Australia is a continent as well as a country located between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean. Although the smallest continent it is the sixth largest country. With an area of 7.69 million sq km it is slightly smaller than the U.S. Australia's climate varies from temperate to tropical and arid. Australia is mostly low plateau with fertile region in the southeast. It has a number of deserts in the interior. Portions of Australia are subject to cyclones and other tropical storms as well as droughts.
Most of Australia's population of over 18 million people is concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts. The main ethnic group is Caucasian (92%). Aborigines make up less than 1% of the population. The main language is English. Non-Christians make up only about 11% of the population. The major religions are Anglican and Roman Catholic (approx. 26% each). Australians have one of the highest life expectancies at 80.1 years.
Australia is a commonwealth, associated with the UK. The chief of state is the British monarch. The head of government is the prime minister who is the leader of the majority party following legislative elections. There is a bicameral Federal Parliament. The judicial branch includes a High Court. The capital is Canberra.
Australia has a capitalist, western-style economy. Its per capita GDP is at the level of the four main western European economies. Australia is rich in natural resources and is a major exporter of agricultural products, minerals, metals and fossil fuels. It imports machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, and telecommunications equipment and parts. Its main trading partners include the U.S., UK, Japan and China.
Australia has a reasonably strong infrastructure. It has 38,563 km of railways. It has over 900,000 km of highways (more than one-third paved). It has over 8,000 km of pipelines and several ports and harbors. Of its 408 airports, 262 have paved runways.
Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is a group of islands from several island groups in the North Pacific Ocean about three quarters of the way from Hawaii to Indonesia. It includes Pohnpei (Ponape), Truk (Chuuk) Islands, Yap Islands and Kosrae. Altogether, FSM consists of over 600 islands with a total area of about 702 sq km which makes it about four times the size of Washington, D.C. These tropical islands vary from high mountainous islands to low coral atolls with volcanic origins. The islands are subject to typhoons.
The population of these islands numbers about 131,500 people made up of nine ethnic Micronesian and Polynesian groups. They are mostly Christian (about 50% Roman Catholic and 47% Protestant). The official language is English which is also the common language among the islands. Other languages spoken include Trukese, Pohnpeia, Yapese and Kosrean.
The Federated States of Micronesia are a constitutional government in free association with the United States. The president is the chief of state and the head of government. There is a unicameral legislature and a supreme court. The capital is Palikir.
Economic activity consists primarily of subsistence farming and fishing. The islands have few mineral deposits worth exploiting, except for high-grade phosphate. The potential for a tourist industry exists, but the remoteness of the location and a lack of adequate facilities hinder development. Financial assistance from the US is the primary source of revenue, with the US pledged to spend $1 billion in the islands in the 1990s. Geographical isolation and a poorly developed infrastructure are major impediments to long-term growth. The main exports include fish, garments, bananas, and black pepper. It imports food, manufactured goods, machinery and equipment and beverages. Its main trading partners include the U.S. and Japan.
The islands have no railways and only 42 of their 240 km of highways are paved. There are ports in several of the islands. Five of the six airports have paved runways.
Fiji is a small island group in Oceania between Hawaii and New Zealand. Its total area is about 18,270 sq km (slightly smaller than New Jersey). The islands are mostly mountainous and of volcanic origin. They have a tropical marine climate. The islands are occasionally subject to cyclones and other tropical storms. The island groups consists of about 332 islands about one-third of which are uninhabited.
Fiji has a population of over 800,000 people. About half are of Fijian stock and 44% are of Indian stock. About half (mostly the Fijians) are Christian (mostly Methodist and Roman Catholic). The next largest group (mostly of Indian descent) is Hindu at 38%. The official language is English but Fijian and Hindustani are also spoken.
Fiji is a republic. The chief of state is the president who is elected by popular vote. The president appoints a prime minister as the head of government. There is a bicameral legislature and a judicial branch with a supreme court. The capital is Suva.
Fiji, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the most developed of the Pacific island economies, though still with a large subsistence sector. Sugar exports and a growing tourist industry are the major sources of foreign exchange. Sugar processing makes up one-third of industrial activity. Roughly 250,000 tourists visit each year. Political uncertainty and drought, however, contribute to substantial fluctuations in earnings from tourism and sugar and to the emigration of skilled workers. Besides sugar, Fiji exports clothing, gold, processed fish and lumber. It imports machinery and transport equipment, petroleum products, food and chemicals. Its main trading partners include Australia, New Zealand, U.S., and Japan.
Fiji has 597 km of railways. About half of its 3,440 km of highways are paved. It has several ports and harbors. Three of its twenty-four airports have paved runways.
French Polynesia is an island archipelago in the tropical South Pacific Ocean about one-half of the way between South America and Australia. Its total area is about 4,167 sq km which makes it slightly less than one-third the size of Connecticut. Its climate is tropical. The islands are mixed between rugged high islands and low islands with reefs (see text descriptions of high and low islands). The islands are occasionally subject to cyclones and other tropical storms. The French Polynesian island of Makatea is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean. The others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Nauru.
French Polynesia's population of about 242,000 people are mostly Polynesian. They are also mostly Christian with about 54% being Protestant and about 30% being Roman Catholic. The official languages are both French and Tahitian.
French Polynesia is an overseas territory of France. The French president is the chief of state. The local head of government is the territorial president, who is elected by the Territorial Assembly, the unicameral legislature. The judicial branch has several levels of courts. The capital is Papeete.
France uses French Polynesia as a military base and this is one of the main sources of employment for people on the islands. A significant portion of the population also works in the tourism industry. More than half of its exports are cultured pearls. Other exports include coconut products, mother-of-pearl, vanilla and shark meat. It imports fuels, foodstuffs and equipment. Its main trading partners are France and the U.S.
French Polynesia has no railways. All of its 792 km of highways are paved. It has four main ports and harbors. Twenty-nine of its forty-five airports have paved runways.
Guam is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Island chain. It is a territory of the United States (the rest of the island group belongs to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands-CNMI). With a total area of about 541 sq km, Guam is about three times the size of Washington, D.C. This tropical island is volcanic in origin (volcanoes on the northern islands in CNMI are still active). The island is surrounded by coral reefs. There are mountains in the south, narrow coastal plains in the north and steep coastal cliffs. The island occupies a strategic location in the western North Pacific Ocean. It was the site of major battles in World War II and, in fact, was attacked just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor (but because of its location on the other side of the International Date Line, the attack was recorded on December 8, 1941).
About 47% of the population of about 151,00 people are Chamorro, about 25% are Filipino and about 10% are white. The remainder of the population are Asian. The major religion is Roman Catholic. The main languages are English, Chamorro and Japanese.
Guam is a territory of the United States and so is governed by the U.S. president, congress and courts. Local government is similar to those of state governments in the U.S. with a governor, state legislature (in this case unicameral) and local courts as well as the Federal court system.
The prime sources of income for Guam's economy are U.S. military spending and tourism. The tourist industry has grown rapidly in the past twenty years, comprised mostly of Japanese tourists. Guam's export economy consists mostly of transshipments of refined petroleum, construction materials, fish, food and beverage products. It imports petroleum and petroleum products, food and manufactured goods. One of the challenges facing Guam is building up its civilian economic sector to offset U.S. military downsizing.
Guam has no railways but about three-quarters of its 885 km of its highways are paved. Apra Harbor is its main port. Four of its five airports have paved runways.
Kiribati is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. Both the equator and the International Date Line pass through the islands. In 1995, Kiribati unilaterally moved the International Date Line so that it would be the same day throughout the country. Kiribati includes three island groups, the Gilbert, Line and Phoenix Islands. Its total area equals about 717 sq km which makes its land area about 4 times the size of Washington, D.C. Kiribati has a tropical climate, moderated by trade winds. The islands are subject to typhoons and occasional tornadoes. The islands are mostly low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs. Twenty of the thirty-three islands are inhabited. Banaba (Ocean Island) is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean. The others are Nauru and Makatea in French Polynesia.
The 85,500 people of Kiribati are Micronesian. Most are Christian with over half of the population being Roman Catholic. The official language is English but Gilbertese is also spoken.
Kiribati is a republic. The president is the chief of state and the head of government. There is a unicameral legislature and a Court of Appeal. The capital is Tarawa.
Kiribati has few natural resources. The bulk of the islands' production and exports are copra (62%) and fish. Kiribati relies heavily on foreign financial aid, mostly from the UK and Japan. Remittances from workers abroad provide a significant portion of the islands' income. It imports foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods and fuel. Kiribati's main trading partners include Australia, the U.S., and New Zealand.
Kiribati has no railways. It has 670 km of highways and several ports and harbors. Of its 21 airports, 4 have paved runways.
The Marshall Islands are a group of atolls and reefs in the North Pacific Ocean. With a total area of about 181.3 sq km (about the size of Washington, D.C.) these islands lie about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Papua New Guinea. Bordering the typhoon belt, they have a tropical climate. They are mostly low coral limestone and sand islands. They include the atolls of Bikini, Enewetak and Kwajelein. Bikini and Enewetak atolls were used by the U.S. as atomic test sites. Kwajelein was an important battleground during World War II. The islands suffer from inadequate supplies of fresh water.
The 65,500 people of the Marshall Islands are Micronesians. By and large they are Christians (Protestant). The official language is English and is universally spoken although some Polynesian dialects are also spoken.
The Marshall Islands is a republic. The president is the chief of state and the head of government. There is a unicameral legislature and a supreme court. The capital is Majuro.
US Government assistance is the mainstay of this tiny island economy. Agricultural production is concentrated on small farms, and the most important commercial crops are coconuts, tomatoes, melons, and breadfruit. Small-scale industry is limited to handicrafts, fish processing, and copra. The tourist industry, now a small source of foreign exchange employing less than 10% of the labor force, remains the best hope for future added income. The islands have few natural resources, and imports far exceed exports. Under the terms of the Compact of Free Association, the US provides roughly $65 million in annual aid, equal to about 70% of GDP. The Marshall Islands export fish, coconut oil, fish and shells. It imports foodstuffs, machinery and equipment and fuels. Its main trading partners are the U.S., Japan and Australia.
The Marshall Islands includes over one thousand islands and atolls. Its only main infrastructure consists of some paved roads on the major islands or stone-, coral-, or laterite-surfaced roads and tracks. The Marshall Islands have 16 airports, four of which have paved runways, and only one major port (Majuro).
Nauru is a small (21 sq km) island in the South Pacific Ocean. It has a tropical, monsoonal climate. The island has a sandy beach which rises to a fertile ring with raised coral reefs. Nauru is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean. The others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia.
Nauru has a population of 10,600. Most are Nauruan (58%) and Pacific Islanders (26%). The island is mostly Christian, about two-thirds Protestant and one-third Roman Catholic. The official language is Nauruan (which is a distinct Pacific Island language) although English is widely understood and used for most governmental and commercial purposes.
The president is the chief of state and the head of government. There is a unicameral legislature and a supreme court. There is no official capital.
Nauru has obtained most of its revenues from the export of phosphates although these reserves are expected to give out soon. There are few other resources and even fresh water has to be imported. The government is working to transition to developing income other than phosphates. Nauru's main trading partners include Australia and New Zealand.
Nauru has only 3.9 km of railway which is used to haul phosphates from the mines to the processing facilities. It has 30 km of highways, 24 of which are paved. The main port is Nauru. There is one airport (with paved runways).
New Caledonia is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Australia, comprising a total area of about 19,060 sq km (slightly smaller than New Jersey). It has a tropical climate, subject to typhoons and other tropical storms. Its terrain is mostly coastal plains with interior mountains.
The population of New Caledonia is just under 200,000 people. The largest ethnic groups are Melanesian (43%) and European (37%). Over half are Roman Catholic with Protestants making up the next largest religious group. French is spoken as well as many Melanesian-Polynesian dialects.
New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France. The chief of state is the French president. The local government is led by the president of the Territorial Congress who is elected by the members of the congress, the unicameral legislature. There is a court of appeal. Its capital is Noumea.
New Caledonia has more than 20% of the world's known nickel resources. In recent years, the economy has suffered because of depressed international demand for nickel, the principal source of export earnings. Only a negligible amount of the land is suitable for cultivation, and food accounts for about 25% of imports. In addition to nickel, financial support from France and tourism are key to the health of the economy. Additional imports include transport equipment, machinery and electrical equipment, and fuels. Its principal trading partners include France, Australia and Japan.
As with most of the island groups of Oceania, New Caledonia has no railways. It has over 5,500 km of highways (less than 1,000 km paved) and a few ports and harbors. Of its 27 airports, only 5 have paved runways. It also has 7 heliports.
New Zealand is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Australia. Its total area is about 268,680 sq km which makes it about the size of Colorado. Its climate is largely temperate. The islands are predominately mountainous although some have large coastal plains. The islands are seismically active with some earthquakes and volcanic activity.
About 80% of New Zealand's 3.7 million people live in cities. About three-quarters of the population are of European background. About 10 percent are Maori (the indigenous island peoples). Most of the population is Christian with Anglican making up the largest single sect (about 24%). The official language is English but Maori is also spoken.
New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy. Although granted independence from the UK in 1907, New Zealand still considers the British monarch as the chief of state. New Zealand has a unicameral House of Representatives who are elected by popular vote. Following the elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister. The judicial branch consists of a High Court and Court of Appeal. The capital is Wellington.
For the past fifteen years the New Zealand government has been working toward transitioning the economy from an agrarian one dependent upon access to British markets into an economy more industrialized, more self-sufficient and able to compete globally. New Zealand's exports are still largely agricultural (wool, lamb, beef, fish, etc.). It imports machinery and equipment, vehicles and aircraft, petroleum and consumer goods. Its main trading partners include Australia, the U.S., UK, and Japan.
New Zealand has about 3,973 km of railways. It has 92,200 km of highways (53,568 paved) and several ports and harbors. It has 111 airports, 44 with paved runways.
Palau is a group of tropical islands in the North Pacific Ocean southeast of the Philippines. With a total area of 458 sq km, it is about 2.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. The main island of Bablthaup is high and mountainous. Most of the other islands are low, coral islands usually fringed by barrier reefs. These islands are subject to typhoons. Part of the Caroline chain, one of the islands, Belilou (Peleliu) was a famous World War II battleground.
Palau's population of almost 18,500 people are a composite of Polynesian, Malaya and Melanesian races. Most are Christian but about one-third are of the Modekngei religion, which is indigenous to Palau. The official language is English in all of Palau's states, however some of the states also have their own official languages.
Palau, formerly known as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, is a constitutional government in free association with the U.S. The president is the chief of state and the head of government. There is a bicameral legislature and a supreme court. The capital is Koror.
Palau's economy is heavily dependent upon financial assistance from the U.S. Fishing, subsistence agriculture, tourism and government employment provide most of the employment for the population. Palau's main exports include trochus (a type of shellfish), copra, tuna and handicrafts. Its main trading partners are the U.S. and Japan. In return for U.S. aid, Palau will provide military bases in the region.
Palau has no railways. It has 61 km of highways (36 paved) and Koror is its main port. One of its three airports has paved runways.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a group of islands in southeastern Asia, including the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. Its total area measures 462,840 sq km which makes it slightly larger than California. The climate is tropical and the terrain is mostly mountains with coastal lowlands and rolling foothills. These islands are situated along the Pacific Rim of Fire. Thus, they are subject to active volcanism and earthquakes. Papua New Guinea shares the island of New Guinea with Indonesia.
Papua New Guinea has a population of about 4.7 million people. The population is growing but has a moderately low life expectancy (58.5 years), moderately high total fertility rate (4.2 children born per woman) and a moderately high infant mortality rate (55.6 deaths per thousand live births). The population is a mix of island peoples including Melanesian, Papuan, Micronesian and Polynesian. About 34% of the population follow indigenous beliefs. Most of the rest are Christian with Roman Catholic making up the largest group (22%). Most of the population speaks pidgin English or indigenous languages.
Papua New Guinea is a parliamentary democracy. Although an independent state, the chief of state is the British monarch. The head of government is the prime minister who is appointed by the governor general (appointed by the monarch) on the basis of majority support in the National Parliament. The National Parliament is the unicameral legislature and there is a supreme court. The capital is Port Moresby.
Papua New Guinea has plenty of natural resources but exploitation is difficult due to the rugged terrain and the high cost of developing the infrastructure. Most of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture. Mineral resources account for 72% of the export earnings. Papua New Guinea's agriculture is often hurt by droughts brought on by El Nino. Its main exports include gold, copper ore, oil, logs, palm oil, coffee and cocoa. Its main imports include machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food and fuels. Its main trading partners include Australia, Japan, and other East Asian countries.
Papua New Guinea has no railways. Less than 5% of its 19,600 km of its highways are paved. It has several ports and harbors. Nineteen of its 492 airports have paved runways and it has two heliports.
Samoa is a group of tropical islands in the South Pacific Ocean lying about half way between Hawaii and New Zealand. With a total area of 2,860 sq km it is slightly smaller than Rhode Island. These islands tend to have narrow coastal plains with volcanic mountains in the interior. The islands are subject to both typhoons and volcanic activity.
Samoa's population numbers about 230,000 people. Most are Samoan with a small (7%) population of Euronesians (mixed European and Polynesian). Almost all of the people are Christian with about half being associated with the London Missionary Society. The main languages are Samoan and English.
The government of Samoa is a constitutional monarchy with a native chief as the monarch. The current chief is the chief of state for life, however, when he dies, a new chief of state will be elected by the unicameral Legislative Assembly for a five year term. The prime minister is the head of government and is appointed by the chief of state with the approval of the legislature. The Legislative Assembly (or Fono) consists of 49 seats but only chiefs may stand for election. There is a supreme court. The capital is Apia.
The economy of Samoa has traditionally been dependent on development aid, private family remittances from overseas, and agricultural exports. The country is vulnerable to devastating storms. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labor force, and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring coconut cream, coconut oil, and copra. Outside of a large automotive wire harness factory, the manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products. Tourism is an expanding sector; more than 70,0000 tourists visited the islands in 1996. Samoa's imports include intermediate goods, food and capital goods. Its main trading partners include Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Samoa has no railways, 790 km of highways (332 paved) and three airports (one with paved runways). It has several harbors including the capital, Apia.
The Solomon Islands are a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Occupying a position east of Papua New Guinea they comprise a total area of about 28,450 sq km (slightly smaller than Maryland). The Solomons have a tropical climate. They contain mostly rugged mountainous islands as well as some low coral atolls. They are subject to typhoons and are geologically active, including both earth tremors and volcanic activity.
The 455,429 people of the Solomon Islands are mostly Melanesian. Most of the population is Christian with Anglicans and Roman Catholics making up the largest groups. Most of the population speaks a Melanesian pidgin with English being spoken by about 1-2%.
The Solomon Islands is a republic. Although independent from the UK, it still considers the British monarch as the chief of state. The head of government is the prime minister, who is the leader of the majority party following legislative elections. There is a unicameral legislature and a court of appeal. The capital is Honiara.
Although rich in mineral resources, these are mostly undeveloped. Most of the population depends on agriculture, fishing or forestry for at least some part of their livelihood. Most manufactured goods and petroleum products must be imported. The Solomon Islands' main exports include timber, fish, palm oil and cocoa. It imports plant equipment, manufactured goods, food and fuel. Its main trading partners include Japan, Australia, UK and other nations of Southeast Asia.
The Solomon Islands have no railways. Their 1,350 km of roads (34 km paved) includes about 800 km of private plantation roads. They have several ports and harbors. It has 33 airports but only two with paved runways.
An archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, Tonga has a total area of about 748 sq km, which is about four times the size of Washington, D.C. It has a tropical climate modified by trade winds. Most of the islands have a limestone base (uplifted coral formation) while others have limestone overlying a volcanic base. Only about 36 of the 170 islands in the archipelago are inhabited.
Tonga has a population of about 109,000 people, most of whom are Polynesians. Most of the people are Christian. The main languages are Tongan and English.
Tonga is a constitutional monarchy. The chief of state is the hereditary monarch (king). The head of government is the prime minister who is appointed for life by the monarch. There is a unicameral legislature and a supreme court. The capital is Nuku'alofa.
Although most of Tonga's economy is agriculturally based, it still must import a significant portion of its food. Tourism provides the principal source of hard currency and the country depends heavily on external aid and remittances. The government is encouraging private development and investment to bolster the economy. Tonga's main exports are squash, fish, vanilla, root crops and coconut oil. It imports food products, live animals, machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods fuels and chemicals. Tonga's main trading partners include New Zealand, US, Australia, and Japan.
Tonga has no railways and slightly more than one quarter of its 680 km of highways are paved. It has three main ports and harbors and one of its six airports has paved runways.
Tuvalu is a small group of coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean. With a total area of only 26 sq km, it is only one-tenth the size of Washington, D.C. It has a tropical climate, moderated by the trade winds. The islands are very low-lying, narrow coral atolls. Tuvalu is occasionally beset by tropical storms. Because of the islands' terrain, there are no streams or rivers and the groundwater is not potable. Therefore, all water needs must be met by catchment and storage systems.
Tuvalu has a population of about 10,588 people, mostly Polynesian. Most of the population is Christian. The main languages are Tuvaluan and English. Tuvalu is a constitutional monarchy. Although independent from Great Britain, the chief of state is the British monarch. The head of government is the prime minister who is elected by and from the members of the unicameral parliament. The judicial branch consists of eight Island Courts and a High Court. Its capital is Funafuti.
Tuvalu has poor soil and no known mineral resources. Subsistence farming and fishing are the primary economic activities. The government is working to reduce its dependence on foreign aid, including public sector reforms and privatization. Due to its low-lying terrain, it is particularly vulnerable to any future global warming. Tuvalu's main export is copra. It imports food, animals, mineral fuels, machinery and manufactured goods. Its trading partners include Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand.
Tuvalu has no railways and only two main ports. It has 8 km of highways and its only airport does not have paved runways.
Vanuatu is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean (Oceania) with a total area of about 14,760 sq km (slightly larger than Connecticut). It has a tropical climate. Most of the islands are mountainous and of volcanic origin. The islands are subject to typhoons (cyclones) and are geologically active, including earthquakes and volcanoes.
The 189,000 people of Vanuatu are mostly Melanesian. Most are Christian with Presbyterian, Anglican and Catholic being the largest groups. Vanuatu has two official languages, English and French. A pidgin tongue known as Bislama is also spoken.
Vanuatu is a republic. The chief of state is the president. The president is elected by an electoral college consisting of parliament and the presidents of regional councils. The leader of the majority party or majority coalition is usually elected prime minister, who is the head of government. There is a unicameral parliament and a supreme court. The capital is Port-Vila.
Vanuatu has little or no mineral or petroleum resources. The economy is based primarily on subsistence or small-scale agriculture which provides a living for 65% of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism, with about 50,000 visitors in 1997, are other mainstays of the economy. Vanuatu's main exports include beef, copra, cocoa, timber and coffee. Its main imports include machines and vehicles, food and beverages, basic manufactured goods, raw materials and fuels. Its main trading partners include Japan, Australia, Spain, Germany, and the UK.
As with most of the island groups of Oceania, Vanuatu has no railways. It has over 1,000 km of roads, about one-quarter of which are paved. It has several ports and harbors. Only 3 of its 32 airports have paved runways.