Skip to main content
Select Source:




Republic of Kiribati


FLAG: Above a blue and white heraldic representation of Pacific waters, a golden sun rises against a red background, with a golden frigate bird at the top.

ANTHEM: Troika kain Kiribati (Stand Kiribati).

MONETARY UNIT: The Australian dollar is the national currency. a$1 = us$0.76336 (or us$1 = a$1.31) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Kiribati is in transition from imperial to metric standards.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 12 July; Youth Day, 4 August; Christmas Day, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Queen's Birthday (June), Bank Holiday (August), and Prince of Wales's Birthday (November).

TIME: Midnight = noon GMT.


Kiribati (pronounced "Kiribass") consists of 33 islands in the central Pacific, situated around the point where the International Date Line intersects the equator. Scattered over more than 5 million sq km (2 million sq mi) of ocean are the 17 islands of the Gilberts group (including Banaba, formerly Ocean Island); the 8 Line Islands (including Christmas Island); and the 8 Phoenix Islands. The distance between Christmas Island in the e and Banaba in the w is more than 3,200 km (2,000 mi). Kiribati's total land area is 811 sq km (313 sq mi), and its total coastline is 1,143 km (710 mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Kiribati is about four times the size of Washington, DC.

Kiribati's capital city, Tarawa, is located on the island of Tarawa.


Kiribati is made up of three island groups: the Gilbert Islands (on the equator), the Phoenix Islands (to the east), and the Line Islands (north of the equator). Most of the islands are coral atolls built on a submerged volcanic chain. Christmas Island is the largest atoll in the world, with an area of 606 sq km (234 sq mi). The highest point of the country is an unnamed point on the island of Banaba, which reaches a peak of 81 m (266 ft). The lowest point is at sea level (Pacific Ocean).


Tempered by prevailing easterly trade winds, the islands have a maritime equatorial climate, with high humidity during the NovemberApril rainy season. Although the islands lie outside the tropical hurricane belt, there are occasional gales and even tornadoes. Rainfall varies from an average of 102 cm (40 in) near the equator to 305 cm (120 in) in the extreme north and south. Severe droughts can also occur. On average, there is less than 1% variation between the cool and hot months, but daily temperatures range from 25°c (77°f) to 32°c (90°f), with an annual mean temperature of 27°c (81°f).


The extreme poverty of the soil and the variability of the rainfall make cultivation of most crops impossible. Only babai (a kind of taro root), coconut palms, and pandanus trees grow easily on most islands. Pigs and poultry were probably introduced by Europeans. Sea life abounds.


According the United Nations (UN) Report for Pacific Island Developing Countries (1992), the most significant environmental problems facing the nations in this area of the world are global warming and the rise of sea levels. Variations in the level of the sea may damage forests and agricultural areas and contaminate fresh water supplies with salt water. A rise in sea level by even 2 feet (60 cm) would leave Kiribati uninhabitable; in 1996, such a rise was forecast as a possibility by 2100. Kiribati, along with the other nations in the area, is vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic activity. The nation also has inadequate facilities for handling solid waste, which has been a major environmental concern, particularly in the larger population centers.

The environment in Kiribati has also been adversely affected by metals and chemicals from mining activities, and agricultural chemicals have polluted coastal waters. Phosphate mining was especially devastating, rendering the island of Banaba almost uninhabitable. The Banabans, who were forced to move to the Fijian island of Rabi, sued the owners of the mines and won special compensation. A fund was set up to compensate the people of Kiribati. Called the Phosphate Revenue Equalization Fund (PREF), in 1996 it amounted to a$200 million.

The lagoon of the southern Tarawa atoll has been heavily polluted by solid waste disposal. Like other Pacific islands, Kiribati is sensitive to the dangers of pollution and radiation from weapons tests and nuclear waste disposal. The UN report describes the wildlife in these areas as "among the most critically threatened in the world." According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 5 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, 4 species of fish, and 1 type of mollusk. Endangered species included the green sea turtle, the coconut crab, the giant grouper, the tiger shark, the pygmy killer whale, and the mukojima bonin honeyeater.


The population of Kiribati in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 92,000, which placed it at number 180 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 40% of the population under 15 years of age. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.8%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Population growth in the capital, Tarawa, was seen as a serious problem by the government. The projected population for the year 2025 was 141,000. The population density was 126 per sq km (326 per sq mi). The population is unevenly distributed; some islands of the Phoenix and Line groups are uninhabited.

The UN estimated that 43% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005 and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 3.67%. The capital city, Tarawa, had a population of 42,000 in that year, with an annual growth rate of about 5.2%.


For the islanders, migration has been a perennial form of escape from drought and starvation. In the 19th century, recruiting ships forcibly took Gilbert Islanders for plantation work in Hawaii, Australia, Fiji, and Peru; some voluntarily reenlisted after the great drought of 1870. Although the majority eventually returned home, it is reckoned that between 1860 and 1890, some 10,000 islanders (of a total population of 30,000) were living overseas. In the 20th century, Fiji and the Solomon Islands continued to be popular places for Gilbert Islanders in search of work. Internal migration until 1979 was mainly to Banaba Island for work in the phosphate industry; since then, migration has been primarilly to Nauru or to copra plantations in the Line Islands. During 198893, some 4,700 people were resettled on the Teraira and Tabuaeran atolls of the Line Islands because of overcrowding on the main island group. The total number of migrants in 2000 was 2,000. In 2001 Australia refused entry to all boat people, many of them Iraqis setting out from Indonesia. Kiribati and other Pacific islands agreed to accept migrants headed to Australia from Indonesia in boats in exchange for aid from Australia. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as zero migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


About 98.8% of the people are Gilbertese of Micronesian extraction. Polynesians (mainly from Tuvalu) make up 0.5% of the total; Europeans and people of mixed races make up 0.7%.


The principal languages spoken are Gilbertese (also called I-Kiribati or Kiribatese) and English. The official language is English, but it is seldom used on the outer islands. Gilbertese is an Austronesian language related to many other Pacific tongues.


Christian missionaries first arrived in 1857, when Dr. Hiram Bingham, of the American Board of Foreign Missionaries, began to spread Protestantism in the northern Gilberts with the help of Hawaiian pastors. In 1888, Catholicism was introduced to the islands by the Sacred Heart Mission. The American Board withdrew from the territory in 1917 and was succeeded by the London Missionary Society, which had placed Samoan pastors on the islands as early as 1870.

Virtually the entire population is Christian. According to 2002 government statistics, 55% of the population were Roman Catholics and 37% belonged to the Kiribati Protestant Church (formerly called the Congregational Church). Religious minorities included the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (3%), the Seventh-Day Adventists (2%), and Baha'is (2%). About 5% of the population claimed no religious preference.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and this right is generally respected in practice. Christmas, Easter, and National Gospel Day are celebrated as national holidays.


The remoteness of the scattered islands has severely hampered transport and communications. There are only about 670 km (416 mi) of roads, mostly on Tarawa. The Nippon Causeway, completed in 1987 with Japanese assistance, replaced ferry service between Betio and Bariki. A series of similar causeways links north and south Tarawa. In 1995, there were about 2,000 vehicles in Kiribati, almost three-quarters of which were motorcycles.

There is no rail, river, or lake transport, although canoes travel freely on the lagoons. However, as of 2003, there were some 5 km of canals on the Line Islands. The main ports are located on Betio islet, near Tarawa, and on Tabuaeran and Christmas islands. Betio is equipped for handling containers, and Banaba has a cantilever for phosphate loading. In 2005 Kiribati had one passenger cargo ship of 1,000 GRT or more at 1,291 GRT. A number of shipping lines call at the islands, and government boats provide interisland service. There were an estimated 20 airports in 2004, of which 3 had paved runways as of 2005. All the major islands have airstrips; the airports on Christmas Island and at Bonriki (Tarawa) are used for scheduled overseas flights. Air Tungaru, the national airline, operates regularly scheduled flights to Honolulu and Tuvalu. In 1997 (the latest year for which data was available), 28,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.


The main wave of Micronesian settlement is thought to have come from Samoa in the 13th century, but Gilbertese tradition suggests that the Samoans were not the first settlers. European discovery dates from 1537, when Christmas Island was sighted by Spanish explorers. The English sea captain James Cook encountered the islands in 1777, and commercial activities in the region began early in the 19th century. The Gilbert Islands were a favorite whaling ground, and deserting crews began to settle on the islands in the 1830s. Trading ships were calling there regularly by the 1850s, and a flourishing copra and coconut trade was established by the 1860s, as well as an illicit human traffic. The Office of British High Commissioner to the Western Pacific was created in 1877 to help suppress abuses by recruiting ships seeking labor for overseas service. In 1888, Christmas, Fanning (now Tabuaeran), and Washington (now Teraina) islands were annexed by the British, and Phoenix Island was placed under their protection. A declaration of British protectorate over the Gilbert and Ellice groups followed in 1892. A handful of administrators established local native governments, and a period of stability ensued.

Ocean Island was annexed by Britain in 1900 following Sir Albert Ellis's discovery of its valuable phosphate deposits. The Gilbert and Ellice groups (including Ocean, Fanning, and Washington islands) were declared a British colony in 1916. British control was extended to Christmas Island in 1919 and to the uninhabited Phoenix group in 1937, but after the United States laid claim to Canton and Enderbury, a joint British-American administration over these islands was established. During World War II, the Gilberts were occupied by Japanese forces until 1943, when the invaders were driven out by US forces after heavy casualties on both sides. Ocean Island was liberated by the Australians in 1945.

In a 1974 referendum, the Ellice Islands voted for separation, subsequently becoming the independent nation of Tuvalu. Internal self-government for the Gilberts was established as of 1 January 1977, and the islands became the independent Republic of Kiribati on 12 July 1979. In September, the new nation signed a treaty of friendship with the United States (ratified by the US Senate in 1983), by which the United States relinquished its claim to the Line and Phoenix groups (including Canton, Enderbury, and Malden).

Ieremia Tabai, chief minister at the time of independence, became president of the new republic in 1979 and was reelected in May 1982 and February 1983. Although the constitution limits a president to three terms, Tabai argued that he had not completed three full terms and was reelected in May 1987. In 1991, Tabai stepped down and was replaced by Teatao Teannaki, head of the National Progressive Party. Teannaki served until 1994, when Teburoro Tito, head of the nation's first real political party, the Maneaban Te Mauri Party (MTM), was elected. The MTM won 19 of 39 seats in the House.

A special problem was posed by the Banabans, who were resettled in 1946 on Rabi (Fiji)bought for them by means of phosphate royaltiesso that strip mining on their native island could continue unimpeded. In 1975, the Banabans sued, petitioning the British courts for damages. After a lengthy legal battle, representatives of the Banabans (most of whom still reside on Rabi) agreed in 1981 to the creation of a trust fund of nearly a$15 million for Banaban development. Recognition of Banaban minority rights is enshrined in Kiribati's constitution.

Kiribati opposes French nuclear testing in the Pacific and signed the 1985 Raratonga Agreement declaring the South Pacific a nuclear-free zone. In 1985, Kiribati signed a one-year fishing agreement with the former Soviet Union that aroused controversy at home and abroad. The agreement was not renewed after talks for its renegotiation broke off in September 1986.

Kiribati began resettling more than 4,700 people on outlying atolls in August 1988 in an attempt to relieve overcrowded conditions on the Tarawa atolls. Overcrowding was still a concern in 2004, when Kiribati planned to launch a program for the development of up to four new urban centers on the outer islands. The program had the backing of the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Development Program, and was aimed at reducing the flow of population to Tarawa.

In September 1988 Kiribati ratified the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Treaty, which permits US tuna ships to operate within its 200-mi exclusive zone. In early 1992, the Parliament of Kiribati instructed the government (against its wishes) to seek compensation from the United States for damage done to the country during the Pacific War (194145).

In 1994, the government of Kiribati underwent a constitutional crisis when President Teatao Teannaki was forced to resign following a no-confidence vote by the opposition in parliament, who had charged him with misusing travel funds. As specified in the constitution, executive authority was then transferred to a Council of State until new parliamentary and presidential elections could be held, but one member of the council refused to resign when his term expired and had to be forcibly removed, prompting calls for constitutional reform to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future. Teburoro Tito was elected president in September, and elected to a second term in November 1998.

Together with Nauru and Tonga, Kiribati was admitted to the United Nations in 1999. In March of that year, the government declared a state of emergency as water shortages reached crisis levels due to an extended drought and pollution of the available water supply. Long-term elevation of the surrounding sea level due to global greenhouse emissions remains a serious concern for Kiribati, which reportedly has already lost two uninhabited islands and has been forced to move segments of its population inland, away from coastal regions.

The 2002 presidential election process began with a general election for parliament on 29 November, but several rounds of voting took place before the election of a president on 25 February 2003. In January 2003, opposition parliamentarians named Taberannang Timeon to stand against Tito in the February election, instead of Harry Tong, after Tong stepped aside in order not to split the opposition vote against Tito. Bakeua Bakeua Tekita stood as a third candidate. Tito narrowly won the 25 February election, defeating Timeon by only 547 votes, but after serving only one day of his third term as president, Tito's government was toppled by a vote of no-confidence in the opposition-controlled parliament. In July 2003, Anote Tong was elected president.

Kiribati established diplomatic relations with the former Soviet Union in 1979 and with the People's Republic of China in 1980. In November 2003, Kiribati was the fifth Pacific nation to recognize Taiwan. Kiribati hoped to maintain ties with both Taiwan and mainland China, but by the end of the month, China had cut diplomatic ties and removed the Chinese space tracking station located on Tarawa atoll, but continued to maintain an embassy staffed by three diplomats.


Under the independence constitution of 1979, Kiribati is a democratic republic within the Commonwealth of Nations. It has a 42-member unicameral legislature, the House of Assembly (Maneaba ni Maungatabu). Forty members are elected for four-year terms, one appointed seat is reserved for a representative of the Banaban community, and the attorney general sits (ex-officio) as a nonelected member of parliament. The Speaker is elected to office by members of parliament but is not a member of parliament. He has neither an original nor casting vote in parliamentary decisions. The president (beretitenti ), who is both head of state and head of government, is elected directly by popular vote from among members of the House of Assembly, to a term of up to four years; candidates are selected by the House from among its own members. When the president no longer enjoys the confidence of the legislature, the House is dissolved and new parliamentary and presidential elections are held, with a Council of State (consisting of the head of the Civil Service Commission, the chief justice, and the Speaker of the House) governing in the interim. The cabinet consists of the president, vice president, attorney general, and no more than 10 other ministers selected from parliament.

Teatao Teannaki, head of the National Progressive Party, was elected the nation's second president in July 1991. He was obliged to resign following a no-confidence vote in 1994, and Teburoro Tito, head of the Maneaban Te Mauri Party (MTM), was elected president. Tito was reelected in 1998 and 2003. Following a vote of no-confidence, another presidential election was held in July 2003. Anote Tong was elected president, with Teima Onorio serving as his vice president.


Traditionally, Kiribati had no formally organized parties. Instead, ad hoc opposition groups tended to coalesce around specific issues. There were no formally constituted political parties until 1985, when opponents of the Soviet fishing agreement founded the Christian Democratic party, headed by Dr. Harry Tong.

Other parties that formed after 1991 include the Boutokaan te Koaua Party; the Liberal Party; the New Movement Party; and the Health Peace and Honour Party. Today, the only recognizable parties are the Maneaban te Mauri Party (formerly known as the Christian Democratic Party) and the Boutokaan te Koaua Party.


There are fully elected local councils on all the islands, in accordance with the local government ordinance of 1966. For administrative purposes the islands are divided into six districts: Tarawa (including the Phoenix group); North, South, and Central Gilberts; Banaba; and the Line Islands. This structure has been further divided into 21 island councils, one for each of the inhabited islands. The geographic dispersion of the islands leaves considerable freedom for the districts; their councils have wide taxing powers, including land taxes, and draw up their own estimates of revenues and expenditures.


The 1979 constitution provides for a High Court with a chief justice and other judges, acting as the supreme court. There is also a Court of Appeal and magistrates' courts. Island courts were established in 1965 to deal with civil and criminal offenses. Native land courts have jurisdiction over property claims. High Court and Court of Appeal judges are appointed by the president.

The judiciary is independent and free from government influence. Civil rights and civil liberties are guaranteed in the constitution and respected in practice. Procedural due process safeguards are based on English common law. Trials are fair and public. The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence. The government authorities respect these provisions.


Legislation providing for the establishment of a defense force of 170 men was repealed in 1978. There is a small police force. Australia and New Zealand provide defense assistance.


Kiribati was admitted to the United Nations (UN) on 14 September 1999 and is a member of several nonregional specialized agencies, including the FAO, ICAO, the World Bank, IMF, IFC, ILO, UNESCO, and WHO.

Kiribati participates in the Asian Development Bank, the ACP Group, the Pacific Island Forum, and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). The nation is also part of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, Kiribati is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Kiribati's economy was supported by revenues from phosphate mining on Banaba until the deposits were exhausted in 1979. Since then, the nation has relied on fishing, subsistence agriculture, and exports of copra, recently 8095% of exports, and fish, 420% of exports. The country is heavily dependent on aid from the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and China. Aid equals 2550% of GDP, while tourism provides about 20%. In the 1990s, GDP increased steadily, peaking at a$80.3 million in 1999, and then fell by 2.7% and 1.2% in 2000 and 2001, respectively, to a$78.1 million and a$77.2 million, respectively. GNP runs between 1.5 to 2 times the size of GDP. In 2001, GNP was a$136.9 million, 177% of GDP. Per capita GDP in 2000 was a$843 and per capita GNP was a$1,495. Inflation, at 0.4% in 2000 as measured by consumer prices, increased to 9.4% in 2001. Unemployment was officially 2%, but underemployment was estimated by the government to be about 70% by a 1992 estimate.

In 2004, the GDP growth rate was 1.8%, down from 2.5% in 2003. The inflation rate increased slightly, from 1.4% to 2.3%, but is not expected to pose any problems to the economy. The country is still heavily dependent on foreign aid and on remittances from workers abroad.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005, Kiribati's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $79.0 million, supplemented by a nearly equal amount from external sources The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 1.5%. The average inflation rate in 2001 was 2.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 30% of GDP, industry 7%, and services 63%.


In 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), there were an estimated 7,870 economically active people in Kiribati, excluding subsistance farmers. Overall, about 90% of the labor force is engaged in agriculture or fishing. Overseas workers remitted a large percentage of their wages to Kiribati.

In urban areas there is a small but strong trade union movement. Affiliates of the Kiribati Trades Union Congress (KTUC), founded in 1982 with Australian assistance, include the Fishermen's Union, the Cooperative Workers' Union, the Seamen's Union, the Teachers' Union, and the Public Employees' Association; in 2002, the KTUC had about 2,500 members. Workers have the right to strike but rarely exercise this option. The government does not interfere with union activity.

There is no statutory minimum wage; however, the government sets wage levels in the large public sector, which is the major employer in the cash economy. The standard workweek for those in the public sector was 36.25 hours, with overtime pay for any additional hours. Children may not work under the age of 14. This is effectively enforced by the government in the modern, industrial sector of the economy, but many children do perform light labor in the traditional fishing economy.


Agriculture is limited chiefly to coconut and pandanus production. About 37,000 hectares (91,400 acres) of land is considered arable, representing 5.1% of the total land area. Overseas technical aid has allowed some islands to cultivate bananas and papaws for the Tarawa market. An estimated 103,000 tons of coconuts, 5,000 tons of bananas, and 5,900 tons of vegetables and melons were produced in 2004. Agricultural trade in 2004 consisted of us$1.8 million in exports and us$14.3 million in imports. Agriculture contributes 30% to GDP.


There were 12,400 pigs in Kiribati in 2005; pork production was 876 tons. The Agricultural Division has introduced improved breeds of livestock.


Sea fishing is excellent, particularly for skipjack tuna around the Phoenix Islands. Kiribati has one of the world's longest maritime zones, covering approximately three million sq km. Commercial fishing has expanded dramatically since 1979 as a result of projects funded by Japan, the United Kingdom, and the EU. The total sea catch in 2003 was 35,947 tons. Kiribati also receives revenue from the sales of licenses permitting foreign vessels to fish its offshore waters. Seaweed is also exported. Exports of fish products were valued at us$4.26 million in 2003.


The forested area was estimated to cover 38.4% of the islands in 2000, but there is little useful timber on the islands.


There has been no mining in Kiribati since the closing of the Banaba phosphate industry, in 1979. In its last year of operation, 445,700 tons of phosphates worth us$18 million were exported.


Kiribati has no known reserves of oil, natural gas, or coal. Thus imports are relied upon to meet any fossil fuel needs.

In 2002, imports and consumption of refined petroleum products each averaged 210 barrels per day. There were no imports of coal or natural gas in 2002.

The government maintains electricity-generating plants on Tarawa and Christmas Island, and there are private generators on Banaba and several other islands. In 2002, electric power generating capacity was 0.003 million kW, with production at 0.012 billion kWh. Consumption in that year came to 0.011 billion kWh. All electric power was generated from fossil fuels.


Several small industries have been established, including a soft drink plant, a biscuit factory, boat-building shops, construction companies, furniture plants, repair garages, bakeries, and laundries. The government also promotes local handicrafts. A pilot project on Kiritimati for producing solar-evaporated salt began operations in 1985. In 2000, this had declined to 0.7%, down from 1.2% in 1999. Construction was 2.7% of GDP in 2000, down from 4.6% in 1999.

There is not a lot of data pertaining to the country's industry, but in 1998 this sector was estimated to have a 7% share in the GDPas compared to the services sector which amounted to 63%. In 2001, the economically active population of Kiribati (excluding subsistence farmers) was 7,870.


The Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific, founded in 1982 and located at Bairiki, Tarawa, provides technical assistance for agriculture and nutrition programs.


The domestic economy operates on a subsistence and barter basis. With very few local production or agricultural facilities, the nation relies heavily on imported goods of all types. Revenues from fishing licenses, worker remittances, and foreign assistance form the basis of the economy. Retail sales are handled by cooperative societies, which distribute the bulk of consumer goods and perform all merchandising functions not dealt with by the government. Although private trade is growing, cooperatives are preferred as a matter of public policy because they are closer to the local tradition than individual enterprises. Tourism is slowly growing as the main domestic economic activity.


The loss of the phosphate industry, copra price fluctuations, and the islands' remoteness have hindered overseas trade, but an upward trend in foreign trade was perceptible in the 1980s. Coprathe only commodity exported by Kiribatiaccounted for 64% of total domestic exports in 1996. Fish and seaweed are also exported, accounting for 14% and 8% of total exports, respectively. Kiribati's main export partners are the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Australia provides 44% of imports; Fiji, 19%; Japan, 15%; New Zealand, 4%; and the United States and China, 5% each.

In 2002, Kiribati's exports amounted to $35 million (FOBFree on Board), while the imports rose to $83 million (CIFCost and Freight). In 2004, the bulk of exports went to France (45.7%), Japan (29.2%), the United States (9.1%), and Thailand (5.4%). Imports included foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, and fuel, and mainly came from Australia (33.6%), Fiji (29.8%), Japan (10.3%), New Zealand (6.9%), and France (4.1%).

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 9.1 41.0 -31.9
Bangladesh 4.7 4.7
United States 1.5 1.9 -0.4
Marshall Islands 1.1 1.1
Denmark 0.7 0.7
China, Hong Kong SAR 0.3 0.3
Australia 0.2 18.2 -18.0
Japan 0.1 6.1 -6.0
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account 1.4
     Balance on goods -21.1
         Imports -27.3
         Exports 6.1
     Balance on services 0.3
     Balance on income 14.8
     Current transfers 7.3
Capital Account 2.5
Financial Account -4.8
     Direct investment abroad -0.0
     Direct investment in Kiribati 0.4
     Portfolio investment assets -6.6
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets
     Other investment liabilities 1.4
Net Errors and Omissions -5.1
Reserves and Related Items 6.0
() data not available or not significant.


Continued deficits in the trade balance are often met by grants from the United Kingdom to the government's current and capital accounts. Foreign aid, in fact, accounts for between 25% and 50% of GDP.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 1998, the purchasing power parity of Kiribati's exports was us$6 million, while imports totaled us$44 million, resulting in a trade deficit of us$38 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1994 Kiribati had exports of goods totaling us$6 million and imports totaling us$27 million. The services credit totaled us$18 million and debit us$17 million.

There was no data available on the exports and imports of goods and services, but the World Bank estimated that in 2003, Kiribati's resource balance reached -$77 million. The current account balance was also negative, at -$13 million, and the country had virtually no foreign exchange reserves.


The Bank of Kiribati in Tarawa is jointly owned by the Westpac Banking Corp. (Australia) and the government of Kiribati (49%). The Kiribati Development Bank, opened in 1987, was to take over the assets of the National Loans Board when it became fully operational.


Individual coverage is available in Tarawa through private and government agencies.


Local revenues are derived mainly from import duties, fishing fees, and investment income from the phosphate fund. The country has been running a capital account deficit since independence. Overall, budgetary deficits have appeared in recent years, growing substantially in the 1990s.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2000 Kiribati's central government took in revenues of approximately $28.4 million and had expenditures of $37.2 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$8.8 million. Total external debt was $10 million.


The main source of tax revenue, the phosphate industry, ended in 1979. Other taxes have brought meager returns, except for a copra export tax, with producers protected by a government stabilization fund. The Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund decreased from a$658 million at the end of 2000 to a$635 million at the end of 2001. This is equivalent to 10 years of imports or 8.2 times GDP.

A progressive income tax, introduced in 1975, is set at 25% of gross income above us$1,233 and increases in two steps to 35% on gross incomes over us$34,393. Companies are taxed 25% of net profits of the first us$34,393 and 35% on any net profits over this amount. The hotel tax is a flat rate of 10% of turnover. Withholding tax on dividends paid to overseas investors (except Australians) is 30%; withholding tax on dividends paid to Australians is 15%. Island councils levy local rates; a landowners' tax is based on land area and fertility.


Since a single-line tariff was introduced on 1 January 1975, trade preferences are no longer granted to imports from Commonwealth countries. Tariffs, applying mostly to private imports, are imposed as a service of revenue at rates up to 75%. Most duties are levied ad valorem, with specific duties on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, certain chemicals, petroleum, cinematographer's film, and some other goods. Goods from all sources are subject to an additional freight levy charge.


Foreign investment legislation was passed in 1986. The Foreign Investment Commission (FIC) grants licenses on a case-by-case basis. Investments over us$171,790 must also be approved by the cabinet. Performance criteria regarding employment, training, and production are often set. Certain local industries are closed to foreign investment, including pig farming, poultry farming, millionaire salad exportation, domestic interisland shipping, and wholesaling. Endangered species are protected. Fisheries and the agricultural sector are not closed, but are subject to restrictions.

There has been little appreciable investment in recent years. Government statistics show a total of 21 approved foreign investments from 1995 to September 1997, whereas there were only five approved foreign investments the previous three years. In 2001, foreign direct investment (FDI) was a -us$426,000 and portfolio investment was a -us$5.7 million. Portfolio investment flows have been persistently negative, reaching a peak outflow of us$17.7 million in 1992. The main sectors for investment have been tourist-related activities, shipping, fishing ventures, and the processing and export of fish. The main sources of investments have been the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.


The economic development plans for 197982 and 198386 were financed chiefly by the United Kingdom and supplemented by Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, with loans from the Asian Development Bank. Canada, Germany, and the Republic of Korea also have started small aid programs. The government lays out National Development Plans at four-year intervals, the most recent plan covered 200004. The goals are set with expertise assistance from Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and international financial organizations, the country's primary sources of aid. The current National Development Plan sets priority on the development of fisheries and air transportation, including a proposal for a government airline. Other sectors emphasized are communications, agriculture, and tourism. Policies are aimed at improving education and training, increasing government revenues, increasing employment opportunities, and narrowing the trade deficit. It has been made illegal to sell land in Kiribati, but it may be leased. Concern about preserving traditional culture and the environment, and preventing the formation of a landless class, are as strong as aspirations for economic growth and participation in the cash economy. Of particular concern in this group of lowlying atolls is the effects of global warming, as a significant rise in the sea level could literally make much of the country disappear.

Economic development continued to be hampered by the fragmented structure of the country, a weak infrastructure, an uneducated workforce, and the remoteness from foreign markets. The main growth sector is tourism. Kiribati is dependent on foreign aid (which represents around 50% of the GDP), and on remittances sent back by people working abroad.


A provident fund system provides old age, disability, and survivor benefits for all employees over 14 years old, with the exception of domestic workers. It is funded by employee contributions of 7.5%; employers pay an equal percentage of payroll. Retirement is allowed at ages 4550 and benefits are paid as a lump sum. Workers' compensation is available for some employed persons and the cost is covered by the employer. A funeral grant is provided if there are no eligible survivors.

Women are accorded the same legal rights as men, but have traditionally been relegated to a subordinate role in society. However, they are gradually breaking out of their traditional role and entering both skilled and unskilled occupations. There have also been signs of affirmative action in government hiring and promotions. Domestic violence is a significant problem, and alcohol abuse is often in a factor in violence against women. Child abuse appears to be a growing problem, although the government is committed to the welfare of children.

There were no reports of human rights abuses or of the systematic discrimination of minorities. Corporal punishment remains legal for some crimes.


All health services are free. A nurses' training school is maintained at the 160-bed Central Hospital in Tarawa. There are four medical districts, each with its own medical officer and staff. Each inhabited island has a dispensary, and there is a medical radio network linking all the islands. In 2004, there were an estimated 30 physicians, 235 nurses, and 5 dentists per 100,000 people. The population of Kiribati had increased access to safe water and sanitation.

Tuberculosis remains the most serious public health problem (about 200 cases per 100,000 people in 1990); other endemic diseases are leprosy, filariasis, and dysentery. There was a cholera outbreak in 1977, after which projects to construct water and sewage pipes were sped up. Vitamin A deficiency, frequently causing night blindness and xerophthalmia, is a common occurrence among children in Kiribati.

Infant mortality was estimated at 48.52 per 1,000 live births in 2002 and average life expectancy was 61.71 years. The immunization rates for a child under one year of age were as follows in 1995: diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough, 60%; polio, 100%; measles, 100%; and tuberculosis, 60%. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at 31.6 and 8.8 per 1,000 people respectively. The total fertility rate was estimated at 4.3 births per woman.


Most Kiribatians live in small villages of 10 to 150 houses and construct their own dwellings from local materials. The use of more permanent building materials, such as concrete with corrugated aluminum roofing, is becoming common in urban areas. Loans to prospective homeowners are provided by the National Loans Board. Dwellings range from traditional houses with thatched roofs to nontraditional houses with metal roofs.


The government has gradually taken over control of primary education from the missions. Education has been made compulsory by the government for children between the ages of 6 and 15. They go through seven years of primary education and five years of secondary education. In 1997, there were 17,594 students attending 86 primary schools, with 727 teachers. The student-to-teacher ratio stood at 24:1. In secondary schools, there were 215 staff and 4,403 students in that same year. Secondary school pupils take the New Zealand school certificate. The estimated adult literacy rate is 93%.

Higher education courses are available at the Kiribati Extension Center of the University of the South Pacific (Fiji) in Tarawa. Other postsecondary education is provided by scholarships for study abroad. The Tarawa Technical Institute offers instruction in technical and vocational skills. The Marine Training Center offers 18month instruction in deck, engine room, and catering work on foreign shipping lines; there are approximately 200 students enrolled in these programs.


The National Library and Archives in Tarawa is the largest library in the country with a collection of 50,000 volumes, including those in small units throughout the islands. The University of the South Pacific has a campus in Tarawa with a small library of 5,700 volumes. The Kiribati Library and Information Network was formed in 2001 to promote libraries and the study and profession of library science in the nation. The Kiribati Cultural Centre in Bikenibeu houses the National Museum of Kiribati.


In 2002, there were 4,500 mainline telephones and 500 mobile phones in use across the country. Radio Kiribati, operated by the Broadcasting and Publications Authority (BPA), transmits daily in I-Kiribati and English and broadcasts a few imported Australian programs. As 2004, there were three radio stations, two of which were owned by the government. There were no national television stations in operation. Kiribati is on the Peacesat network, which provides educational transmissions from Suva. A satellite link with Australia was established in 1985. As of 1997, there were 17,000 radios and 1,000 televisions in use nationwide. In 2002, there were 2,000 Internet subscribers.

The BPA publishes a fortnightly bilingual newspaper, Te Uekera. There is no commercial press; all publications are governmentor church-sponsored. The Information Department at Tarawa publishes Atoll Pioneer, a weekly newspaper. Te Itoi ni Kiribati, a weekly newsletter, is published by the Roman Catholic Church. Te Kaotan te Ota is a newspaper published monthly by Protestant Church. The constitution provides for legally guaranteed freedom of speech and press.


The most important organization is the mronron (meaning "sharing"), a cooperative society based on kinship or locality. There is a national Credit Union League and a teachers' union. National youth organizations include the Kiribati Students' Association, the Kiribati Scouts Association, and the Kiribati Girl Guides Associations. Sports clubs and associations represent amateur athletes in a variety of pastimes, including tennis, weightlifting, and track and field. There is a national chapter of the Red Cross Society.


Tourism, although important to the economy of Kiribati, is very limited. There is a visitors' bureau at Tarawa, and there are hotels in Betio and on Abemama and Christmas islands. The bureau makes available fishing, swimming, and boating facilities on Tarawa and arranges trips by sea or air to other islands. Ecotourism and World War II battle sites are also attractions.

Popular sports in Kiribati are football (soccer) and weightlifting. Kiribati first competed in the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004. Traditional dancing and singing styles have survived.

In 2001, a total of 4,555 tourists visited Kiribati. Over 50% of these visitors came from East Asia. There were 162 hotel rooms in 2002. A valid passport, visa, onward/return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required to travel in Kiribati.


Ieremia Tabai (b.1950) was president from independence until 1991. Teburoro Tito (b.1953) was president and foreign minister from 1994 to 2003. Anote Tong (b.1952) became president in 2003.


Kiribati has no territories or colonies.


Graham, Michael B. Mantle of Heroism: Tarawa and the Struggle for the Gilberts, November 1943. Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1993.

Leibo, Steven A. East and Southeast Asia, 2005. 38th ed. Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: Stryker-Post Publications, 2005.

Piazza, Anne Di. Sailing Routes of Old Polynesia: The Prehistoric Discovery, Settlement and Abandonment of the Phoenix Islands. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 2004.

Smith, George W. Carlson's Raid: The Daring Marine Assault on Makin. Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 2001.

Wilson, Craig. Kiribati: State of the Environment Report, 1994. Apia, Western Samoa: South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, 1994.

Wright, Derrick. Tarawa, 2023 November 1943: A Hell of a Way to Die. Marlborough: Crowood Press, 2002.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from



Republic of Kiribati



The Republic of Kiribati comprises 33 atolls in 3 principal island groups, scattered within an area of about 5 million square kilometers (2 million square miles) in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The 3 island groups are the Gilbert Islands, the Line Islands, and the Phoenix Islands. The country extends about 3,870 kilometers (2,400 miles) from east to west and about 2,050 kilometers (1,275 miles) from north to south and has a coastline of 1,143 kilometers (710 miles). The total land area is 717 square kilometers (277 square miles). The nearest neighbors are Nauru to the west, and Tuvalu and Tokelau to the south. The capital, Tarawa, is on the island of Bairiki. Bairiki is the most populous island with around 65,000 inhabitants. The nation's largest atoll is Kiritimati (Christmas Island)in the Line Islands group at the eastern extremityat 388 square kilometers (150 square miles). The smallest is Banaba Island in the west at 6 square kilometers (2.3 square miles).


The population of Kiribati was estimated at 91,985 in July 2000. The current annual population growth rate is 2.34 percent, which will result in a population of 113,509 by 2010. The birth rate is 32.43 births per 1,000 population, and the fertility rate is 4.4 births per woman. The death rate is 9.01 deaths per 1,000 population. There is little or no migration to or from Kiribati. Partly because of sanitation problems caused by the lack of fresh water, as well as heavy pollution in the lagoon of South Tarawa, Kiribati has a high infant morality rate of 55.36 deaths per 1,000 live births (compared to the U.S. rate of 7 deaths per 1,000 live births).

The people are known locally as I-Kiribati. The population structure is biased toward the younger age groups, with some 41 percent of the population aged less than 15, while just 3 percent are over the age of 64. Most Kiribati are ethnically Micronesian (78 percent). The population is mainly urban and more than two-thirds (65,000) live on Tarawa atoll.


The Gilbert Islands were granted self-rule by the United Kingdom in 1971 and complete independence in 1979 under a new name, Kiribati. The United States relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a 1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati, thus giving the island nation its present geographic composition. The economy of Kiribati is small, and growth prospects are limited by the nation's remote location, poor infrastructure , poor soil, unskilled labor force , and lack of natural resources. Marine resources offer the greatest potential for the development of an independent, sustainable economy. Interest earned from the phosphate reserve fund is the nation's main source of foreign exchange. Prior to independence, it was realized that the phosphate resources of Kiribati were limited, and instead of using the royalty revenues from phosphate mining for immediate expenditures, they were placed in a trust fund, the Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund (RERF). The interest income from the investment of this trust fund has been available for expenditure by the Kiribati government since independence in 1979. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted by the time of independence. Other sources of foreign exchange include some commodity exports (copra [coconut meat], seaweed, and fish), licensing income from fishing, and remittances from Kiribati citizens working for international shipping lines. The financial sector is at an early stage of development, as are private initiatives in other sectors. Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets.

Kiribati has a modest income level that places it among the poorer countries in the world's lower middle-income group. The agricultural base, including subsistence production, is narrow and generated 14 percent of GDP in 1996. Copra is the only important cash crop , and commercial fishing (mainly tuna) is undertaken by the small fleet of the national fishing company. The agriculture sector (including fishing) is the occupation of the majority of the working population and accounted for 71 percent of employment in 1990, though most of this employment was self-employment on small family farms. The industrial sector contributed 7 percent of GDP in 1996 (of which manufacturing was 1 percent) and the services sector contributed 79 percent. The main service activity is the government sector, with trade and hotels accounting for 14 percent of GDP. Tourism remains underdeveloped, although it has the potential to become the second largest sector after fisheries. Kiribati's extremely limited export base and dependence on imports for almost all essential commodities result in a permanent (and widening) trade deficit , which is in most years only partially offset by revenues from fishing license fees, interest earned on the RERF, and remittances from Kiribati working overseas.

The government has earmarked Christmas and Fanning islands in the Line group and Canton Island in the Phoenix group as prime areas for future development. There is little open unemployment in the sense of people being unable to find some gainful employment if they so wish, and unemployment is estimated at around 2 percent of the workforce. However, there is evidence of underemployment , with the workforce engaged for perhaps only 30 percent of the hours that might be considered normal in a working week.

Foreign financial aid is a critical supplement to GDP, equal to 25 to 50 percent of GDP since independence in 1979. Initially the United Kingdom was the largest aid donor, but has now been overtaken by some of Kiribati's Pacific Ocean neighbors. Grants from principal donors amounted to an estimated US$20.7 million in 1998, of which US$5.7 million was from Japan, US$4.5 million from Australia, and US$4.3 million from New Zealand. The country is particularly reliant on foreign assistance for its development budget. Remittances from workers abroad account for more than US$5 million each year.

The government is involved in all aspects of the economyits spending accounts for 71.5 percent of GDPand it is taking measures to expand the private sector and develop the fledgling industrial sector. The poor performance of most public enterprises burdens the budget and adversely effects economic efficiency. Unfortunately, little progress has been made in implementing the government's Medium Term Strategy, which focuses on reducing the role of the public sector by freezing civil service recruitment, reducing government spending, improving the accountability of public enterprises, and introducing privatization .

The sale of fishing licenses to foreign fleets provides an important source of income. Revenues from the sale of fishing licenses amounted to more than half of GDP in 1998. Mining of phosphate rock on the island of Banaba (which ceased in 1979) formerly provided some 80 percent of earnings. As well as providing foreign exchange, interest from the phosphate reserve fund, RERF, continues to be an important source of budgetary income. The value of the fund was put at US$380 million at the end of 1998, and generates around US$20 million a year in revenues from interest.


Kiribati is an independent republic and a member of the British Commonwealth. The president is head of state and chief executive, and leads a cabinet made up of a vice-president, attorney-general, and 8 ministers. The president appoints the ministers, while the president is elected nationally from several candidates nominated by the House of Assembly (Maneaba-ni-Maungatabu). The House of Assembly consists of 41 members, elected every 4 years. Local councils have considerable autonomy in the management of local affairs.

Kiribati is governed by a constitution adopted in 1979. The first general election since independence took place in March-April 1982. The current president is Teburoro Tito, who was first elected in 1994 and reelected in November 1998.

The Kiribati government aims to improve the growth performance of the country by encouraging new businesses and attracting new foreign companies through designation of "pioneer status." Any company that wishes to establish a business in Kiribati may apply to the Internal Revenue Board for "pioneer status". This allows for a reduced company tax rate of 10 percent for 5 years with the exceptions of business operations on South Tarawa and Christmas Islands. In addition, the government hopes to encourage diversification of the economy and is introducing reforms (such as privatization) to improve the efficiency of the economy.

There is personal income tax , which is set at 25 percent of gross income for the first US$36,000 and at 35 percent for amounts in excess of this. Normal company tax is based on a flat rate of 25 percent of net profit for the first US$36,000 and 35 percent for amounts above this. Tax on dividends paid to overseas investors is 30 percent, except for dividends paid to an Australian resident, where the rate is 15 percent.

Because of the high population density on South Tarawa was giving rise to social and economic problems, it was announced in 1988 that nearly 5,000 inhabitants were to be resettled on outlying atolls, mainly in the Line Islands. A further resettlement program from South Tarawa to 5 islands in the Phoenix group was initiated in 1995. Another important issue is a 1989 UN report on the "greenhouse effect" (the heating of the earth's atmosphere, and a resultant rise in the sea-level), which listed Kiribati as one of the countries that would completely disappear beneath the sea in the 21st century unless drastic measures are taken. None of the land on the islands is more than 2 meters above sea level, making the country extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The current president, Teburoro Tito, declared that reducing Kiribati's dependence on foreign aid would be a major objective for his government. He also announced his intention to pursue civil and criminal action against members of the previous administration for alleged misuse of public funds while in office.


The infrastructure of Kiribati is quite rudimentary. Whenever practicable, roads are built on all atolls, and connecting causeways between islets are also being built as funds and labor permit. A program to construct causeways between North and South Tarawa was completed in the mid-1990s. Kiribati has about 640 kilometers (398

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Kiribati 2,000 N/A AM 1; FM 1; shortwave 1 17,000 1 1,000 1 1,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Philippines 1.9 M 1.959 M (1998) AM 366; FM 290; shortwave 3 (1999) 11.5 M 31 3.7 M 33 500,000
Solomon Islands 8,000 658 AM 3; FM 0; shortwave 0 57,000 0 3,000 1 3,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

miles) of roads that are suitable for motor vehicles. All-weather roads exist in Tarawa and Kiritimati. In 1998, there were some 2,000 motor vehicles registered in the islands, of which some 75 percent were motorcycles.

In early 1998, work began on a major project to rehabilitate the port terminal and facilities at Betio. Financing for the project, with expected completion by mid-2000, was funded by a grant from Japan of US$22 million. There is a small network of canals, totaling 5 kilometers (3.1 miles), in Line Islands as well as ports and harbors such as Banaba, Betio, English Harbor, and Kanton. There are 21 airports, 4 of them with paved run-ways. Only Tarawa and Christmas Island are served by international flights.

Electricity production and consumption was equal to 7 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 1998, 100 percent of which is produced from imported fossil fuels.

Kiribati has an earth satellite station, 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean). Kiribati is being linked to the Pacific Ocean Cooperative Telecommunications Network, which should improve the telephone service. In 1995, it was estimated that there were 2,600 main telephone lines in use. There is 1 shortwave radio station, 1 AM station, and 1 FM station broadcasting to 17,000 radios, according to 1997 estimates. There is 1 television broadcast station and 1,000 televisions.


The majority of the populationan estimated 79 percentdepends on subsistence fishing and agriculture for its livelihood. Fishing and agriculture together contributed only 14 percent of GDP in 1996, however. The private sector of the economy is small, and there are few manufacturing activities. Industry contributed just 7 percent of GDP in 1996. Government services are the biggest portion of the services sector, which contributed a total of 79 percent of GDP in 1996. The country is heavily reliant on overseas aid for government administration, education, health, and the development of infrastructure. One of the government's main priorities is to reduce reliance on foreign aid through developing a more efficient economy.


Agriculture (including fishing) employed 79 percent of the working population and contributed an estimated 14 percent of GDP in 1996. Much agricultural production goes to provide food for the families producing it. The major agricultural products are copra, taro, bread-fruit, sweet potatoes, and vegetables; fishing is another major source of food for I-Kiribati. The principal cash crop is coconuts yielding copra, which accounted for an estimated 60 percent of merchandise export earnings in 1998. Bananas, screw-pine, breadfruit (a round seedless fruit from the mulberry family whose texture resembles bread when cooked), and papaya are also cultivated as food crops. Seaweed provided an estimated 8 percent of domestic export earnings in 1998. Pigs, chickens, and cattle are the most common agricultural livestock. Most of the land is farmed, and agriculture accounts for 51 percent of land-usage.

Average annual rainfall varies greatly, from 3,000 millimeters (118 inches) in the northern islands to 1,500 millimeters (59 inches) in Tarawa and 700 millimeters (28 inches) in the Line Islands, but the rains are reliable and sufficient to provide stable agricultural conditions.

The closure of the state fishing company was announced in 1991, as a result of a dramatic decline in the fish catch. Fish provided only 2 percent of export earnings in 1996 (compared with 32 percent in 1990). However, earnings from exports of fish had recovered to an estimated 12 percent of domestic export earnings by 1998. Agricultural GDP grew at an average annual rate of 4.1 percent in 1990-98, comfortably faster than the rate of increase of the population. Kiribati allows other nations such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States to fish in its territorial waters in exchange for license fees that amounted to US$28.3 million in 1998.


Industry (including manufacturing, construction, and power) contributed an estimated 7 percent of GDP in 1996. Industrial GDP increased by an average of 4.2 percent per year in the period 1990-98. Kiribati's industry is quite limited and mainly consists of fishing processing and handicrafts for tourists and for export.


Services provided 79 percent of GDP in 1996. The GDP of the services sector increased at an annual average rate of 4.2 percent between 1990 and 1998. Tourism makes a significant contribution to the economy, with the trade and hotels sector providing an estimated 15 percent of GDP in 1998. Between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors per year provide US$5 to US$10 million in revenues. Attractions include World War II battle sites, game fishing, ecotourism , and the Millennium Islands, situated just inside the International Date Line and the first place on earth to celebrate each New Year.

The financial sector is heavily reliant on 1 commercial bank, the Bank of Kiribati. Modern expertise is provided by the majority shareholder, the Westpac Banking Corporation of Australia, which owns 51 percent, while the government of Kiribati owns 49 percent. The bank has 3 branches and provides checking and savings accounts, makes loans to individuals and businesses, provides financial facilities for international trade (such as letters of credit), and undertakes foreign exchange dealings. However, the bank provides no credit card facilities. The only other bank is the Kiribati Development Bank, which lends to small-scale businesses.

The retail sector consists mainly of small outlets, with a few supermarkets and department stores, mostly owned by Australian companies, in the capital, Tarawa.


As a result of its small size and its negligible manufacturing sector, Kiribati relies heavily upon products produced in other countries. The main imports include foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, and fuel. The main exports of Kiribati are copra (62 percent of the total), seaweed, and fish. Kiribati's main export destinations are the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, while the main origins of imports are Australia (46 percent), Fiji, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States. In 1998, the country had exports of US$6 million and imports of US$37 million.


The Australian dollar (A$) is the legal currency of Kiribati. The value of the A$ fluctuates against the value of other world currencies. The Bank of Kiribati is responsible for the majority of the available financial services. In December 1997, its total assets amounted to US$26.1 million, of which deposits were US$23.3 million and reserves amounted to US$0.9 million. The Development Bank of Kiribati identifies, promotes, and finances small-scale projects, and its capital amounts to

Exchange rates: Kiribati
Australian dollars (A$) per US$1
Jan 2001 1.7995
2000 1.7173
1999 1.5497
1998 1.5888
1997 1.3439
1996 1.2773
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

US$1.33 million. There is also a network of small-scale lending agencies known as "village banks" operating throughout the islands.


Only 2 percent of the working population is registered as unemployed, and poverty (as defined by the US$1 a day poverty line) is virtually unknown. Using the purchasing power parity conversion (which takes into account the low prices of many basic commodities in Kiribati, and which is the best indication of living standards) annual income per capita was US$860 in 1999 (in the United States, by way of comparison, it was US$33,900).

Education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15. Every atoll is provided with at least 1 primary school. The adult literacy rate was estimated at 90 percent in 1993-95. There are about 200 seamen trained each year by the Marine Training Center for employment by overseas shipping companies. In 1998, education was allocated US$7.8 million (22.5 percent of total budgetary expenditures).

The government maintains a free medical service. Each atoll has a dispensary, with a medical assistant in charge. In 1982, Kiribati had 34 government-controlled hospital establishments, with a total of 308 hospital beds. Life expectancy is 60 years (in the United States, by way

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Kiribati 800 N/A N/A 860 850
United States 28,600 30,200 31,500 33,900 36,200
Philippines 2,600 3,200 3,500 3,600 3,800
Solomon Islands 3,000 3,000 2,600 2,650 2,000
Note: Data are estimates.
SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th editions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.

of comparison, it is 76). In 1999, a major public health project, involving the improvement of water supply and sanitation, was undertaken with a loan of some US$10 million from the Asian Development Bank.


The society of Kiribati is egalitarian, democratic, and respectful of human rights. There have been no reports of human rights abuses. However, in the traditional culture, women occupy a subordinate role and have limited job opportunities.

The Kiribati Trades Union Congress (KTUC) was formed in 1998 and includes 2,500 members affiliated with other unions, of which the most important are the Fishermen's Union, the Seamen's Union, and the Teachers' Union. Workers are free to organize unions and choose their own representatives. The government does not control or restrict unions. More than 80 percent of the workforce is occupied in fishing or subsistence farming , but the small wage sector has a relatively strong and effective trade union movement.

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it is not practiced. The prohibition does not specifically mention children, but the practice of forced and bonded labor by children does not occur. The law prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14. Children through the age of 15 are prohibited from industrial employment and employment aboard ships. Women may not work at night except under specified circumstances. Labor officers from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Employment normally enforce these laws effectively, given the rudimentary conditions of the economy and its industrial relations system.

The government has taken no concrete action to implement longstanding legislation authorizing the establishment of minimum wages. There is no legislatively prescribed length to the working week. The government is the major employer in the cash economy. Employment laws provide rudimentary health and safety standards for the workplace. Employers must, for example, provide an adequate supply of clean water for workers and ensure the existence of sanitary toilet facilities. Employers are liable for the expenses of workers injured on the job. The government's ability to enforce employment laws is hampered by a lack of qualified personnel.


0-100 A.D. Kiribati begins to be settled by Austrone-sian-speaking peoples.

1300. Fijians and Tongans arrive during the 14th century and subsequently merge with the already established groups to form the traditional I-Kiribati Micronesian society and culture.

1837. First British settlers arrive.

1892. British protectorate is established.

1915-16. Gilbert and Ellice Islands become a Crown Colony of Great Britain.

1919. Kiritimati (Christmas) Atoll becomes a part of the Crown Colony.

1937. Phoenix Islands becomes a part of the Crown Colony.

1941-45. Tarawa and other islands of the Gilbert group occupied by Japan during World War II. Tarawa is the site of one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine Corps history when Marines land in November 1943 to dislodge Japanese defenders.

1975. The Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands separate and the Ellice Islands are granted internal self-government (as Tuvalu) by Britain.

1979. Kiribati becomes independent on 12 July.

1995. Kiribati unilaterally moves the international date line to the east, so that all of Kiribati's islands are in the same date zone.

1999. Kiribati gains United Nations membership.


Kiribati's economic prospects are limited by its small size in terms of both geographical area and population, its remote location, and the absence of any valuable mineral resources now that the phosphate deposits are exhausted. The population size not only means that there is not a domestic market of sufficient size to support any serious manufacturing, but that there is limited provision of services. There is only 1 bank, and as a monopoly , its services will tend to be expensive and the range of services limited.

On the positive side, Kiribati has a tropical location with good facilities for an expansion of tourism. Moreover, the marine fishing resources are excellent and can provide for expanded local production and employment and even be the basis of some manufacturing, such as fish processing and canning. Finally, the national revenue from the phosphate fund remains a vital, and secure, source of foreign exchange.

However, to make the most of its tourism and fishing grounds, it is important that Kiribati attract foreign investment into these sectors. The fishing is large-scale and requires expensive fishing fleets together with equipment and installations for storage. Tourism needs high-quality hotels and international marketing. The current development plan recognizes these needs, but it remains to be seen how successful Kiribati will be in implementing the plan. A recent initiative is the agreement to lease land on Christmas Island to the Japanese National Space Agency, who will build a space shuttle launch facility there. Under the arrangement Kiribati will be paid just under $1 million a year in leasing fees. A research project is under way to use coconut oil to power internal combustion engines for electricity generation, and this may well contribute to energy self-sufficiency, as will the expansion of solar power on the outlying islands.

Overall, Kiribati can be expected to maintain its lower middle-income status in the immediate future, but its long-term growth prospects depend on its ability to expand tourism and undertake more of the exploitation of its fishing grounds rather than licensing foreign fleets.


Kiribati has no territories or colonies.


Asian Development Bank. Kiribati: 1997 Economic Report. Manila: Asian Development Bank, 1998.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Kiribati. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

"Kiribati and the IMF." International Monetary Fund. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Pacific Island Business Network. Kiribati: Country Profile. <http://>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Kiribati. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Oygal Musakhanova




Australian dollar (A$). One Australian dollar equals 100 cents. There are notes of A$5, 10, 20, 50, and 100. There are coins of A$1 and 2, and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents.


Copra, seaweed, fish.


Food, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, fuels.


US$74 million (1999 est.).


Exports: US$6 million (1998 est.). Imports: US$37 million (1998 est.).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from



ETHNONYMS: Gilbertese (Gilbert Islands), I-Kiribati, Tungaru


Identification. Almost all of the citizens of Kiribati have at least some I-Kiribati ancestors and have inherited land rights in the Gilbert Islands. The indigenous inhabitants of Banaba (Ocean Island) speak a Gilbertese dialect and practice a variant of Gilbertese culture but consider themselves a separate people politically. Most of the Banabans have lived on Rabi Island in Fiji since 1945. Another Gilbertese dialect is spoken on Nui in Tuvalu. The Gilbert Islands were named in honor of Thomas Gilbert, a British captain whose ship sighted some of the islands after transporting convicts to Australia in 1788. In default of a generally acceptable indigenous name, it was decided at the time of independence to adopt "Kiribati" (pronounced "kiribass"), the local respelling of "Gilberts," for the new nation. The poetic "Tungaru" usually connotes the ancestors and their savage or superhuman feats.

Location. The Gilberts comprise sixteen inhabited coral reef islands and atolls between 3° N and 3° S and between 173° and 177° E. The territory of the Republic of Kiribati also includes the raised coral island of Banaba, about 400 kilometers west of the Gilberts, and the Phoenix and Line Islands lying as much as 2,800 kilometers to the east. The average annual rainfall diminishes from north to south. The islands south of the equator and Banaba suffer from periodic droughts.

Demography. According to the 1985 census, Kiribati had a total population of 63,883. The average population density for the Gilbert Islands, which have a combined area of 279 square kilometers, was 219 persons per square kilometer. The growth rate averaged 2.0 percent per annum in the 6 ½ years between censuses. A third of the population was enumerated in the urbanized area of South Tarawa.

Linguistic Affiliation. I-Kiribati and Banabans speak a single language, usually known as Gilbertese. Linguists agree that Gilbertese belongs to the Oceanic Branch of the Austronesian languages, and its closest relatives are the other Nuclear Micronesian languages: Trukese, Ponapean, Kosraean (Kusaian), and Marshallese. The more distant connections of Nuclear Micronesian within Oceanic Austronesian are still being debated, but they seem to point toward the southern Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, with the languages of San Cristobal and Malaita as perhaps the strongest candidates. The pioneer American missionary, Hiram Bingham, Jr., devised a written form of Gilbertese based on the Latin alphabet that is still in general use, having undergone only minor modifications.

History and Cultural Relations

On linguistic and archaeological grounds, it is likely that voyagers from southern Melanesia arrived in the Gilberts long before a.d. 600, the earliest radiocarbon date obtained up to now. Kiribati language and culture show signs of borrowing from western Polynesia at some time after the islands were settled. The political and social structure of all the islands except for Butaritari-Makin and Banaba was forcibly unified, possibly in the seventeenth century, when armies led by Kaitu, Beru, and Uakeia of Nikunau introduced the meetinghouse organization. Regular contacts with Europeans and Americans began when merchant ships sailing new routes across the Pacific, New England whalers, and exploring expeditions discovered or rediscovered all the islands between 1765 and 1826. Resident traders bought coconut oil from 1846 to the 1870s and then switched to copra, which remains Kiribati's sole agricultural export. A British protectorate was proclaimed over the Gilberts and their Polynesian neighbors, the Ellice Islands, in 1892. The Japanese occupation of the Gilberts early in World War II ended with an American victory in the "particularly bloody battle at Tarawa" (as Richard Overy has aptly termed it) fought in November 1943. The phosphate mine on Banaba provided most of the colony's revenue and employment for its people from 1900 until the deposits were exhausted in the year of independence; I-Kiribati still mine phosphate on the neighboring independent island of Nauru. Since 1967, the Marine Training School has made it possible for many young men to get jobs as seamen on West German ships and to add greatly to their families' incomes through remittances. Four years after the Ellice Islands had separated from the colony to become the state of Tuvalu, the Gilberts also became independent as the Republic of Kiribati on 12 July 1979.


Precolonial villages were social and political units centered on a meetinghouse (te mwaneaba). The settlement pattern was one of dispersed hamlets on descent-group lands, which usually ran across islets from west to east. Around 1900 the Resident Commissioner and government agents ordered Villages consolidated along a road running parallel to the Western (leeward) shore of each inhabited islet, even if that meant forcing people to move off their hereditary lands. They also compelled the islanders to build houses according to a uniform pattern. A house consists essentially of a roof covered with coconut- or pandanus-leaf thatch and supported by four or six wooden posts. Unlike most precolonial houses, the new-style ones have raised floors of split coconut-leaf midribs and can comfortably accommodate only one nuclear family. Following a colonial regulation, each family still builds separate houses for sleeping and eating. In the 1980s some relatively affluent people, such as the families of merchant seamen, and members of clubs organized for that purpose were erecting cement-block houses with galvanized-iron roofs and facilities for catching rainwater. Large meetinghouses are still constructed in more or less the traditional style, not only as sites for village councils and festivities but also by church congregations and neighborhoods.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The only crop that I-Kiribati cultivate regularly is the atoll taro Cyrtosperma chamissonis, which is grown in gardens dug down to the level of the freshwater lens or in natural swamps. The slower-growing varieties are often fertilized for years with mixtures of humus and leaf compost sprinkled into "pots" of plaited coconut fronds or braided pandanus leaves, until the leaves are as much as 3.5 meters high. The huge corms that develop as a result of this treatment are suitable for feasts and formal Presentations. Smaller varieties, allowed to clone and not usually fertilized, are an everyday food on the northern islands. The only other important native vegetable foods are tree cropscoconuts, pandanus, and, mainly in the north, breadfruit. The coconut palm is also the source of toddy, the juice of the unopened flower spathe which is collected in a coconut shell as a fresh drink, boiled into molasses, or allowed to ferment. The numerous fishing methods include trolling behind a canoe furnished with a sail or an outboard motor, unrolling a line with baited hook into deep water from a smaller paddling canoe, catching flying fish with a coconut-leaf torch or kerosene lantern and a scoop net, searching the holes and pools of the nighttime reef with a scoop net and machete, netting on the reef at high tide, angling from the edge of the reef, and trapping fish behind a stone weir. Domestic animals, all of which are eaten, include dogs, chickens, and introduced pigs.

Industrial Arts. There are part-time builders of canoes, houses, and meetinghouses in every village. These men, like the few remaining navigators, enjoy respect and deference, but they receive no pay except their food while at work and perhaps a waist cloth when the job is finished.

Trade. Most adults hold shares in their village cooperative store, which is affiliated with a national federation. There are many even smaller general stores belonging to individuals, partnerships, and clubs. Women sell or give away all of their husbands' catches of tuna, flying fish, and shark that exceed household requirements.

Division of Labor. Men cultivate and harvest Cyrtosperma in the south, where the corms are a luxury food. In the north women do most of the routine fertilizing, and the custom that only a woman may dig up a corm is used as an argument for marriage. The I-Kiribati also believe that only men should climb trees. Men do the bulk of the fishing; women collect shellfish and catch land crabs, but occasionally they engage in other kinds of fishing as well. Work with leaves is restricted to women, who make mats, baskets, and thatch and produce cordage from fiber obtained from coconut husks. Men build houses and canoes and make smaller wooden objects. Women normally fetch water, cook meals, and wash clothes. The division of labor is not rigid, but persons who habitually perform tasks associated with the opposite sex are regarded as having changed their gender identity, like North American Indian berdaches.

Land Tenure. Both men and women inherit land rights from both parents, rights that are inseparable from one's Status as a blood relative and a member of the community. The colonial administration abrogated the old rules, under which sons received larger shares than daughters and an eldest son (and sometimes an eldest daughter) more than younger Children, in favor of an equal division. Parents customarily divide their lands in a way that assures each of their children of rights in as many of the parental descent groups as possible. 1f someone dies without leaving natural or adopted children, his land will be divided among his siblings or, lacking these, will revert to the estate of his father and mother. Most of the lands (though not the Cyrtosperma gardens) on Butaritari and Makin are the joint property of descent groups, necessitating a system of annual or weekly turns for collecting coconuts. A widespread Micronesian distinction between provisional titleholders or caretakers (who actually work the land and utilize its products) and residual titleholders (whose claims must be acknowledged by gifts and assistance) is the basis for several social relationships, such as those between brother and married sister and between guardian and ward.


Kin Groups and Descent. Descent, like inheritance, is ambilineal. Everyone is affiliated with the descent groups (ramages) of several ancestors, although he or she is most active in a group associated with his or her own or the parents' place of residence. Before the introduction of lands registers, inactive memberships tended to lapse after a few generations, especially if the link to the group was a female ancestor. Members of a descent group who together with their spouses and children occupied a communal dwelling or hamlet on its estate constituted a residential group (te kaainga, a term used for a descent group conceived of as a landholding corporation and also for the land itself). Each descent group has traditionally been associated with a place in the meetinghouse (te inaki, literally "a vertical row of thatch," or te boti).

Kinship Terminology. Cousin terminology is Hawaiian-type: everyone with whom one shares an ancestor an equal number of generations removed can be referred to by the terms for "sibling of the same sex" or "sibling of the opposite sex." Other cognatic and affinal relatives are also classified by generation. Native kinship terms are not used in address.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. First marriages, in particular, ideally are arranged by the parents or at least require their consent, but elopements are becoming more common. In theory, persons who share an ancestor within three generations, or who trace descent from a more distant common ancestor but themselves belong to different generations, are forbidden to marry. In practice, reaction to a proposed marriage that would join together distant relatives depends on whether the immediate families of the young people have been treating one another as kinsfolk. Some families still follow the old custom of rejoicing publicly when a bride has demonstrated her virginity. Most young married people reside with the husbands' parents until they are considered ready for independent life. Until recently, they were also expected to reside permanently on land the husband had inherited either through his father or through his mother. A man who agreed to live with his wife's kin was thought to yield much of his authority over his household. A permanently separated couple is regarded as divorced by the community if not by the church. Once children have been born, kin on both sides will put pressure on the spouses to reconcile or will try to persuade an unmarried sibling to act as stepparent. Sororal polygyny is dying out.

Domestic Units. The people who cook and eat meals together are considered a family. The teenage boys and young unmarried men of the neighborhood often sleep in an unoccupied house but eat with their families. A nuclear family or a currently unmarried woman and her children are ordinarily the minimal family units. As their own children grow up and leave home, couples often begin rearing a second family of grandchildren or wards. Other helpful or dependent kinsfolk may be present as well. Families outside South Tarawa average 5.8 persons.

Inheritance. Parents leave their house to one of their Children, often when they retire to stay with each of their children in turn. Portable artifacts are probably distributed informally, but large canoes tend to be treated like land. Items of esoteric knowledge, which are considered a kind of personal property, may be bestowed on a favorite child, on another young relative, or even on an outsider.

Socialization. A good deal of personal independence is conceded even to young children, who at least in theory have the right to own property and to decide with whom they will live. Small children are treated indulgently by everyone, even when they act aggressively. Older children are expected to help with household tasks, to show respect for senior kinsfolk, and to refrain from calling attention to themselves when adults are present. Physical punishment is acceptable once a child has reached the age of reason. Threats, ridicule, and scary stories about punitive agents from outside the family are commoner sanctions, however.

Sociopolitical Organization

Kiribati is a democracy with a popularly elected president and House of Assembly.

Social Organization. Chiefs were present in the central and northern Gilberts, but on several islands no single chief managed to hold undisputed power for very long. The most stratified societies in the late precolonial and early colonial periods were Butaritari-Makin and Abemama, which had conquered the neighboring islands of Aranuka and Kuria. The Butaritari-Makin hierarchy, which resembled those of other Micronesian societies to the north, was headed by a high chief who was a focus for redistributive activities. Below the high chief and his siblings and children were aristocrats, commoners, and descendants of strangers from other islands. Since the 1970s life-styles have reflected differences in family incomes, even in the villages.

Political Organization. The government of the republic provides a system of courts and health, educational, and agricultural services on the national and island levels. Elected island councils are responsible for repairing roads, maintaining schools, granting permission to build new houses, and filling some off-island jobs. Lands courts approve the inheritance and transfer of real property and resolve disputes over boundaries and the rights of coowners. Especially since independence, many of the powers of the island councils have been assumed by unofficial bodies of village elders that developed out of the traditional councils of heads of descent groups. The elders legislate on matters ranging from trips by the local soccer team to the prohibition of alcohol. They punish violators with fines, beatings, and occasionally exile. Wider consensus is reached by inviting delegates from other villages to a joint meeting or, as on Nonouti in the late 1960s, by organizing a single council for the whole island.

Social Control. The Kiribati ethos holds that an adult should be prepared to fight if challenged and be ready to avenge an injury or insult against himself or a member of his family. On the other hand, the wisdom and control over the passions that comes with age gives some older people the Status of acknowledged peacemakers. Any assembly is thought to assert social norms over the selfish or shortsighted impulses of individuals. The fear of gossip and of secret or open mockery by neighbors are commonplace checks on deviant behavior.

Conflict. In the past, villages and intervillage factions fought to avenge offenses, to seize land, and to gain a chieftainship for their candidate. Wars became more destructive in the nineteenth century, when steel weapons and firearms were widely available and the activities of labor recruiters, traders, and missionaries weakened the social order and created new causes for conflict. In the presidential election preceding independence, the voters of Kiribati decided against having an army.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The forerunners of the present-day Kiribati Protestant Church (K.P.C.), the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the London Missionary Society, arrived in the northern and southern islands, respectively, in 1857 and 1870. The French Roman Catholic fathers of the Order of the Sacred Heart began work on Nonouti in 1888. Catholics (53 percent of the indigenous population) are in the majority from Tarawa northward. The K.P.C. (41 percent) holds a near-monopoly on Arorae and Tamana and retains majorities on a few of the other southern islands. About 2½ percent of the I-Kiribati adhere to the Baha'i faith. Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and members of other Christian sects make up the remainder of the population. A good deal of social, recreational, and even economic activity centers on the churches.

Religious Practitioners. The expatriate (mostly French) Catholic clergy has been largely replaced by I-Kiribati priests and nuns. Local catechists conduct services on most islands between occasional visits by a priest. K.P.C. ministers are all I-Kiribati (except for a few from Tuvalu) but do not serve on their home islands. The priests of the old pagan religion interpreted omens and made offerings to deities that descended from time to time onto pillars of coral limestone and other shrines or took animal forms. Spirit mediums are probably still active, although they are possessed by recently introduced supernaturals and are regarded with great ambivalence. I-Kiribati deities (some with western Polynesian names) were believed to have been ancestors of descent groups that obeyed their taboos and relied on them for protection. Their associations with animals and natural phenomena gave them significance for the community as a whole.

Ceremonies. Early in the colonial period, indigenous dancing was permitted only on Christmas, New Year's, and the Queen's birthday. These holidays, with Independence Day replacing the Queen's birthday and Easter and Youth Day added, are still occasions for public feasting and dancing. Catholics celebrate the major feasts of the church in the same ways and sometimes by mass visits to their coreligionists in other villages.

Arts. The patterns of plaited sleeping mats, created by alternating light- and dark-colored strips of dried pandanus leaf, show off women's esthetic sense as well as their technical skills. Durable ornaments are made of spondylus, mother-of-pearl, and marine snail shells; in former times, dolphin, whale, and human teeth were also used. Kiribati sitting and standing dances, accompanied by singing and by clapping hands or beating on a box, are famous. Songs are still composed by traditional methods, although usually on a Western tonal scale.

Medicine. Illness is generally attributed to material causes, although attacks by ghosts, retribution for offending a parent or other superior, sorcery, soul loss, and divine punishment are advanced as explanations in particular cases. Indigenous curing methods include the use of proprietary herbal medicines and systems of massage and cautery.

Death and Afterlife. Nineteenth-century travelers reported that the body was kept in the house for three to nine days and even longer if the deceased had been prominent. Some months after burial the skull was removed and thereafter oiled and offered food and tobacco. Mission influence has been opposed to drawn-out funerals and of course to the custom of keeping a relative's skull on a shelf or carrying it around. The wake is still attended by a large number of kinsfolk, who contribute Cyrtosperma corms and money and eulogize the departed. Burial is in a village cemetery or in a grave next to the house. Despite strong Christian beliefs in an afterlife of rewards or punishments, people remember the old story that the god Nakaa welcomes souls at the north end of the Gilberts.

See also Nauru, Rotuma, Tuvalu


Geddes, William H. (1977). "Social Individualisation on Tabiteuea Atoll." Journal of the Polynesian Society 86:371-392.

Macdonald, Barrie (1982). Cinderellas of the Empire: Towards a History of Kiribati and Tuvalu. Canberra: Australian National University Press.

Silverman, Martin G. (1971). Disconcerting Issue: Meaning and Struggle in a Resettled Pacific Community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Waiters, Ray, and Nancy J. Pollock, project directors (1983). Atoll Economy: Social Change in Kiribati and Tuvalu. 6 vols. Canberra: Australian National University Press.


Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from



Republic of Kiribati

Major City:

Other Cities:
Abemama, Butaritari


The main wave of Micronesian settlement to the islands now known as KIRIBATI came from the Samoa Islands sometime between the 11th and 14th centuries, but the Samoans were probably not the first settlers. European contact began in 1537, when Kirimati (Christmas Island) was sited by the Spanish. Commercial activity by the English began in the early 19th century. By the 1850s and 1860s, trade ships were visiting the islands regularly. The British declared a protectorate over the Gilbert and Ellice island groups in 1892. During World War II, the Japanese occupied the Gilberts until 1943. In 1974, the Ellice island group split away and became the independent nation of Tuvalu. Self-government for the Gilberts was established on July 12, 1979, and the islands became the independent Republic of Kiribati.



Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati, is actually a small atoll with government offices located on south Tarawa at Betio, Bairiki, and Bikenibeu. Tarawa lies among the nation's western island group between the larger islands of Maiana and Marakei.

Tarawa has a population of about 28,000. Between the 1950s and the 1980s, Tarawa's population increased ten-fold. An estimated 40% of the country's entire population lives on Tarawa, and overcrowding of the island is a major concern. The government has begun a resettlement program to eventually relocate almost 5,000 people from the densely populated western atolls (especially Tarawa) to the sparsely populated or uninhabited Line Islands and Phoenix Islands. During 1988-93, some 4,700 people were resettled on the Teraina and Tabuaeran atolls in the eastern Line Islands.

Most of the country's roads are located on Tarawa. The Nippon Causeway, completed in 1987 with Japanese assistance, replaced ferry service between the town of Bairiki and Betio (an islet) on Tarawa. A series of similar causeways linking north and south Tarawa are under construction.

Betio is the main port for western Kiribati and is equipped to handle containers. The Pacific Forum Line links Tarawa with other shipping routes. The airport at the town of Bonriki on Tarawa handles international flights.

An industrial center was established in 1990 at Betio with aid from Great Britain. Manufactured items include clothing, shoes, furniture, leather goods, and kamaimai (coconut liquor). The Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific, located at Bairiki, provides technical assistance for agriculture and nutrition programs.

Recreation and Entertainment

Tourism is underdeveloped because of a lack of regular transport. Tarawa has a visitors' bureau, and there is a hotel on Betio. However, the government has singled out Kiritimati, in the eastern Line Islands, for tourist development. The government is encouraging ecotourism, game fishing, and the promotion of historic battle sites of World War II. The Japanese constructed a fortress on Betio, which was the site of a 1943 battle resulting in 4,000 Japanese, 1,000 American, and no Kiribati casualties. Soccer is a popular recreational sport, and traditional singing and dancing are practiced. The National Library and Archives in Tarawa has 50,000 volumes. Items are in storage at the National Archives in anticipation of the formation of a national museum to be built in Tarawa.


Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the most famous temporary residents in ABEMAMA. He came to the island in 1889 with his wife. As the story goes, she was so taken by the place that she took it upon herself to design a flag for the island, which featured the picture of a shark wearing a crown. Of course, the flag was never officially used. The atoll is one of the Gilbert islands with a population of about 3,200 (1990 est.). With the exception of two major resorts, it remains fairly undeveloped. As such it provides an opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the island and experience the original I-Kiribati culture. Nature lovers should try to catch a sight of the unusual tiny yellow "barking" frog that is believed to be helpful in controlling the mosquito population. Abemama is about 50 mi. southwest of Tarawa and can be reached by air or boat.

The lush, green island of BUTARITARI (formerly Makin Island) is worth a visit for the adventuresome who don't mind a little rain. Also located in the Gilbert Islands, Butaritari has a population of over 3,700 (1990 est.) and receives about 157" of rain a year. Several war relics, included downed aircraft can be seen around the island as what remains from a 1942 US Marine operation. The American film, "Gung Ho," basically retells the story of this operation, starring Ronald Regan. Visitors will want to find an opportunity to sample fried breadfruit while on the island, since this particularly variety does not exist anywhere else. A large, beautiful lagoon with coral reefs can be explored from the island.


Geography and Climate

The islands of Kiribati are situated around the intersection of the International Date Line and the Equator. Scattered over 2 million square miles are 33 islands with a total land area of 277 square miles. Kiribati has more sea area per person than any other country. There are three main island groups: the seventeen Gilbert Islands, the eight Line Islands, and the eight Phoenix Islands.

The islands are coral atolls built on submerged volcanic chain and seldom rise more than 13 feet above sea level. Kirimati (Christmas Island), in the Line Islands, is the largest atoll in the world, with an area of 481 square miles. The atoll was used as a nuclear test site by the British from 1957 to 1962, and by the US in 1962.

Kiribati has an equatorial climate, with high humidity during the November-April rainy season. Although the islands lie outside the traditional South Pacific tropical storm belt, there are occasional gales and even cyclones. Annual rainfall varies from 40 inches near the Equator to 120 inches in the extreme north and south. Daily temperatures range from 77° F to 90° F, with very little fluctuation during the year. The islands have prevailing easterly trade winds.


Kiribati has a population of approximately 87,000, unevenly distributed among the islands. Some 40% of the population is concentrated on Tarawa, while some of the islands of the Phoenix and Line groups are uninhabited. Since the 1980s, the government has resettled people from Tarawa to Teraira and Tabuarean in the Line Islands because of overcrowding.

Nearly all of the country's population is Gilbertese or Micronesian. Polynesians (mainly from Tuvalu) account for less than 0.5%, and Europeans and people of mixed races, 0.6%.

Nearly all the population is Christian, the largest sects being the Kiribati Protestant Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Religious minorities include Seventh-Day Adventists, Church of God, Assemblies of God, Mormons, and Baha'is. Christianity is an integral part of social interaction.

The main languages spoken are Gilbertese (I-Kiribati) and English. The official language is English, but it is seldom used on the outer islands. I-Kiribati is an Austronesian language related to many other in the South Pacific.


Kiribati became an independent democratic republic within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1979.

Kiribati has a unicameral chamber legislature called the Maneaba ni Maungatabu House of Assembly). There are 41 members: 39 are directly elected for four years; the Attorney-General is an ex-officio member; and there is one representative of the Banaban community (inhabitants of Ocean island). The president is head of both state and government, and is also directly elected. The president appoints a cabinet from the incumbent members of the Maneaba, with which he shares executive power.

In 1994, Teburoro Tito, head of the Maneaban Te Mauri Party, was elected president.

The judicial system consists of the High Court, a court of appeal, and magistrates' courts. All judicial appointments are made by the president.

Though political parties do exist, they are more similar to informal coalitions in behavior. They do not have official platforms or party structures. Most candidates are considered as independents.

Kiribati's flag shows a blue and white heraldic representation of the Pacific waters, with a golden sun rising on a red background. There is a golden frigate bird in flight over the sun.

Arts, Science, Education

Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15. For many residents, a primary-level education is all that is needed to succeed in a subsistence community. Secondary school students take the New Zealand School Certificate. Tarawa Technical Institute conducts courses in technical and vocational subjects. A nurses' training center operates at the hospital in Tarawa. The Marine Training Centre trains about 200 students each year for working on foreign merchant shipping lines. There is a state-operated college for primary school teachers, and a satellite center of Fiji's University of the South Pacific at Tarawa.

Commerce and Industry

The people of Kiribati depend on the sea for their livelihood. Individuals fish for their family's food, and commercial fishing is also important. A hatchery provides bait fish to domestic commercial fishing vessels. The government also sells fishing licenses to foreign fishing vessels, and the Royal New Zealand Air Force patrols the vast sea area to discourage poaching. The economy relies on foreign aid supplied by the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Japan, and Australia. Foreign aid typically accounts for 25-30% of the domestic economy. Money sent home by men working overseas on oceangoing vessels accounts for a significant portion of the cash economy. The economy was once reliant on phosphate exports from the island of Banaba until production ceased in 1979. Since then Kiribati has relied on fishing, subsistence agriculture, and exports of copra (dried coconut meat). Coconuts are one of the few natural resources on the islands, due to poor soil quality and occasional droughts.

Tourism is one of the largest domestic activities. Between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors per year provide $5-$10 million in revenue. Attractions include World War II battle sites, game fishing, ecotourism, and the Millennium Islands, situated just inside the International Date Line and the first place on earth to celebrate every New Year. The government is also promoting Kirimati (Christmas Island) in the Line Islands as a tourist destination for game fishing and bird watching.

With a per capita GDP of about $850 (2000 est.), Kiribati is one of the poorest nations in the world.


Kiribati has about 400 miles of roads, mostly on Tarawa. The Nippon Causeway opened in the 1980s, connecting Betio and Bariki. Other causeways linking north and south Tarawa were built in the 1990s. There is no rail, river, or lake transport, but canoes travel across the lagoons frequently. Motorcycles are the most popular land vehicles.

Roads in Tarawa, while satisfactory in some areas, are generally in need of repair. After heavy rains, some road sections experience temporary flooding. Vehicle traffic proceeds at a relatively slow rate. Drinking and driving is a common practice, especially on the weekends. Kiribati was a former British protectorate, and cars drive on the left side of the road.

The main islands have airstrips that are served from Tarawa. Passenger ferries also go to many of the smaller islands.


Radio Kiribati, operated by the government, is the country's only radio station, transmitting in I-Kiribati and English and broadcasting a few imported Australian shows. Tarawa has an earth station to transmit and receive satellite communications. Kiribati is on the Peacesat network, which provides educational transmissions from Suva, Fiji.

There is no commercial press; all publications are government-or church-sponsored. The government publishes the weekly Atoll Pioneer ; Te Itoi ni Kiribati is published by the Roman Catholic Church; and Te Kaotan te Ota is published monthly by the Protestant Church.


The Central Hospital in Tarawa, with 160 beds, is the main health care facility. There are four medical districts, each with its own medical officer and staff. Each inhabited island has its own medical dispensary, and a medical radio network links all the islands.

Tuberculosis is the most serious health problem on the islands. Other problems include leprosy, filariasis, and dysentery. Vitamin A deficiency, causing night blindness and xerophthalmia, occurs often among children in Kiribati. There was a cholera outbreak in the 1970s.

As the role of cash in the economy has grown, the level of nutrition has declined. Malnutrition, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems have increased among urbanized islanders, because many have given up the traditional nutrient-rich diet for store-bought rice, canned food, and sweets. Inhabitants of the outer islands have largely avoided these nutritional problems.

All water should be regarded as a potential health risk. Visitors should therefore refrain from drinking any water that is not bottled, boiled or otherwise sterilized. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit should be peeled before eating.


A valid passport and visa are required. Visa requirements include one application form, two photos and a fee. There is no Embassy of Kiribati in the United States. For information on entry requirements, please contact the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati, Suite 503, 850 Richards Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, telephone (808) 529-7703; fax (808)521-8304. For visa or other information, travelers may consult the Consular Section of the nearest British embassy or consulate. The British Embassy in the United States is located at 3100 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C., 20008. The telephone number is (202) 588-7800.

The Republic of Kiribati's customs authorities strictly prohibit the importation of firearms, ammunition, explosives and indecent publications. Strict quarantine laws govern the import of any part of plants, fruits, vegetables, soil, as well as animals and animal products. Visitors are not allowed to export human remains, artifacts that are 30 or more years old, traditional fighting swords, traditional tools, dancing ornaments or suits of armor. For more information, please contact the British Embassy.

Americans living in or visiting Kiribati are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Majuro, whose consular district includes the Republic of Kiribati. U.S. citizens may also obtain updated information on travel and security within Kiribati from the Embassy. Officers of the U.S. Embassy in Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, are concurrently accredited to Kiribati and make periodic visits. The U.S. Embassy does not have a street address in Majuro. The Embassy is located on the ocean-side of the island's road, near the Church of the Latter-Day Saints and Gibson's Express, "Long Island." The U.S. Embassy's mailing address is P.O. Box 1379, Majuro, MH 96960-1379. The telephone number is (692) 247-4011. The fax number is (692) 247-4012.


In Kiribati, the Australian dollar is the legal currency. Travelers' checks and all major currencies are accepted by banks and may also be exchanged for local currency at some local hotels. Visa and Master-Card are accepted at most hotels


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

Apr. 18 Health Day

July 12 Independence Day

Aug. Youth Day*

Dec. 10 Human Rights Day

Dec. 25 Christmas

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



Journal Films. Kiribati. Produced by Juniper Films, 1989.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." Cities of the World. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." Cities of the World. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." Cities of the World. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from



Official name: Republic of Kiribati

Area: 717 square kilometers (277 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Unnamed location on Banaba (81 meters/266 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: Midnight = noon GMT

Longest distances: Not available

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 1,143 kilometers (709 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Kiribati (h2onounced "Kiribass") is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and Australia, situated at the intersection of the equator and the international date line. The islands are scattered over more than five million square kilometers (two million square miles) of ocean.


Kiribati has no territories or dependencies.


Located in the equatorial region, Kiribati's climate is tempered by the easterly trade winds, and humidity is high during the November to April rainy season. Occasional gales and tornadoes occur on the islands, even though they lie outside the tropical hurricane belt. The average temperature is 27°C (81°F) year-round. Daily temperatures, however, range between 25°C and 32°C (77°F and 90°F). Near the equator, annual rainfall averages 102 centimeters (40 inches), and in the extreme north and south, it averages 305 centimeters (120 inches). The islands also face the possibility of severe droughts.


Kiribati comprises three island groups of thirty-three low atolls, or coral islands. The three island groups are dispersed over the mid-Pacific: the Gilbert Islands on the equator; the Phoenix Islands to the east; and the Line Islands to the north of the equator.

The Gilbert group consists of Abaiang, Abemama, Aranuka, Arorae, Banaba (formerly Ocean Island), Beru, Butaritari, Kuria, Maiana, Makin, Marakei, Nikunau, Nonouti, Onotoa, Tabiteuea, Tamana, and Tarawa.

The Phoenix group is composed of Birnie, Kanton (Abariringa), Enderbury, Gardner (Nikumaroro), Hull (Orona), McKean, Phoenix (Rawaki), and Sydney (Manra).

The Line Group encompasses Christmas (Kiritimati), Fanning (Tabuaeran), Malden, Starbuck, Vostock, Washington (Teraina), Caroline, and Flint; the last two are leased to commercial interests on Tahiti. Only some of the islands are inhabited. With an area of 481 square kilometers (186 square miles), Christmas Island (Kiritimati) is the largest atoll in the world.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

As almost all of the islands are coral atolls (except for Banaba), they are built on a submerged volcanic chain and are low-lying.

Sea Inlets and Straits

A reef encloses a lagoon in most of the atolls.

Islands and Archipelagos

Christmas Island (Kiritimati), representing about half the total land area of Kiribati, is the largest of the world's coral atolls. The other Line IslandsTabuaeran, Malden, Starbuck, Vostok, Teraina, and Flintare either sparsely inhabited or uninhabited, although Tabuaeran Island has become a stop for cruise ships.

Banaba Island is among the most westerly islands in Kiribati, and once was a rich source of phosphate. But of all the islands making up the country, Banaba has suffered the most negative environmental effects from phosphate mining, which include air pollution, water pollution, loss of green cover, and diminished aesthetic appeal of the natural surroundings. The land quality and phosphate resources have both deteriorated to the point that Banaba is no longer either mined or inhabited.

Coastal Features

Because of Christmas Island's low-lying land, it is sensitive to changes in sea level; a rise of even 60 centimeters (24 inches) in sea level would leave the island uninhabitable. On the east coast of Christmas Island (Kiritimati) is the Bay of Wrecks, named for the many sunken ships that struck the coral reefs just offshore. The western coast of the island forms a large, reverse C -shape, enclosing a lagoon.


There are dozens of lakes and ponds sprinkled across the interiors of the islands. Christmas Island has several large lagoons lying in its interior, including Manulu Lagoon in the north, Isles Lagoon in the center, and Fresh Water Lagoons in the south.


The islands of Kiribati do not support any rivers.


There are no desert regions in Kiribati.


The soil is poor and rainfall is variable on the islands, making cultivation of most crops impossible. Coconut palms and pandanus trees, however, grow without difficulty on most of the islands.

The islands are low-lying, with no significant hill or valley regions.


The islands of Kiribati are low-lying, with little variation in elevation. The island of Banaba, however, has the country's highest elevation, at 81 meters (266 feet) high.


The islands of Kiribati have no significant canyons or caves.


There are no elevated regions in Kiribati above 81 meters (266 feet).


There are no significant man-made features in Kiribati.


Most Kiribatians live in small villages of 10 to 150 houses. They build their own homes from local materials.



Däniken, Erich von. Pathways to the Gods: The Stones of Kiribati. New York: Putnam, 1982.

Grimble, Arthur Francis. Migrations, Myth, and Magic from the Gilbert Islands. London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1972.

Web Sites

Consular Information Sheet: Kiribati. (accessed April 24, 2003).

Kiribati Home Page. (accessed April 24, 2003).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from



Basic Data
Official Country Name: Kiribati
Region: Oceania
Population: 91,985
Language(s): English, Gilbertese
Literacy Rate: NA

The Republic of Kiribati consists of 33 coral islands and is located in the central Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Kiribati gained independence from Britain in 1979 and has a population of 91,985 people (July 2000 est.). Kiribati are generally described as Micronesian, and many speak Gilbertese, a Micronesian dialect, on the islands surrounding the capital island of Tarawa. However, English is the official language and is most commonly spoken on Tarawa and is understood in all government offices.

Education in Kiribati is free and compulsory for ages 6 to 13. Primary education includes the first seven years: classes one to six. The 110 government-funded primary schools throughout the islands enroll 17,594 students (approximately 49 percent female) and employ 727 teachers (approximately 62 percent female). In 1997, some 75 students were retained in a primary grade because of inadequate academic performance. Educational attainment in Kiribati is largely restricted to the primary level; this is principally the result of a lack of availability and cost of secondary and tertiary schools on the islands.

Secondary education (classes 7 through 11) placements are competitive and based on scores from a National Entrance Examination. Less than 20 percent of primary school children receive any secondary education. In 1997, there were 1,901 students enrolled in secondary schools. Students who wish to continue to receive education beyond the primary level, but are unable to find placement in a secondary school, may continue for another three years in Classes 7-9.

In 2001 there were 6 academic secondary schools, which employed 192 teachers throughout the republic, providing technical, professional, and administrative training. These include the Catholic Senior College on North Tarawa, the Catholic Junior College on Abaiang, the Hiram Bingham High School on Beru, the Seventh Day Adventist on Abemama, the South Tarawa-Moroni High School (Mormon), and the King George V (boys' section) and Elaine Bernacchi (girls' section) on Tarawa.

Since 1973, the University of the South Pacific has had an extension site in Kiribati. It is connected to the main campus in Fiji via satellite and radio telephones. However, most students from Kiribati attend the University of the South Pacific in New Zealand or Australia on funded scholarships. Other institutions of higher learning include the Tarawa Technical Institute, which offers technical and vocational courses; a maritime training school, which prepares students for careers at sea; a teacher training college, which produces the majority of teachers on the islands; and a nurse training school.

The Ministry of Education oversees education in Kiribati. Control of educational issues is given to the Minister of Education who appoints a permanent secretary. Administration is centralized with little authority given to individual schools. The government, churches, and parents provide funding for the educational system. In 1993, educational expenditures accounted for approximately 25 percent of the national budget. Curriculum development for the schools is conducted through the Ministry's Curriculum Development Center in Tarawa. As of April 2001, Kiribati had not participated in any international or local research studies to assess the effectiveness and provision of education in the republic. However, the literacy rate was estimated to be about 90 percent.


United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization: Institute for Statistics, September 2000. Available from

Kiribati: Education, 1996. Available from

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from

Greg Forehand and Sanna J. Thompson

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." World Education Encyclopedia. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." World Education Encyclopedia. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." World Education Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from


Kiribati (kĬr´Ĭbăs´), officially Republic of Kiribati (2005 est. pop. 103,000), 342 sq mi (886 sq km), consisting of 33 islands scattered across 2,400 mi (3,860 km) of the Pacific Ocean near the equator. It includes 8 of the 11 Line Islands, including Kiritimati (formerly Christmas Island), as well as the Gilbert and Phoenix groups and Banaba (formerly Ocean Island). Tarawa is the capital. The population is nearly all Micronesian, with about half concentrated on S Tarawa. English is the official language, and Kiribati, a Micronesian language, is also spoken. Some 50% of the inhabitants are Roman Catholic, while 40% are Protestant.

Fishing and the growing of coconuts, taro, breadfruit, and sweet potatoes form the basis of the mainly subsistence economy. The mining of Banaba's once thick phosphate deposits ended in 1979. Copra, coconuts, seaweed, and fish are the chief exports; foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, manufactured goods, and fuel are imported. Australia, Japan, Fiji, and the Unites States are the main trading partners.

A member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the nation is a republic governed under the constitution of 1979. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is elected by popular vote for a four-year term and is eligible for two more terms. The unicameral House of Parliament has 42 members, most elected by popular vote, who serve four-year terms. Administratively the country is divided into three units (the Gilbert, Line, and Phoenix islands), and subdivided into six districts. There are also 21 island councils, one for each of the inhabited islands.


The islands were settled beginning more than two millenia ago by successive waves of migrants from Southeast Asia, Tonga, and Fiji. The first Europeans to sight the islands were the Spanish (1606). In the late 1800s many islanders were often taken against their will to work abroad. The islands were administered (1892–1916) with the Ellice Islands as a British protectorate that became (1916) the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony. They gained self-rule in 1971, and, after the Ellice Islands gained (1978) independence as Tuvalu, the remaining islands were granted independence (1979) as Kiribati. U.S. claims to several islands, including Kanton (formerly Canton) and Enderbury, were abandoned in 1979. Overcrowding has been a problem, and in 1988 it was announced that 4,700 residents of the main island group would be resettled onto less populated islands. In 1994 Teburovo Tito was elected president. In 1995, Kiribati moved the international date line to the eastern border of the sprawling island nation so that it would no longer be divided by the date line. Tito was reelected in 1998 and 2003, but in Mar., 2003, he was removed from office by a no-confidence vote, and replaced by a Council of State. Anote Tong was elected to succeed Tito in July, 2003, and was reelected in 2007 and 2012.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from



Basic Data

Official Country Name: Kiribati
Region (Map name): Oceania
Population: 91,985
Language(s): English, Gilbertese
Literacy rate: N/A

Kiribati (pronounced "Kiribass") is one of the smallest countries in the world. Although it includes some 33 atollsonly twenty of which are inhabitedits total land area is only 264 square miles. The island group, located in Oceania between Australia and Hawaii, was once called the Gilbert Islands and was controlled by Britain. It achieved self-rule in 1971 and, when it declared independence in 1979, it did so under its new name. Kiribati is governed by a President, and the legislative branch consists of a 41-seat unicameral House of Assembly, or Maneaba Ni Maungatabu. The approximate population is 92,000. Natural resources are scarce in Kiribati, as is skilled labor. The most important exports are copra (the white meat of the coconut) and fish. Financial aid from Britain and Japan also supplement the gross national product.

Freedom of speech and of the press is generally respected. There are two main papers in Kiribati, and both are weekly. Te Uekera is a government-owned paper managed and owned by a board that is overseen by a government minister. Its approximate circulation is 1,800. Its competition comes from the country's independent newspaper, The Kiribati Newstar, which debuted in May 2000. It appears on Friday and publishes in the native language with some English content. It is available online. The Catholic Church publishes a monthly newspaper called Te Itoi ni Kiribati, and the Protestant Church produces a weekly newspaper called Kaotan te Ota, but publication is irregular. There are two radio stations, one AM and one FM, for 17,000 radios. There is one television station broadcasting to 1,000 televisions, and TSKL is the island's sole Internet service provider.


"Country Profile." , 2002. Available from

"Country ReportKiribati." Australian Press Council, 2002. Available from

"Kiribati." CIA World Fact Book, 2001. Available from

"Political Rights and Civil Liberties." Freedom House, 2000. Available from

Jenny B. Davis

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." World Press Encyclopedia. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." World Press Encyclopedia. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." World Press Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from



Culture Name

I-Kiribati or kaini Kiribati. "Kiribati" is a transliteration of "Gilberts," the British colonial name for part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony.

Alternative Names

The Kiribati name for the Gilbert Islands is Tungaru, and the archipelago's inhabitants sometimes refer to themselves as I-Tungaru. Island of origin is an important aspect of identification that predates colonialism, and I-Kiribati differentiate themselves by birthplace.


Identification. Kiribati is located at the interface of the Micronesian and Polynesian cultural areas and is generally considered Micronesian. The over-whelming majority of the population is I-Kiribati, with very small minorities (less than 2 percent) of Tuvaluans and I-Matang (Westerners).

Location and Geography. The country consists of 33 islands in three primary groupsthe western Tungaru chain (sixteen islands), the Phoenix Islands (eight islands), and the Line Islands (eight of the ten islands in the chain)plus Banaba (Ocean Island) at the western edge of the nation. Ocean-rich and land-poor, these equatorial islands are scattered over millions of square kilometers of the central Pacific Ocean, with a total land area of about 284 square miles (736 square kilometers). Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in the northern Line Islands accounts for about 48 percent of this land area. Banaba is a raised limestone island, but the other islands are all coral atolls, and most have lagoons. These atolls rise less than thirteen feet (four meters) above sea level, raising concerns over rising sea levels as a result of global warming. The thin alkaline soils are extremely infertile, and there is no fresh surface water. Mean daily temperatures vary only slightly, averaging approximately 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius). The north of the Tungaru chain is wetter, more verdant, and less prone to drought than the south.

Demography. Banaba and the sixteen most westerly islands have been inhabited for over three thousand years by ancestors of the contemporary I-Kiribati. The Phoenix Islands and Line Islands were not permanently inhabited before the twentieth century. Twenty of the islands are permanently settled. The majority of the population (92 percent) lives in the Tungaru chain, with over one-third living on urban South Tarawa.

The population reached 84,000 in 1998, and is growing at a rate of 1.41.8 percent per year. Population has been growing rapidly since the early 1900s, and overpopulation is a serious concern of the government. While family-planning methods were introduced in 1968 and are delivered free, fertility remains moderately high and large families are culturally valued. Despite government efforts to maintain and improve life on the outer islands, there has been substantial migration to the capital on South Tarawa. There are several thousand I-Kiribati in other countries, most serving as temporary workers. There is a small migrant community of I-Kiribati in Vanuatu. Most Banabans were resettled on Rabi Island in Fiji, and became Fijian citizens in 1970. However, they retain ownership of land on Banaba and rights of residence and representation in Kiribati.

Linguistic Affiliation. The I-Kiribati language, sometimes referred to as Gilbertese, is a Micronesian language in the Austronesian family and is spoken in a relatively uniform manner throughout the islands. While the language shows considerable borrowing from Polynesia, it is distinct from the language of neighboring Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands. English is the official language and is taught in primary and secondary schools. Many adults on the outer islands speak little English.

Symbolism. Symbols of nationalism are linked centrally to independence. The primary symbol of the republic is the flag, which depicts a frigate bird over an ocean sunrise. Seventeen rays of sunlight represent the sixteen Tungaru islands and Banaba, and three waves represent the Tungaru, Phoenix, and Line island groups. On the flag is the motto te mauri te raoi ao te tabomoa ("Good Health, Peace, and Honor"). The national anthem is Teirake kaini Kiribati (Stand Up, I-Kiribati ).

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. In 1892, the Gilbert Islands became a protectorate of Great Britain and were joined with the Ellice Islands protectorate in 1916 to form the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. In that year, Banaba, Fanning Island (Tabuaeran), Washington Island (Teraina), and the Union Islands (Tokelau) became part of the colony, as did Kiritimati in 1919 and most of the Phoenix Islands in 1937.

Despite a centralized colonial government, a schism developed over time between the culturally and linguistically different Gilbert and Ellice Islanders concerning jobs and other political issues. This ultimately resulted in the separation of the Ellice Islands to become Tuvalu in 1978. In contrast to Kiribati, Tuvalu opted for membership in the British Commonwealth. In July 1979, the Gilberts, Banaba, and the Phoenix and Line Islands became the independent Republic of Kiribati.

Several islands in northern and central Kiribati were occupied by the Japanese in World War II, and the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943 was one of the bloodiest of that war. However, there was little ongoing impact from the Japanese occupation.

National Identity. Precolonially, the people of the Tungaru islands formed small, shifting political units, and there was no unified economic or political system or cultural identity. A single national identity emerged only after World War II as a result of colonial policies intended to move the area toward political independence.

Differences between the northern, central, and southern islands of Tungaru, especially in terms of social and political organization, traditions, and group characteristics, are clearly identified by I-Kiribati and underlie national politics. Traditionally, the north had a more complex social organization with a kingship and chiefly classes compared with the more egalitarian social structure of the south. Currently the north and central islands are seen as more progressive than the south, which is more politically and socially conservative.

Ethnic Relations. I-Kiribati can be considered culturally and ethnically homogeneous, with a shared genetic history, cultural traditions, values, historical experience, and language. I-Kiribati distinguish themselves from neighboring island groups and see the greatest conceptual divide between themselves and I-Matang ("Westerners"). The culture and language of Banaba are basically I-Kiribati. The primary issue in Banaban independence movements has been the distribution of phosphate revenues, not cultural differences.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Rural houses usually are built of traditional materials and are open-sided rectangular structures with thatched roofs and raised floors. In towns, more houses are built with imported materials such as concrete block and corrugated iron. The most symbolically important structure is the rectangular, open-sided maneaba (meeting house), which may be owned by a family, church community, or village. The maneaba functions as a central place for formal and informal group activities. Maneaba built with modern materials follow the traditional prescriptions of style, aspect, and orientation. The floor is composed of unmarked but known sitting places termed boti arranged around the perimeter, with one belonging to each family represented in the maneaba ; this is the place from which a representative (usually the oldest male) of each family participates in community discussions and decision making. Churches are architecturally European and often are the largest structures in a village.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Fish and marine resources are a primary food source, as the ecological nature of atolls mean that only the most hardy plants can grow there. Local crops include coconut, giant swamp taro, breadfruit, pandanus, and a native fig. Coconut is central to the diet and is especially valued for the sweet, vitamin-rich toddy (sap) cut from the flower spathe. Toddy is used as a children's drink or as a base for syrup. It can also be soured into vinegar and fermented into an alcoholic drink. Drunkenness is a widespread problem that is dealt with on some islands by the prohibition of alcohol. Imported goods, especially rice, but also flour, canned butter, and canned fish and meat, are becoming increasingly important in the daily diet.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. The display and eating of prestige foods is central to all celebrations and banquets. Although imported goods are increasingly available, local foods are more important in feasting, such as crayfish, giant clam, pig, chicken, and giant swamp taro. The most symbolically valued crop is giant swamp taro, which is grown in pits dug into the water lens under each atoll.

Basic Economy. Around 80 percent of the population engages in subsistence agriculture and fishing. The cash economy is limited largely to South Tarawa, where the private sector of the economy is very small and there are few manufacturing enterprises. Independence in 1979 coincided with the end of phosphate mining on Banaba, which in 1978 had accounted for 88 percent of the nation's export earnings. The cash economy has now shifted to dependence on remittances from I-Kiribati employed in phosphate mining on Nauru or working as seamen on foreign-owned merchant ships, as well as foreign aid. Accounting for some 60 percent of the gross domestic product in 1995, aid is received mainly from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the European Union. The government has determined that there is potential for the development of tourism. However, economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and geographic remoteness.

Land Tenure and Property. Access to and ownership of land underlie and cement social relations. A vital unit in I-Kiribati society, the utu includes all those people who are linked as kin and share common ownership of land plots. Everyone on an island belongs to several utu; people may inherit the land rights for each utu from either parent. The kainga, or family estate, sits at the heart of each utu, and those who live on the particular kainga of one of their utu have the greatest say in utu affairs and the largest share of produce from the land in that utu. The colonial government attempted to reorganize the land tenure system to encourage the codification of individual land holdings, in part to reduce land disputes. As a result, land transfers are now registered.

Commercial Activities. Marine resources have emerged as the most important natural resource for Kiribati, particularly the licensing of foreign fishing vessels to fish in the two hundred nautical miles of the exclusive economic zone in the waters surrounding the islands. Efforts to develop a competitive local fishing company have been less successful but large stocks of tuna fish remain in Kiribati waters. Copra, fish, and farmed seaweed are major exports.

Trade. The primary imports are food, manufactured goods, vehicles, fuel, and machinery. Most consumer goods are imported from Australia, and the Australian dollar is the unit of currency.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Generally, postcolonial Kiribati can be considered a relatively classless society. A new social class of young leaders is emerging, however, threatening the village-based traditional authority of elders. There are also growing income disparities, and access to higher education is emerging as a key differentiating factor.

Political Life

Government. The boti, or clan, system, which according to oral tradition was imported from Samoa around 1400 c.e., remained the central focus of social and political life in Tungaru until around 1870. By the time of the establishment of the British protectorate in 1892, the traditional boti system had largely been eradicated, replaced judicially and administratively by a central government station on each island. Another major change came when the colonial administration completely reorganized the land tenure system before the 1930s, taking households that had been dispersed as hamlets in the bush and lining them up in villages along a central thoroughfare. At that time, control over village and family activities started to move to the heads of families. In 1963, the British colonial government abolished the kingship (uea ) system that was part of the traditional political structure of the northern islands. The council of elders (unimane ) that historically included all the male senior family heads is now responsible for overseeing village and island affairs. Local government consists of statutory island councils with elected members and limited administrative and financial powers and government-appointed administrators.

The government consists of a Maneaba ni Maungatabu, or parliament, which is unicameral. The Beretitenti, or president, is elected by popular vote every four years and is both head of government and chief of state. There is no tradition of formal political parties, although there are loosely structured political parties. There is universal suffrage at age 18.

Leadership and Political Officials. The council of elders in each community continues to be an effective local political force. The village household is the most important unit, and within it the most important person is the oldest male.

Social Problems and Control. The judicial branch of the government includes a court of appeals and a high court, as well as a magistrate's court on each inhabited island. The jurisdiction of the magistrates' courts is unlimited in land matters but limited in criminal and civil cases. There are small police forces on all the islands. Emerging substantial problems include embezzlement (often connected with the practice of bubuti, or requests by kin that cannot be refused), robbery, sexual coercion, and child and domestic abuse, often linked to alcohol use.

Military Activity. There is no standing army. Kiribati has shown some assertiveness in its foreign relations, for example, in the 1986 fishing rights treaty that was negotiated with the Soviet Union despite strong opposition from the United States.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Nongovernmental organizations (NGO) include the Catholic and Protestant women's organizations and the Scouting Association and Guiding Association. An NGO of traditional healers was recently formed. Australian, British, Japanese, and American volunteer organizations are active in Kiribati.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Labor is divided by gender, with men fishing and collecting toddy and doing heavy construction tasks, while women handle child care and cook and keep house; both genders cultivate crops. While women may fish and often collect shellfish in the lagoon, only men may collect toddy. There is a clear status ranking in each household, which is usually headed by the oldest male unless he is too elderly to be active. The control of domestic activities lies with a senior married woman.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. While Kiribati society is currently egalitarian, democratic, and respectful of human rights, in the traditional culture women occupy a subordinate role. Job opportunities for women are limited, and there is no law against gender discrimination. Few women have served in key governmental or political positions. Women have started to play a more prominent role through women's associations and they now occasionally speak in the maneaba.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Although historically polygamy was practiced, the marriage system is now monogamous. Arranged marriages remain common, especially in rural areas. "Love matches" and elopements have become more common and are tolerated by most families. Virginity tests of the bride remain valued despite criticism by churches. Marriage is almost universal, and divorce is unpopular and uncommon.

Domestic Unit. The household is commonly based on a single nuclear family and may include aging parents and adoptive kin. Patrilocal residence remains common in rural areas, with married women moving to live on the husband's kainga.

Kin Groups. The main kinship units are mwenga ("household"), utu ("related family"), and kainga. Membership in mwenga is determined by residence, in utu by kin relations, and in kainga by common property holding and descent from a common ancestor. Inheritance of property and kinship are traced through both the mother's and the father's families. Adoption is widely practiced, especially between close kin.


Infant Care. In this pro-natal society, infants are showered with attention and care by both parents and by the extended family. In the first few months after a birth, the mother stays in the house with the baby, and breast-feeding on demand is standard until at least six months of age. Kiribati has one of the highest infant death rates in the world as a result of diarrheal disease and respiratory infection.

Child Rearing and Education. After infancy, care by siblings, especially sisters, is very common, even by siblings as young as eight years. Children are indulged until they are about four years old, after which they become subject to strict parental and kin authority reinforced by corporal punishment. Crying and emotional outbreaks are not tolerated, and a good child is obedient, helpful, and respectful. By age eight or nine, children are expected to start helping around the house.

Schooling is compulsory for children from age six. Approximately 20 percent of primary students go on to receive secondary education. Education is highly valued by parents as a means of increasing their children's wage-earning abilities.

Higher Education. Higher education is expanding and increasingly valued. Kiribati participates with eleven other Pacific Island countries in funding the University of the South Pacific with its main campus in Suva, Fiji. Technical education is available in South Tarawa at the Teacher's Training College, Tarawa Technical Institute, and the Marine Training Centre.


The most important aspect of etiquette for locals and guests involves behavior in the maneaba, where there are appropriate places and ways to sit and interact. In all aspects of life, humility and humbleness are admired. Direct eye contact is uncommon, and it is inappropriate to look directly at one of higher status or cut between the gaze of talking individuals. Touching of heads is considered extremely intimate, and the top of the head is a taboo area. Modest dress is important for women, and cleanliness of the body and clothing is valued.


Religious Beliefs. According to I-Kiribati mythology, the giant spider Nareau was the creator, followed by spirits (anti ), half spirits, half humans, and finally humans. The anti were the most important figures in I-Kiribati worship before Christian missionaries arrived, and they remain respected in everyday life.

Conversion activity began in 1852 with the arrival of Protestant missionaries. There was a rivalry between the Catholic and Protestant missions, resulting in deep-seated animosities that remain as an undercurrent in national and island politics. Just over half of all I-Kiribati are Catholic, almost half are Protestant, and the remainder are Seventh-Day Adventist, Baha'i, and members of the Church of God and the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

Medicine and Health Care

Life expectancy is low, and the most common causes of adult death are infectious diseases, including tuberculosis. Liver cancer is a common cause of male death, exacerbated by widespread infection with hepatitis B and heavy alcohol use. There have been several cases of AIDS. Traffic-related accidents are increasing.

While a new central hospital was completed in Tarawa in 1992 and the Ministry of Health and Family Planning provides free medical care in most villages, medical supplies and services are not always available. A pluralistic system of traditional herbal and massage treatments is maintained alongside biomedical services, and many women give birth at home. Healing traditions are passed on as special knowledge within families.

Secular Celebrations

The most important holiday is the annual celebration of independence on 12 July, which includes sports competitions, parades, and feasts. Other national holidays include New Year's Day, Easter, Christmas, and Youth Day (4 August).


Brewis, Alexandra. Lives on the Line: Women and Ecology on a Pacific Atoll, 1996.

Grimble, Arthur Francis and H. E. Maude, eds. Tungaru Traditions: Writings on the Atoll Culture of the Gilbert Islands, 1989.

Macdonald, Barrie. Cinderellas of the Empire: Toward a History of Kiribati and Tuvalu, 1982.

Mason, Leonard, ed. Kiribati: A Changing Atoll Culture, 1984.

Talu et al. Kiribati: Aspects of History, 1979.

Van Trease, Howard, ed. Atoll Politics: The Republic of Kiribati, 1993.

Alexandra Brewis and Sandra Crismon

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." Countries and Their Cultures. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." Countries and Their Cultures. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." Countries and Their Cultures. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from


Kiribati (formerly Gilbert Islands) Independent nation in the w Pacific Ocean, comprising about 33 islands, including the Gilbert, Phoenix, and Line Islands, and straddling the Equator over a vast area; the capital is Bairiki (on Tarawa). British navigators first visited the islands during the late 18th century. They became a British protectorate in 1892. Kiribati achieved full independence within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1979. Phosphate mining dominated the economy until 1980, when production ended because of diminishing resources. Agriculture is now the major economic activity. Land area: 717sq km (277sq mi). Pop. (2002 est.) 94,900.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." World Encyclopedia. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." World Encyclopedia. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from


Kiribati, formerly the Gilbert Islands, is an independent republic within the Commonwealth. It lies to the north-east of Fiji, and became independent in 1979. The islands were visited by various navigators in the later 18th cent., including Captain Thomas Gilbert in 1788. The inhabitants were then cannibals. The Gilbert Islands became a British protectorate in 1892 and were occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War. They rely upon fishing and agriculture and export coconuts, copra, and bananas.

J. A. Cannon

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." The Oxford Companion to British History. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." The Oxford Companion to British History. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from


KIRIBATI [Pronounced /ˈkɪrɪbæs/]. A country of Oceania and member of the COMMONWEALTH. Languages: Kiribati (Gilbertese) and English (both official). Formerly known as the Gilbert Islands, and part of the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Kiribati gained its independence in 1979. See TUVALU.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"KIRIBATI." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"KIRIBATI." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . (December 13, 2017).

"KIRIBATI." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from


Kiribatibatty, bratty, catty, chatty, Cincinnati, Dolcelatte, fatty, flattie, Hattie, natty, patty, ratty, Satie, Scarlatti, scatty, Tati, tattie, tatty •faculty •Alicante, andante, ante, anti, Ashanti, Bramante, Chianti, Dante, dilettante, Fante, Ferranti, infante, scanty, shanty (US chanty), spumante, vigilante, Zante •Asti, pasty •pederasty •Amati, arty, Astarte, castrati, chapatti, clarty, coati, ex parte, Frascati, glitterati, Gujarati, hearty, illuminati, karate, Kiribati, lathi, literati, Marathi, obbligati (US obligati), party, tarty •crafty, draughty (US drafty) •auntie • nasty • contrasty •amaretti, amoretti, Betti, Betty, confetti, cornetti, Donizetti, Getty, Giacometti, Hettie, jetty, machete, Marinetti, Nettie, petit, petty, Rossetti, Serengeti, spaghetti, sweaty, vaporetti, yeti •hefty, lefty •felty, sheltie •penalty • specialty • empty •al dente, aplenty, cognoscenti, divertimenti, lisente, plenty, portamenti, sente, twenty, twenty-twenty •seventy • peasanty •chesty, testy, zesty •Ghiberti

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kiribati." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 13 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kiribati." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (December 13, 2017).

"Kiribati." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from