About Kiribati The Gilbert Islands, Banaba, Phoenix and the Line Islands became the independent and sovereign Republic of Kiribati in 1979. The name Kiribati is the local pronunciation of Gilberts, which derives from the main island chain, named the Gilbert Islands after the British explorer Thomas Gilbert, who sailed through the islands in 1788.
The Republic has a total land area of 810 square kilometres and consists of thirty three atolls and islands, spread across approximately a third of a million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean, (of which 21 islands are inhabited) straddling the equator, and bordering the International Date Line to the east. The name Kiribati is derived from the main island chain, the Gilbert Islands. Kiribati has three island groups – Gilbert Islands, Line Islands and Phoenix Islands. The terrain is mostly low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs, with a total coastal area of 1,143 km. The capital, Tarawa, is about half way between Hawaii and Australia. Kiribati became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the IMF and the World Bank, and became a full member of the United Nations in 1999. On 1 January 1995, Kiribati proclaimed that all of its territory was in the same time zone as its Gilbert Islands group (UTC +12) even though the Phoenix and Line island groups were on the other side of the International Date Line. Parliamentary and Government system The Kiribati Parliamentary system is quite unique in that it is a blend of both the British and American systems. Te Beretitenti (President) is elected nationally. Members of the Cabinet are appointed by Te Beretitenti from amongst the Members of Parliament. The Speaker, although not a member of Parliament, is elected by the Members. The first form of a Parliamentary system began in 1963 with the establishment of the Advisory Council that had five elected members and some appointed ex-officio members. In 1967 the Advisory Council was replaced by the House of Representatives and the number of elected members was increased to twenty-three. The House of Representatives was replaced by the Legislative Council in 1970 and the number of elected members further increased to twenty-eight while the number of ex-officio members decreased. In 1976 the House of Assembly replaced the Legislative Council. The House of Assembly continued until independence when it became the Maneaba ni Maungatabu with thirty-five elected members, one nominated member (from Rabi) and one ex-officio member (the Attorney-General). The 2007 elections saw the number of elected members increase to 44 making a 46 member unicameral parliament. The President (Te Beretitenti) is both Head of State and Head of Government, and is nominated from among members of the Maneaba ni Maungatabu to be elected in a presidential election by universal adult suffrage. The President appoints his/her own Cabinet, which is composed of the President, Vice President, Attorney-General and no more than ten ministers selected from members of the Maneaba ni Maungatabu. Climate Tropical; marine, hot and humid, moderated by trade winds. Demographics The estimated population of the Republic of Kiribati in 2009 was 112,850, with 21 of the 33 islands inhabited. Economy Kiribati is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has few natural resources. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence. In 1956 Kiribati established a sovereign wealth fund to act as a store of wealth for the country’s earnings from phosphate mining. However, today copra and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports. Tourism provides more than one-fifth of GDP. For more general information on Kiribati, please visit the Kiribati National Tourism Office