Facts about Marshall Islands

World Facts Index

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 hosts the US Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) Reagan Missile Test Site, a key installation in the US missile defense network.

Geography of the Marshall Islands

Location:
Oceania, group of atolls and reefs in the North Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Australia
Coordinates:
9 00 N, 168 00 E
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
Natural hazards:
infrequent typhoons
Environment current issues:
inadequate supplies of potable water; pollution of Majuro lagoon from household waste and discharges from fishing vessels
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

Population of the Marshall Islands

Population:
63,174 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 38.1% (male 11,720/female 11,295)
15-64 years: 59.2% (male 18,305/female 17,445)
65 years and over: 2.7% (male 801/female 856)
Median age:
20.3 years
Growth rate:
2.25%
Infant mortality:
28.43 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 70.31 years
male: 68.33 years
female: 72.39 years
Fertility rate:
3.85 children born/woman
Nationality:
noun: Marshallese (singular and plural)
adjective: Marshallese
Ethnic groups:
Micronesian
Religions:
Protestant 54.8%, Assembly of God 25.8%, Roman Catholic 8.4%, Bukot nan Jesus 2.8%, Mormon 2.1%, other Christian 3.6%, other 1%, none 1.5%
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% 

Government

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of the 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 and the Amended Compact entered into force in May 2004
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 Litokwa TOMEING (since 7 January 2008); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Litokwa TOMEING (since 7 January 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president from among the members of the legislature
elections: president elected by Parliament from among its members for a four-year term; election last held 7 January 2008.
Legislative branch:
unicameral legislature or Nitijela (33 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
note: the Council of Chiefs or Ironij is a 12-member body comprised of tribal chiefs that advises on matters affecting customary law and practice
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court; High Court; Traditional Rights 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 - Aelon Kein Ad Party [Michael KABUA] and United Democratic Party or UDP [Litokwa TOMEING]

Economy

US Government assistance is the mainstay of this tiny island economy. The Marshall Islands received more than $1 billion in aid from the US from 1986-2002. Agricultural production, primarily subsistence, 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 Amended Compact of Free Association, the US will provide millions of dollars per year to the Marshall Islands (RMI) through 2023, at which time a Trust Fund made up of US and RMI contributions will begin perpetual annual payouts. Government downsizing, drought, a drop in construction, the decline in tourism, and less income from the renewal of fishing vessel licenses have held GDP growth to an average of 1% over the past decade.

GDP:
$115 million (2001 est.)
GDP growth rate:
2% (2001 est.)
GDP per capita:
purchasing power parity - $1,600 (2001 est.)
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 14%
industry: 16%
services: 70% (2000 est.)
Inflation rate:
2% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
28,698
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 21.4%, industry 20.9%, services 57.7%
Unemployment:
30.9% (1999 est.)
Budget:
revenues: $42 million
expenditures: $40 million
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 99%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 1% (solar)
Industries:
copra, tuna processing, tourism, craft items from seashells, wood, and pearls
Agriculture:
coconuts, tomatoes, melons, taro, breadfruit, fruits; pigs, chickens
Exports:
copra cake, coconut oil, handicrafts, fish
Export partners:
US, Japan, Australia, China
Imports:
foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels, beverages and tobacco
Import partners:
US, Japan, Australia, NZ, Singapore, Fiji, China, Philippines
Currency:
US dollar (USD)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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