 1 May (1979)
Constitution: 1 May 1979
Legal system: based on adapted Trust Territory laws, acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary laws
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Kessai Hesa NOTE (since 3 January 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government head of government: President Kessai Hesa NOTE (since 3 January 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president from among the members of Parliament elections: president elected by Parliament from among its own members for a four-year term; election last held 15 November 1999 (next to be held NA November 2003) election results: Kessai Hesa NOTE elected president; percent of Parliament vote - 100%
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Nitijela (33 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) elections: last held 15 November 1999 (next to be held NA November 2003) note: the Council of Chiefs is a 12- member body that advises on matters affecting customary law and practice election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - NA
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; High Court Political parties and leaders: traditionally there have been no formally organized political parties; what has existed more closely resembles factions or interest groups because they do not have party headquarters, formal platforms, or party structures; the following two "groupings" have competed in legislative balloting in recent years - Kabua Party [Imata KABUA] and United Democratic Party or UDP [Litokwa TOMEING] Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization ACP, AsDB, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IAEA,
participation: IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IFC, IMF, IMO, Interpol, ITU, OPCW (signatory), Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, WHO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Banny DE BRUM chancery: 2433 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 consulate(s) general: Honolulu FAX: [1] (202) 232-3236 telephone: [1] (202) 234-5414 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Michael
US: J. SENKO embassy: Oceanside, Mejen Weto, Long Island, Majuro mailing address: P. O. Box 1379, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands 96960-1379 telephone: [692] 247-4011 FAX: [692] 247-4012
Flag description: blue with two stripes radiating from the lower hoist-side corner - orange (top) and white; there is a white star with four large rays and 20 small rays on the hoist side above the two stripes Economy Marshall Islands
Economy - overview: US Government assistance is the mainstay of this tiny island economy. Agricultural production is primarily subsistence and is concentrated on small farms; the most important commercial crops are coconuts and breadfruit. Small-scale industry is limited to handicrafts, tuna processing, and copra. The tourist industry, now a small source of foreign exchange employing less than 10% of the labor force, remains the best hope for future added income. The islands have few natural resources, and imports far exceed exports. Under the terms of the Compact of Free Association, the US provides roughly $39 million in annual aid. Negotiations have continued for an extended agreement. Government downsizing, drought, a drop in construction, the decline in tourism and foreign investment due to the Asian financial difficulties, and less income from the renewal of fishing vessel licenses have held GDP growth to an average of 1% over the past decade.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $115 million (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 1% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $1,600 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 14% industry: 16% services: 70% (2000 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.9% (1999 est.)
Labor force: 28,698 Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 21.4%, industry 20.9%, services 57.7%
Unemployment rate: 30.9% (1999 est.)
Budget: revenues: $42 million expenditures: $40 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1999)
Industries: copra, fish, tourism, craft items from shell, wood, and pearls Industrial production growth rate: NA% Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 99% hydro: 0% nuclear: 0% other: 1% (solar)
Agriculture - products: coconuts, tomatoes, melons, taro, breadfruit, fruits; pigs, chickens
Exports: $9 million (f.o.b., 2000)
Exports - commodities: copra cake, coconut oil, handicrafts
Exports - partners: US, Japan, Australia
Imports: $54 million (f.o.b., 2000)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels, beverages and tobacco
Imports - partners: US, Japan, Australia, NZ, Singapore, Fiji, China, Philippines
Debt - external: $86.5 million (FY99/00 est.) Economic aid - recipient: approximately $39 million annually from the US
Currency: US dollar (USD)
Currency code: USD
Exchange rates: the US dollar is used
Fiscal year: 1 October - 30 September Communications Marshall Islands - Telephones - main lines in use: 4,186 (2001) Telephones - mobile cellular: 489 (2001)
Telephone system: general assessment: digital switching equipment; modern services include telex, cellular, internet, international calling, caller ID, and leased data circuits domestic: Majuro Atoll and Ebeye and Kwajalein islands have regular, seven-digit, direct-dial telephones; other islands interconnected by shortwave radiotelephone (used mostly for government purposes) international: satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean); US Government satellite communications system on Kwajalein (2001) Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 1, shortwave 0 note: additionally, the US Armed Forces Radio and Television Services (Central Pacific Network) operate one FM and one AM station on Kwajalein (2002)
Radios: NA Television broadcast stations: 2 (both are US military stations) (2002)
Televisions: NA
Internet country code: .mh Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2002)
Internet users: 537 (2001) Transportation Marshall Islands -
Railways: 0 km
Highways: total: NA km paved: 64.5 km unpaved: NA km note: paved roads on major islands (Majuro, Kwajalein), otherwise stone-, coral-, or laterite-surfaced roads and tracks (2002)
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Majuro
Merchant marine: total: 270 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 11,807,839 GRT/19,332,014 DWT note: the ship's register of the Marshall Islands is a flag of convenience register since essentially none of the vessels on it is owned domestically, includes the following foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: China 1, Cyprus 1, Denmark 9, Germany 70, Greece 54, Hong Kong 2, Japan 4, Monaco 8, Netherlands 8, Norway 10, Poland 16, Singapore 1, Turkey 6, United Kingdom 3, United States 87, Uruguay 1 (2002 est.) ships by type: bulk 82, cargo 14, chemical tanker 24, combination ore/ oil 4, container 46, liquefied gas 8, multi-functional large-load carrier 1, petroleum tanker 88, vehicle carrier 3
Airports: 17 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 4 1,524 to 2,437 m: 3 914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 13 914 to 1,523 m: 10 under 914 m: 3 (2001) Military Marshall Islands -
Military branches: no regular military forces; Police Force Military expenditures - dollar $NA
figure: Military expenditures - percent of NA%
GDP:
Military - note: defense is the responsibility of the US Transnational Issues Marshall Islands -
Disputes - international: claims US territory of Wake Island

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officially Republic of the Marshall Islands

Island country, central Pacific Ocean.

It is composed of two parallel chains of low-lying coral atolls: the Ratak, or Sunrise, to the east and the Ralik, or Sunset, to the west. The chains lie 125 mi (200 km) apart and extend some 800 mi (1,290 km) northwest to southeast. The islands and islets number more than 1,200. Area: 70 sq mi (181 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 56,600. Capital: Majuro. The indigenous people are Micronesian. Languages: Marshallese, English (both official). Religion: Christianity (majority). Currency: U.S. dollar. The largest atoll is Kwajalein, consisting of about 90 islets, with a total land area of 6 sq mi (16 sq km). Much of Kwajalein is used as a missile-testing range by the U.S. military, which provides a major source of revenue to the Marshall Islands. Subsistence farming, fishing, and the raising of pigs and poultry are the principal economic activities. The Marshall Islands is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president. The islands were sighted in 1529 by the Spanish navigator Àlvaro Saavedra. Germany declared the islands a protectorate in 1885 and purchased them from Spain in 1899. Japan seized them in 1914 and after 1919 administered them as a League of Nations mandate. During World War II the U.S. seized Kwajalein and Enewetak, and the Marshall Islands were made part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands under U.S. jurisdiction in 1947. Bikini and Enewetak atolls served as testing grounds for U.S. nuclear weapons from 1946 to 1958. The country became an internally self-governing republic in 1979. It signed a compact of free association with the U.S. in 1982. The Marshall Islands became fully self-governing in 1986.

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▪ 2009

Area:
181 sq km (70 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 53,200
Capital:
Majuro
Head of state and government:
Presidents   Kessai Note and, from January 14, Litokwa Tomeing

      On Jan. 7, 2008, the parliament of the Marshall Islands elected Speaker Litokwa Tomeing, a traditional chief, to succeed Kessai Note as president. In November 2007 Tomeing had defected to the opposition party, Aelon Kein Ad (Our Islands), and the AKA defeated Note's United Democratic Party in parliamentary elections the following week.

      In July President Tomeing announced a state of economic emergency. After GDP growth of 2% was reached in 2007, primarily from increases in transfers from the U.S., growth was projected to fall in 2008 to 1%. Debt as a percentage of GDP was expected to reach 75%, while debt servicing would account for some 40% of exports, and a number of loans were falling due for repayment. Revenues accounted for only 45% of total expenditure, and the government remained the largest employer, with public-sector wages accounting for some 42% of government expenditure. Some observers blamed the availability of annual transfers made by the U.S. government under the amended Compact of Free Association 2004–23, which freed the Marshall Islands government from the necessity of making the kind of structural adjustments that had been forced on other small states. Meanwhile, $8 million–$10 million in tax remained uncollected, and there was little attempt to invest in the private sector. In two small signs of change, a tuna-loining plant reopened in early 2008, and the government was considering opening its National Telecommunication Authority to competition.

Cluny Macpherson

▪ 2008

Area:
181 sq km (70 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 56,600
Capital:
Majuro
Head of state and government:
President   Kessai Note

      The economy of the Marshall Islands in 2007 remained heavily dependent on payments from the U.S., under the terms of the Compact of Free Association, and U.S. aid represented 60.2% of the Marshall Islands' 2007 budget of $124.6 million. The economy continued to flounder, and at one point the government, which employed 64% of the workforce, borrowed $500,000 from compact funds (without appropriate authority from the U.S. Department of the Interior) to pay for fuel for the country's main power utility. The Interior Department objected but was constrained by difficulties over land-rental agreements for the U.S. Army's Kwajalein Atoll missile-testing range. The U.S. and Marshalls governments signed a deal in 2003 on the use of the site until 2086, but local landowners were reluctant to renew the current land lease, due to expire in 2016, unless infrastructure was improved in areas where local workers resided.

      More tension arose over a subsidiary agreement of the original compact, which provided for settlement of all claims arising from the U.S. nuclear tests conducted between 1946 and 1958 at Bikini and Enewetak atolls. The Nuclear Claims Tribunal awarded $1 billion compensation to Marshall Islanders exposed to fallout during the 1954 hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll. The award brought an end to an action initiated 15 years earlier, but the plaintiffs were unlikely to receive compensation because the tribunal had virtually no funds.

Cluny Macpherson

▪ 2007

Area:
181 sq km (70 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 60,400
Capital:
Majuro
Head of state and government:
President   Kessai Note

      The Marshall Islands faced significant challenges in 2006, with the population growth rate, at about 2.4%, running ahead of fluctuating economic growth. GDP was based mainly on payments made by the U.S. under the terms of the amended Compact of Free Association of December 2003, and direct U.S. aid accounted for 67.8% of the Marshall Islands' $146.4 million budget for fiscal year 2006. Government remained the largest employer, accounting for about 64% of the country's salaried workforce. Faced with an expanding public-sector payroll, high public-sector expenditures, and national debt that was reaching unsustainable levels, the government under Pres. Kessai Note implemented a structural reform program with technical assistance from the Asian Development Bank. The reforms were aimed at improving macroeconomic conditions and governance as well as increasing the levels of private-sector investment to offset the dependence on the public sector for employment and a declining compact income.

      The Marshall Islands was one of six Pacific countries that continued to support Taiwan in defiance of China. In return, it received an $800,000 grant from Taipei to establish a microcredit facility. The credit was intended primarily for farmers, who made up 21.5% of the Marshall Islands' economically active population and generated 32% of GDP.

Cluny Macpherson

▪ 2006

Area:
181 sq km (70 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 56,300
Capital:
Majuro
Head of state and government:
President   Kessai Note

      In May 2005 the U.S. Congress finally held hearings on a 2000 Marshall Islands petition seeking increased compensation for nuclear tests carried out by the U.S. between 1946 and 1958 at Bikini atoll and other sites. Although there was some sympathy for the Marshall Islands' position in committee hearings, the administration of U.S. Pres. George W. Bush had already rejected the case. The U.S. maintained that a 1983 settlement, under which some $270 million had been distributed since 1986, was a final payment covering all claims and that substantial contributions to health, resettlement, and land-remediation costs had been made. Claims in 2004 from several island communities south of the nuclear zone were also rejected by the U.S. for a lack of evidence of any direct impact from nuclear tests on the locals' health or land.

      Under the renewed Compact of Free Association, the U.S. provided financial assistance covering some two-thirds of the Marshall Islands' projected 2006 budget of $146 million. In July, however, the U.S. Government Accountability Office expressed concern over the low rate of return being achieved by the trust funds, the lack of strategic planning, and other issues.

      In May Pres. Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan paid an official visit to the Marshall Islands and acknowledged the Marshall Islands' support for Taiwan's continuing bid for international recognition.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2005

Area:
181 sq km (70 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 54,600
Capital:
Majuro
Head of state and government:
President   Kessai Note

      In January 2004 Kessai Note was inaugurated president of the Marshall Islands by the Nitijela (Congress) after having been reelected in November 2003. Vice Pres. Ruben Zackhras was also inaugurated.

      The 2004–05 budget was at record levels, with two-thirds of the $114 million revenue coming from the U.S. government, either directly or through federal programs. The balance was derived from shipping registry fees, license fees from foreign fishing fleets, and local taxes. A proposed Taiwanese venture to establish a ship-repair facility and floating dock in Majuro was expected to attract more fishing vessels to the region. Under the revised Compact of Free Association, an investment fund was established to provide long-term revenue. The fund was founded with $25 million from the Marshall Islands and $7.6 million from the U.S., which agreed to add $500,000 a year until 2023. It was expected that the fund would be supplemented by $40 million in grants from Taiwan over 20 years.

      In a major report in September, the Asian Development Bank identified economic dependence on the U.S. and public health on Majuro Atoll as significant issues. On Majuro, rapid urbanization had led to overcrowding, inadequate infrastructure, contaminated water supplies, and poor waste disposal.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2004

Area:
181 sq km (70 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 56,400
Capital:
Majuro
Head of state and government:
President  Kessai Note

      After four years of negotiation, a renewed Compact of Free Association between the Marshall Islands and the U.S. was signed on April 30, 2003. The compact provided for payments by the U.S. of $3.1 billion over 20 years—$800 million for annual grants and the building of a trust fund for long-term sustainability and $2.3 billion for land leased on Kwajalein Atoll, where the U.S. continued to maintain a missile-testing facility. Conditions on Ebeye, the dormitory settlement for local workers at Kwajalein, were expected to improve, and Marshall Islands citizens would have unfettered access to the U.S. for education and employment. The U.S. would maintain its effective control over defense and security. Kwajalein landholders protested the level of lease payments, however, and those affected by past U.S. nuclear tests on Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap, and Utrik atolls wanted a stronger commitment to ongoing health costs. There also were objections to tighter controls on immigration and adoption.

      The government continued its program of structural reform, but the economy remained heavily dependent on U.S. aid, and unemployment was 31%. Drought also caused water rationing in parts of the country and affected copra production. The government suffered a 30% fall in revenue in the nine months to June, with contributions from fishing, ship registration, and business taxes all down.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2003

Area:
181 sq km (70 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 56,600
Capital:
Majuro
Head of state and government:
President  Kessai Note

      Negotiations on an amended Compact of Free Association between the Marshall Islands and the U.S. continued for much of 2002. The Marshall Islands sought more than $1 billion over the proposed 20-year term of the amended agreement. Funding, which would include ongoing compensation to the peoples of four islands affected by nuclear testing—Bikini, Enewetak, Utirik, and Rongelap—would likely fall in the range of $40 million–$50 million a year. The Marshalls continued to seek to broaden its funding base through international aid; it had become eligible for development assistance through the European Union and secured the release of loans from the Asian Development Bank for financial stabilization and outer islands infrastructure.

      In October the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development removed the Marshall Islands from its blacklist of money-laundering states in recognition of the progress that the islands had made on appropriate reforms. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, S.Af., Marshall Islands Pres. Kessai Note emphasized the commitment of Pacific Island states to environmental protection and sustainable development. Note also made a state visit to Taiwan, which is recognized by the Marshall Islands.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2002

Area:
181 sq km (70 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 52,300
Capital:
Majuro
Head of state and government:
President  Kessai Note

      Having reestablished his position in January 2001 by defeating a motion of no-confidence brought by the supporters of former president Imata Kabua, Marshall Islands Pres. Kessai Note held his majority in the Nitijela (legislative assembly) throughout the year. Financial relations with the U.S. remained a priority with the Compact of Free Association between the two countries due to expire in 2001 and negotiations over the future relationship already in train. The U.S.—through direct allocations, funding under the compact, and special federal grants—contributed more than 53% of the total Marshall Islands government expenditure of $106.6 million. The government's financial administration, though improved over recent years, remained weak. The U.S. General Accounting Office criticized the government for its lack of compliance and accountability and for the misdirection of funds. The government also had a shortfall in social security funds against anticipated future drawing rights.

      In February the Marshall Islands High Court rejected 10 of 11 charges brought by the government against major American tobacco companies to seek compensation for health costs related to smoking; this decision was upheld in a further hearing in June. The judge was critical of the government's legal team for its poor presentation of its client's case.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2001

Area:
181 sq km (70 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 51,600
Capital:
Majuro
Head of state and government:
Presidents Imata Kabua and, from January 10, Kessai Note

      After being elected unanimously by the Nitijela (legislative assembly), Kessai Note took the oath of office as president of Marshall Islands on Jan. 10, 2000. Note's government, which immediately delivered its first budget, was committed to a program of restoring transparency and credibility in the government.

      Marshall Islands continued to grapple with major issues concerning its relationship with the U.S., focusing on accountability for the expenditure of $1 billion under the first 15-year Compact of Free Association between the two governments, which was to end in 2001, and negotiations concerning the compact's renewal. Critical to the outcome of financial negotiations would be assessments undertaken by the Asian Development Bank and late-summer talks between the two governments on economic issues. Through a petition to the U.S. Congress, the government sought an additional $2.7 billion in compensation for the consequences and implications of nuclear testing in the islands during the 1940s and 1950s, including funds for a cleanup on Enewetak atoll and for medical facilities and services for 50 years.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2000

Area:
181 sq km (70 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 65,400
Capital:
Majuro
Head of state and government:
President Imata Kabua

      Following November 1999 elections in the Marshall Islands, the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) was expected to form a new government when the Nitijela (legislature) met in January 2000. The UDP had campaigned on an anticorruption platform, whereas the government stood on its record and promised lower taxes. During the year the U.S. State Department and Interior Department auditors were critical of the mismanagement of aid funds by government and agencies, including Air Marshall Islands and the Development Bank. The U.S. Congress sought an accounting of the $2 billion expenditure over the 15-year term of the current Compact of Association between the U.S. and the Marshall Islands as renegotiation began at year's end.

      After having shifted diplomatic recognition from China to Taiwan in 1998, in September 1999 Marshall Islands was host to a Taiwanese delegation of 140 led by the deputy foreign minister and received development assistance for civil aviation. Other assistance came from the Asian Development Bank, which provided $9,250,000 for health and infrastructure projects. Marshall Islands was now the world's 10th largest “flag of convenience” shipping registry, with more than 230 vessels registered. Government fisheries revenues doubled over 1998, and Majuro was a major transshipment point for the U.S. market.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 1999

      Area: 181 sq km (70 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 62,800

      Capital: Majuro

      Head of state and government: President Imata Kabua

      In August 1998 Pres. Imata Kabua announced the formation of a new Cabinet; he recruited two former opposition senators and dismissed three ministers who had voted to ban gambling in the Marshall Islands. The new government was soon challenged in a vote of no confidence—the first in the nation's parliament in 19 years of constitutional government. The president and his supporters thwarted the move by withdrawing from the parliament for six weeks and thus denying it a quorum. When a vote was taken, the president survived by one vote in the 33-member assembly.

      The nation continued to face serious economic difficulties, with inflation running at 10% and little investment because of the weak government and inadequate infrastructure. In June the government cut all state salaries by 12.5% but still faced a deficit at the end of the year.

      Also contributing to the economic difficulties was a drought caused by the El Niño weather pattern. By April some islands were out of freshwater, and the U.S. provided assistance with desalination and water-purification equipment; water was also barged to some islands.

BARRIE MACDONALD

▪ 1998

      Area: 181 sq km (70 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 60,300

      Capital: Majuro

      Head of state and government: President Imata Kabua

      In January 1997 the national legislature elected Imata Kabua president of the Marshall Islands. He succeeded his cousin, Amata Kabua, who died in December 1996.

      The budget for 1997 was $84.8 million, down from $91.7 million in 1996. The Compact of Free Association with the U.S., which was expected to bring approximately $1 billion to the economy over 15 years (75% of all government expenditure), was scheduled to expire in 2001. Consequently, the government began a reform of the public service that was designed to reduce the number of jobs by 25%. South Korean investors announced plans for a major resort development that would cause the relocation of affected populations on Mili, Majuro, and Arno atolls.

      Consultant scientists reported in late 1996 that by the removal of some soil and saturation of agricultural areas with potassium fertilizers, Bikini atoll, which had been the site of 23 nuclear tests during the 1940s and 1950s, could be resettled. In July President Kabua deferred plans for a feasibility study of a controversial proposal to develop Bikini as a commercial nuclear-waste dump for radioactive material produced by Asian power plants.

BARRIE MACDONALD

▪ 1997

      A republic in the central Pacific Ocean, the Marshall Islands comprises two 1,300-km (800-mi)-long parallel chains of coral atolls. Area: 181 sq km (70 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 58,500. Cap.: Majuro. Monetary unit: U.S. dollar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of U.S. $1.58 to £1 sterling. Presidents in 1996, Amata Kabua and, from December 19 (acting), Kunio Lemari.

      In local and national government elections in November 1995, there were 100 candidates for 33 Nitijela (national legislature) seats and 1,000 candidates for local government councils. Issues of kinship and personality remained more important than party or policy in an election that saw Pres. Amata Kabua and all except two of his Cabinet ministers returned to office. On Dec. 19, 1996, Kabua, the nation's first and only president, died. (See OBITUARIES (Kabua, Amata ).) The government then named Kunio Lemari, minister of transport and communications, as acting president.

      Nuclear-testing issues remained the focus of international attention in 1996. The government was widely criticized for its contemplation of establishing a nuclear-waste dump for the storage of contaminated material from nuclear tests conducted between 1946 and 1958. (BARRIE MACDONALD)

      This article updates Marshall Islands.

▪ 1996

      A republic in the central Pacific Ocean, the Marshall Islands comprises two 1,300-km (800-mi)-long parallel chains of coral atolls. Area: 181 sq km (70 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 56,200. Cap.: Majuro. Monetary unit: U.S. dollar, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of U.S. $1.59 to £1 sterling. President in 1995, Amata Kabua.

      Nuclear issues continued to be the focus of controversy in the Marshall Islands in 1995, especially after Foreign Minister Phillip Muller announced a preliminary feasibility study for nuclear waste storage at Bikini atoll during his address to the UN General Assembly at the end of 1994. The proposal was rejected by the Bikini Council in May 1995. The proposal would have placed a nuclear waste dump on Bikini, which had been totally contaminated by the 23 nuclear tests conducted by the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. Most of the residents of Bikini atoll, numbering about 200, had been evacuated before the tests in 1948 and were currently living on the small southerly atoll of Kili.

      The nuclear waste proposal had been seen as one option for future revenue when the Marshall Islands' Compact of Free Association with the U.S. ended in 2001. At that time the 75% of the nation's $85 million budget that the U.S. provided in direct aid and federal programs would cease. In anticipation of the compact's termination, the International Monetary Fund urged measures to reduce the size of the public service, reduce subsidies to public agencies, and privatize government services. Because of public opposition, a 10% wage cut for government workers, approved by the Nitijela (parliament) in October 1994, was not implemented.

      In March the Marshall Islands served as host for the inaugural summit of a new subregional grouping consisting of Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands. Leaders of those countries discussed issues of common concern, including economic cooperation and civil aviation.

      (BARRIE MACDONALD)

      This updates the article Marshall Islands.

▪ 1995

      A republic in the central Pacific Ocean, the Marshall Islands comprises two 1,300-km (800-mi)-long parallel chains of coral atolls. Area: 181 sq km (70 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 54,100. Cap.: Majuro. Monetary unit: U.S. dollar, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of U.S. $1.59 to £1 sterling. President in 1994, Amata Kabua.

      The Marshall Islands government became the focus of regional controversy in 1994 when it again contemplated providing a dumping facility for nuclear waste in the Islands. Under the proposal such islands as Bikini and Enewetak, which would be uninhabitable for 10,000 years because of contamination from nuclear weapons testing in the 1940s and 1950s, would be used to provide storage facilities. At home the controversy assumed great intensity because of revelations that Marshall Islanders had been used as unwitting subjects in experiments to test the effects of radiation on humans. Documents released by the U.S. government also revealed that, contrary to previous claims, the monitoring of radiation-related illnesses was carried out in the central and southern Marshall Islands, implying that the hazards of exposure were known, even though the population was not informed. The Marshall Islanders in 1994 had the greatest frequency of thyroid cancer in the world.

      Relations with the U.S. were tested by these revelations and also by the funding of the Marshall Islands under the Compact of Free Association. The U.S. had agreed to pay $2 million as compensation for legal changes that removed preferential trade and tax provisions, while the compact provided for payments of up to $20 million. The government of the Marshall Islands claimed that the total damage to the economy amounted to $50 million.

      During the year the government also established an office in Hong Kong to facilitate the sale of passports to Asians. The parliament set a limit of 3,000 passports, each of which would cost $33,000. Of that amount, $20,000 would go directly into government coffers; the balance would be invested in bonds that the purchaser could redeem after a period of 15 years. The World Bank advised the Islanders to structure their economy with an eye to the future, knowing that the day would come when the U.S. would begin to reduce the aid that the government had grown accustomed to receiving and to relying on. (BARRIE MACDONALD)

      This updates the article Marshall Islands.

▪ 1994

      A republic in the central Pacific Ocean, the Marshall Islands comprises two 1,300-km (800-mi)-long parallel chains of coral atolls. Area: 181 sq km (70 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 52,100. Cap.: Majuro. Monetary unit: U.S. dollar, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of U.S. $1.52 to £1 sterling. President in 1993, Amata Kabua.

      The Marshallese government claimed in 1993 that changes in trade arrangements and federal funding programs after the implementation of the Compact of Free Association with the U.S. had cost $50 million, for which compensation of $30 million had been sought from the U.S. Proposals to develop a new antinuclear missile shield raised the possibility of a substantial increase in U.S. defense spending and in the number of military personnel at the missile-testing facility on Kwajalein. By late 1993 the U.S. had paid $101 million for damage caused by radiation. Most of the funds went to islanders from Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap, and Utirik who were directly affected by nuclear tests conducted in the 1940s and 1950s.

      Asian Development Bank funding was secured in 1993 for fishing, education, and water-supply projects. Sea and air surveillance brought increased revenues from fishing, but an attempt to extend the Marshall Islands' exclusive economic zone to Wake Island was rejected by the U.S.

      A "resource recovery system" that would incinerate imported toxic waste on Likiep Atoll aroused national and international opposition but remained under consideration. Another proposal, to use imported petroleum-contaminated soil to build a causeway on Kwajalein, was rejected. (BARRIE MACDONALD)

      This updates the article Marshall Islands.

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Introduction
officially  Republic of the Marshall Islands,  Marshallese  Majōl,  
Marshall Islands, flag of the country of the central Pacific Ocean. It consists of some of the easternmost islands of Micronesia. The Marshalls are composed of more than 1,200 islands and islets in two parallel chains of coral atolls—the Ratak, or Sunrise, to the east, and the Ralik, or Sunset, to the west. The chains lie about 125 miles (200 kilometres) apart and extend some 800 miles northwest to southeast. Dalap-Uliga-Darrit, on Majuro Atoll, is the capital of the republic.

      The Marshalls were administered by the United States as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Pacific Islands, Trust Territory of the) from 1947 to 1986, when the Trust Territory was dissolved by the U.S. government.

The land
 None of the 29 low-lying coral atolls and the five coral islands in the Marshall (Marshall Islands) group rises to more than 20 feet (six metres) above high tide. The islands are coral caps set on the rims of submerged volcanoes rising from the ocean floor. The island units of the Marshalls are scattered over about 180,000 square miles of the Pacific. The largest atoll in the group and in the world is Kwajalein (Kwajalein Atoll), which has a land area of only six square miles but surrounds a 655-square-mile lagoon. The Marshall Islands' nearest neighbours are Wake Island (north), Kiribati and Nauru (south), and the Federated States of Micronesia (west).

      The climate is tropical, with a mean annual temperature for the entire group of 82° F (28° C). Annual rainfall varies from 20 to 30 inches (500 to 800 millimetres) in the north to 160 inches in the southern atolls. The wettest months are October and November. Several of the northern atolls are uninhabited owing to insufficient rainfall. Most of the Marshall Islands are true atolls, consisting of an irregular, oval-shaped coral reef surrounding a lagoon; the islets lie along the coral reef. The islands and islets of the Ratak chain tend to be more heavily wooded than those of the Ralik. Coconut and pandanus palms and breadfruit trees are the principal vegetation. Soils are generally sandy and low in fertility.

The people
      The native people of the Marshalls (Marshall Islands) are Micronesians. The most populous atolls are Majuro and Kwajalein, which offers employment at the U.S. missile testing range; together they have more than two-thirds of the country's total population. The remaining one-third of the population lives in traditional villages on the outer islands away from the two urban centres. The American missionary effort began in the Marshalls in the 1850s and was exceedingly successful. The Marshallese today are predominantly Christian. The Marshallese and English languages are spoken, but only a minority are fluent in the latter.

The economy
      Substantial U.S. subsidies to the Republic of the Marshall Islands under the Compact of Free Association (see below) and the leasing of land for the U.S. missile testing range on Kwajalein are the main sources of revenue for the nation. Employment and modern amenities at both Majuro and Kwajalein serve as magnets that draw people to the two urban centres.

      On the outer islands, subsistence farming, fishing, and the raising of pigs and poultry are the principal economic activities. Coconut, pandanus, breadfruit, and taro are the major food crops. The production of copra is the chief source of income for the outer islands. The principal import is processed foods. Other major imports include machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, and fuels, primarily from the United States, Japan, and Australia.

      Transportation among the atolls and islands is by boat or air. Government-owned ships make scheduled trips among the islands. Several commercial cargo lines also serve the islands. Majuro has a commercial dock complex, and many of the atolls have good anchorage within their lagoons. Majuro and Kwajalein have international airports, and domestic and regional flights link some of the other atolls and islands.

Administration and social conditions
      Under the constitution adopted in 1979, the government consists of a president elected by a unicameral, 33-member parliament known as the Nitijela. The Council of Iroji (Chiefs) has mainly a consultative function, concerned with traditional laws and customs.

      A hospital on Majuro, a small sub-hospital on Ebeye island (part of Kwajalein Atoll), and dispensaries on other islands provide health care. There are primary schools, both public and church-run, on the inhabited islands and islets. Majuro and Jaluit atolls each have a public secondary school. Majuro is also the site of a centre for continuing education operated by the Federated States of Micronesia's College of Micronesia.

History
      The Marshall Islands were settled initially around the beginning of the Christian Era by Micronesians who may have been influenced by early Polynesian (Lapita) culture. Radiocarbon dates from earth-oven charcoal samples that were excavated in Laura village on Majuro yielded dates of about 30 BC and AD 50. The early Marshall Islanders were skilled navigators and made long canoe voyages among the atolls.

      Sighted in 1529 by the Spanish navigator Álvaro Saavedra, the Marshalls lacked the wealth to encourage exploitation or mapping. The British captain Samuel Wallis chanced upon Rongerik and Rongelap atolls while sailing from Tahiti to Tinian. The British naval captains John Marshall and Thomas Gilbert partially explored the Marshalls in 1788, but much of the mapping was done by Russian expeditions under Adam Johann Krusenstern (Krusenstern, Adam Johann) (1803) and Otto von Kotzebue (Kotzebue, Otto von) (1815 and 1823). U.S. whalers frequented the islands from the 1820s, and U.S. and Hawaiian Protestant missionaries (mission) began efforts to convert the islanders in the 1850s. Germany established a coaling station on Jaluit Atoll by treaty with island chiefs and in 1886, by agreement with Great Britain, established a protectorate over the Marshalls. Japan seized the islands in 1914 and later (after 1919) administered them as a League of Nations mandate. Occupied by the United States in World War II, following heavy fighting at Kwajalein and Enewetak, the Marshall Islands were made part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands under jurisdiction of the United States in 1947. After their populations were removed to other atolls, Bikini and Enewetak served as an official testing ground for U.S. nuclear bombs (1946–58). The tests stopped in 1958 and cleanup efforts began in the late 1960s. During the trial resettlement of the Bikinians, however, their atoll was found to be too contaminated for permanent habitation, and by the late 1970s the people had to be evacuated once again. The Enewetak people were returned to their homeland, and a program to monitor Bikini was put in place.

      After voting to separate from the other entities of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, in 1978, the Marshall Islands drew up a constitution that voters approved in 1979. It formed the republic and brought internal self-government. In 1982 the government signed the Compact of Free Association with the United States. This agreement, approved by the voters in 1983, requires that the United States remain responsible for defense and external security and that it provide financial assistance for the republic. The compact entitles the United States to use the missile testing range on Kwajalein Atoll, and provides for the republic to become fully independent and to alter its status with the United States at any time, subject to approval of the residents through plebiscites. In 1983 the islanders reopened negotiations on the compact's provision regarding compensation for the people of the four atolls affected by the U.S. nuclear tests. The United States agreed to set up a separate fund for the people of the four atolls and established an open-ended fund to cover personal injury claims among the islanders; it also agreed to set up a joint U.S.-Marshallese claims tribunal. A further agreement set up a fund to improve living conditions on Ebeye island, where all Micronesians working on the Kwajalein missile range and base resided. The Trust Territory was dissolved in 1990 with the approval of the UN Security Council, and on Sept. 17, 1991, the Marshall Islands became a member of the UN.

Robert C. Kiste

Additional Reading
Alexander Spoehr, Majuro: A Village in the Marshall Islands (1949, reprinted 1973); and Robert C. Kiste, The Bikinians: A Study in Forced Migration (1974), describe the ethnology, anthropology, and social conditions.

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Universalium. 2010.

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