The Gilbert Islands were granted self-rule by the UK in 1971 and complete independence in 1979 under the new name of Kiribati. The US relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a 1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati.


Location: Oceania, group of 33 coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean, straddling the Equator; the capital Tarawa is about half way between Hawaii and Australia; note – on 1 January 1995, Kiribati proclaimed that all of its territory lies in the same time zone as its Gilbert Islands group (UTC +12) even though the Phoenix Islands and the Line Islands under its jurisdiction lie on the other side of the International Date Line
Geographic coordinates: 1 25 N, 173 00 E
Population: 101,998 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 33.9% (male 17,385/female 16,750)

15-64 years: 62.4% (male 30,598/female 32,259)

65 years and over: 3.7% (male 1,461/female 2,290) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Kiribati

conventional short form: Kiribati

local long form: Republic of Kiribati

local short form: Kiribati

note: pronounced keer-ree-bahss

former: Gilbert Islands

Government type: republic
Capital: name: Tarawa

geographic coordinates: 1 19 N, 172 58 E

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

Telephones – main lines in use: 4,100 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 10,000 (2009)
Airports: 19 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 4

1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 (2012)

Military branches: no regular military forces (constitutionally prohibited); Police Force (2011)
Manpower available for military service: Males age 16-49: 25,190 (2010 est.)


A remote country of 33 scattered coral atolls, Kiribati has few natural resources. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence from the UK in 1979. Copra and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports. The economy has fluctuated widely in recent years. Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets. Tourism provides more than one-fifth of GDP. Private sector initiatives and a financial sector are in the early stages of development. Foreign financial aid from UK, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and China equals more than 10% of GDP. Remittances from seamen on merchant ships abroad account for more than $5 million each year. Kiribati receives around $15 million annually for the government budget from an Australian trust fund.