Fiji became independent in 1970, after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract labourers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). The coups and a 1990 constitution that cemented native Melanesian control of Fiji, led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority.


A new constitution enacted in 1997 was more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a civilian-led coup in May 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in August 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia QARASE. Re-elected in May 2006, QARASE was ousted in a December 2006 military coup led by Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA, who initially appointed himself acting president. In January 2007, BAINIMARAMA was appointed interim prime minister.


Location: Oceania, island group in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand
Geographic coordinates: 18 00 S, 175 00 E
Population:  890,057 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years:  28.9% (male 130,409/female 124,870)

15-64 years: 65.9% (male 297,071/female 284,643)

65 years and over:  5.2% (male 21,187/female 24,945) (2011 est.)

Median age: Total:  27.2 years

male: 27 years

female: 27.4 years (2012 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Republic of the Fiji Islands

conventional short form: Fiji

local long form: Republic of the Fiji Islands/Matanituko Viti

local short form: Fiji/Viti

Government type: republic
Capital: name: Suva (on Viti Levu)

geographic coordinates: 18 08 S, 178 25 E

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

Telephones – main lines in use: 137,000 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 1 million (2009)
Airports: 28 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 4

over 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2012)

Military branches: Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF): Land Forces, Naval Forces (2011)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; reserve obligation to age 45 (2010)
Manpower available for military service: Males age 16-49: 233,240

females age 16-49: 222,587 (2010 est.)


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, remittances from Fijians working abroad, and a growing tourist industry – with 400,000 to 500,000 tourists annually – are the major sources of foreign exchange. Fiji’s sugar has special access to European Union markets, but will be harmed by the EU’s decision to cut sugar subsidies. Sugar processing makes up one-third of industrial activity but is not efficient. Fiji’s tourism industry was damaged by the December 2006 coup and is facing an uncertain recovery time.


The coup has created a difficult business climate. Tourist arrivals for 2007 are estimated to be down almost 6%, with substantial job losses in the service sector. In July 2007 the Reserve Bank of Fiji announced the economy was expected to contract by 3.1% in 2007. Fiji’s current account deficit reached 23% of GDP in 2006. The EU has suspended all aid until the interim government takes steps toward new elections. Long-term problems include low investment, uncertain land ownership rights, and the government’s inability to manage its budget. Overseas remittances from Fijians working in Kuwait and Iraq have decreased significantly.

Transnational Issues:None