Marshall Islands

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After almost four decades under US administration as the easternmost part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands attained independence in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association. Compensation claims continue as a result of US nuclear testing on some of the atolls between 1947 and 1962. The Marshall Islands hosts the US Army Kwajalein Atoll Reagan Missile Test Site, a key installation in the US missile defense network. Kwajalein also hosts one of four dedicated ground antennas (the others are on Ascension (Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha), Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory), and at Cape Canaveral, Florida (US)) that assist in the operation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation system.

Geography

Location

Oceania, two archipelagic island chains of 29 atolls, each made up of many small islets, and five single islands in the North Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia

Geographic coordinates

9.00° N, 168.00° E

Area 217/257

total: 181 sq km

land: 181 sq km

water: 0 sq km

note: the archipelago includes 11,673 sq km of lagoon waters and encompasses the atolls of Bikini, Enewetak, Kwajalein, Majuro, Rongelap, and Utirik

Area - comparative

about the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km

Coastline

370.4 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical; hot and humid; wet season May to November; islands border typhoon belt

Terrain

low coral limestone and sand islands

Elevation

mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

highest point: unnamed location on Likiep 10 m

Natural resources

coconut products, marine products, deep seabed minerals

Land use

agricultural land: 50.7%

arable land 7.8%; permanent crops 31.2%; permanent pasture 11.7%

forest: 49.3%

other: 0% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

infrequent typhoons

Environment - current issues

inadequate supplies of potable water; pollution of Majuro lagoon from household waste and discharges from fishing vessels

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

the islands of Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites; Kwajalein atoll, famous as a World War II battleground, surrounds the world's largest lagoon and is used as a US missile test range; the island city of Ebeye is the second largest settlement in the Marshall Islands, after the capital of Majuro, and one of the most densely populated locations in the Pacific

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Marshallese (singular and plural)

adjective: Marshallese

Ethnic groups

Marshallese 92.1%, mixed Marshallese 5.9%, other 2% (2006)

Languages

Marshallese (official) 98.2%, other languages 1.8% (1999 census)

note: English (official), widely spoken as a second language

Religions

Protestant 54.8%, Assembly of God 25.8%, Roman Catholic 8.4%, Bukot nan Jesus 2.8%, Mormon 2.1%, other Christian 3.6%, other 1%, none 1.5% (1999 census)

Population 203/238

72,191 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 36.02% (male 13,256/female 12,749)

15-24 years: 17.4% (male 6,391/female 6,171)

25-54 years: 37.25% (male 13,681/female 13,210)

55-64 years: 5.73% (male 2,120/female 2,017)

65 years and over: 3.6% (male 1,276/female 1,320) (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 22.6 years

male: 22.5 years

female: 22.7 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 71/233

1.66% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 48/224

25.6 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 206/225

4.21 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 192/222

-4.83 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 72.7% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 0.59% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

MAJURO (capital) 31,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.97 male(s)/female

total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

20.7

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2007 est.)

Infant mortality rate 85/224

total: 20.66 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 23.29 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 17.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 136/224

total population: 72.84 years

male: 70.67 years

female: 75.13 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 52/224

3.15 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

44.6% (2007)

Health expenditures 2/191

16.5% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

0.44 physicians/1,000 population (2010)

Hospital bed density

2.7 beds/1,000 population (2010)

Drinking water source

improved:

urban: 93.5% of population

rural: 97.6% of population

total: 94.6% of population

unimproved:

urban: 6.5% of population

rural: 2.4% of population

total: 5.4% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved:

urban: 84.5% of population

rural: 56.2% of population

total: 76.9% of population

unimproved:

urban: 15.5% of population

rural: 43.8% of population

total: 23.1% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

NA

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

NA

HIV/AIDS - deaths

NA

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 9/191

42.3% (2014)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of the Marshall Islands

conventional short form: Marshall Islands

local long form: Republic of the Marshall Islands

local short form: Marshall Islands

abbreviation: RMI

former: Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Marshall Islands District

etymology: named after British Captain John MARSHALL, who charted many of the islands in 1788

Government type

constitutional government in free association with the US; the Compact of Free Association entered into force on 21 October 1986 and the Amended Compact entered into force in May 2004

Capital

name: Majuro

geographic coordinates: 7.06° N, 171.23° E

time difference: UTC+12 (17 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

24 municipalities; Ailinglaplap, Ailuk, Arno, Aur, Bikini & Kili, Ebon, Enewetak & Ujelang, Jabat, Jaluit, Kwajalein, Lae, Lib, Likiep, Majuro, Maloelap, Mejit, Mili, Namdrik, Namu, Rongelap, Ujae, Utrik, Wotho, Wotje

Independence

21 October 1986 (from the US-administered UN trusteeship)

National holiday

Constitution Day, 1 May (1979)

Constitution

effective 1 May 1979; amended several times, last in 1995 (2015)

Legal system

mixed legal system of US and English common law, customary law, and local statutes

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of the Marshall Islands

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Hilda C. HEINE (since 28 January 2016); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Hilda C. HEINE (since 28 January 2016)

cabinet: Cabinet nominated by the president from among members of the Nitijela, appointed by Nitijela speaker

elections/appointments: president indirectly elected by the Nitijela from among its members for a 4-year term (no term limits); election last held on 27 January 2016 (next to be held in 2020)

election results: Hilda C. HEINE elected president on 27 January 2016; Parliament vote - Hilda C. HEINE 24, she was the only candidate

Legislative branch

description: bicameral legislature consists of the Council of Iroij (12 seats; consists of tribal chiefs chosen by holders of the chieftainship among the constituent islands) and the National Parliament or Nitijela (33 seats; members directly elected by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms); note - the Council of Iroij advises the Presidential Cabinet and reviews legislation affecting customary law or any traditional practice)

elections: last held on 21 November 2011 (next to be held by November 2015)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - independents 33

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice and other judges as prescribed by law)

judge selection and term of office: judges appointed by the Cabinet on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission and upon the approval of the Nitijela; judges appointed until retirement, normally at age 72

subordinate courts: High Court; District Courts; Traditional Rights Court; Community Courts

Political parties and leaders

traditionally there have been no formally organized political parties; what has existed more closely resembles factions or interest groups because they do not have party headquarters, formal platforms, or party structures; the following two "groupings" have competed in legislative balloting in recent years - Aelon Kein Ad Party [Michael KABUA] and United Democratic Party or UDP [Litokwa TOMEING]

Political pressure groups and leaders

NA

International organization participation

ACP, ADB, AOSIS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, IDA, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, WHO

Flag description

blue with two stripes radiating from the lower hoist-side corner - orange (top) and white; a white star with four large rays and 20 small rays appears on the hoist side above the two stripes; blue represents the Pacific Ocean, the orange stripe signifies the Ralik Chain or sunset and courage, while the white stripe signifies the Ratak Chain or sunrise and peace; the star symbolizes the cross of Christianity, each of the 24 rays designates one of the electoral districts in the country and the four larger rays highlight the principal cultural centers of Majuro, Jaluit, Wotje, and Ebeye; the rising diagonal band can also be interpreted as representing the equator, with the star showing the archipelago's position just to the north

National symbol(s)

a 24-rayed star; national colors: blue, white, orange

National anthem

name: "Forever Marshall Islands"

lyrics/music: Amata KABUA

note: adopted 1981

Economy

Economy - overview

US assistance and lease payments for the use of Kwajalein Atoll as a US military base are the mainstay of this small island country. The Marshall Islands received roughly $1 billion in aid from the US during 1986-2001 under the original Compact of Free Association (Compact). In 2002 and 2003, the US and the Marshall Islands renegotiated the Compact's financial package for a 20-year period, from 2004 to 2024. Under the amended Compact, the Marshall Islands will receive roughly $1.5 billion in direct US assistance. Agricultural production, primarily subsistence, is concentrated on small farms; the most important commercial crops are coconuts and breadfruit. Industry is limited to handicrafts, tuna processing, and copra. Tourism holds some potential. The islands and atolls have few natural resources, and imports exceed exports. Under the amended Compact, the US is also funding, jointly with the Marshall Islands, a Trust Fund for the people of the Marshall Islands that will provide an income stream beyond 2024 when direct Compact aid is to end.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 220/230

$186.9 million (2015 est.)

$183.8 million (2014 est.)

$182.9 million (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$195 million (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 157/225

1.7% (2015 est.)

0.5% (2014 est.)

3% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 182/230

$3,400 (2015 est.)

$3,400 (2014 est.)

$3,400 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 4.4%

industry: 9.9%

services: 85.7% (2013 est.)

Agriculture - products

coconuts, tomatoes, melons, taro, breadfruit, fruits; pigs, chickens

Industries

copra, tuna processing, tourism, craft items (from seashells, wood, and pearls)

Industrial production growth rate

NA%

Labor force 217/233

10,670 (2013 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 11%

industry: 16.3%

services: 72.7% (2011 est.)

Unemployment rate 194/207

36% (2006 est.)

30.9% (2000 est.)

Population below poverty line

NA%

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%

highest 10%: NA%

Budget

revenues: $116.7 million

expenditures: $113.9 million (2013 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 6/219

59.8% of GDP (2013 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 16/220

1.4% of GDP (2013 est.)

Public debt 77/176

51.3% of GDP (2013)

Fiscal year

1 October - 30 September

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 18/226

-0.6% (2015 est.)

1.1% (2014 est.)

Current account balance 54/197

-$2 million (2015 est.)

-$34 million (2014 est.)

Exports 201/224

$53.7 million (2013 est.)

$58.1 million (2012)

Exports - commodities

copra cake, coconut oil, handicrafts, fish

Imports 213/223

$133.7 million (2013 est.)

$120.9 million (2012)

Imports - commodities

foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels, beverages, tobacco

Debt - external 194/206

$97.96 million (2013 est.)

$87 million (2008 est.)

Exchange rates

the US dollar is used

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines 213/219

total subscriptions: 2,400

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 3 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 212/217

total: 15,500

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 22 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: digital switching equipment; modern services include telex, cellular, Internet, international calling, caller ID, and leased data circuits

domestic: Majuro Atoll and Ebeye and Kwajalein islands have regular, seven-digit, direct-dial telephones; other islands interconnected by high frequency radiotelephone (used mostly for government purposes) and mini-satellite telephones

international: country code - 692; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean); US Government satellite communications system on Kwajalein (2005)

Broadcast media

no TV broadcast station; a cable network is available on Majuro with programming via videotape replay and satellite relays; 4 radio broadcast stations; American Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) provides satellite radio and television service to Kwajalein Atoll (2009)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 1, FM 3, shortwave 0 (additionally, the American Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (Central Pacific Network) operates one FM and one AM station on Kwajalein Island) (2005)

Television broadcast stations

2 (both are US military stations; Marshalls Broadcasting Service, a cable company, operates on Majuro) (2005)

Internet country code

.mh

Internet hosts 232/232

3 (2012)

Internet users 210/217

total: 1,700

percent of population: 2.4% (2014 est.)

Transportation

Airports 146/236

15 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 4

1,524 to 2,437 m: 3

914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 11

914 to 1,523 m: 10

under 914 m: 1 (2013)

Roadways 176/223

total: 2,028 km

paved: 75 km

note: roads are mostly unimproved (2007)

Merchant marine 7/156

total: 1,593

by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 524, cargo 65, carrier 1, chemical tanker 351, container 226, liquefied gas 88, passenger 7, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 297, refrigerated cargo 13, roll on/roll off 9, vehicle carrier 10

foreign-owned: 1,465 (Belgium 1, Bermuda 35, Brazil 1, Canada 8, China 14, Croatia 12, Cyprus 40, Denmark 7, Egypt 1, France 7, Germany 248, Greece 408, Hong Kong 3, India 10, Indonesia 1, Iraq 2, Ireland 6, Italy 1, Japan 59, Jersey 11, Kuwait 2, Latvia 19, Malaysia 11, Mexico 2, Monaco 30, Netherlands 21, Norway 75, Pakistan 1, Qatar 29, Romania 2, Russia 5, Singapore 30, Slovenia 6, South Korea 41, Sweden 1, Switzerland 12, Taiwan 8, Turkey 70, UAE 12, UK 12, Ukraine 1, US 200) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Enitwetak Island, Kwajalein, Majuro

Military and Security

Military branches

no regular military forces; Marshall Islands Police (2012)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

claims US territory of Wake Island