Northern Mariana Islands


Commonwealth of the Northern   Mariana Islands

Status: Commonwealth

Governor: Ralph Torres (2015)

Capital: Chalan Kanoa (on Saipan)

Total area: 184 sq mi (477 sq km)

Population (2014 est.): 51,483 (growth rate: 1.13%); birth rate: 18.94/1000; infant mortality: 5.5/1000; life expectancy: 77.64

Languages: Philippine languages 32.8%, Chamorro (official) 24.1%, English (official) 17%, other Pacific island languages 10.1%, Chinese 6.8%, other Asian languages 7.3%, other 1.9% (2010 est.)

Ethnicity/race: Asian 50% (includes Filipino 35.3%, Chinese 6.8%, Korean 4.2%, and other Asian 3.7%), Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 34.9% (includes Chamorro 23.9%, Carolinian 4.6%, and other Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 6.4%), other 2.5%, two or more ethnicities or races 12.7% (2010 est.)

Religion: Christian (Roman Catholic majority, although traditional beliefs and taboos may still be found)

National Holiday: Commonwealth Day, January 8

Literacy rate: 97% (1980 est.)

Monetary unit: U.S. dollar

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2010 est.): $733 million; note: GDP numbers reflect U.S. spending; per capita $13,600. Real growth rate: n.a. Inflation: -2.7% (2012 est.). Unemployment: 11.2 (2010). Arable land: 2.17%. Agriculture: coconuts, fruits, vegetables; cattle. Labor force: 38,450 (includes nearly 29,000 foreign workers) (2005). Industries: tourism, construction, garments, handicrafts. Natural resources: arable land, fish. Exports: $98.2 (2008): garments. Imports: $214.4 (2001).: food, construction equipment and materials, petroleum products. Major trading partners: U.S., Japan (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 21,000 (1996); mobile cellular: 1,200 (1995). Broadcast media: 1 TV broadcast station on Saipan; multi-channel cable TV services are available on Saipan; 9 licensed radio broadcast stations (2009). Internet hosts: 17 (2012). Internet users: n.a.

Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Roadways: total: 536 km (2008); paved: n.a. km; unpaved: n.a. km. Waterways: none. Ports and harbors: Saipan, Tinian, Rota. Airports: 5 (2013).

International disputes: none.

Major sources and definitions

The Northern Mariana Islands, east of the Philippines and south of Japan, include the islands of Rota, Saipan, Tinian, Pagan, Guguan, Agrihan, and Aguijan. Although sighted by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 as he sailed for Spain, the islands were not settled by Europeans until 1668, when missionaries converted the indigenous Chamorro people to Catholicism. They were ruled successively by Spain, Germany, and Japan before they became a UN Trusteeship (administered by the U.S.) after World War II. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) became part of the United States in Nov. 1986. Spanish cultural traditions remain strong.

In recent years, Saipan's garment industry has been accused of exploiting thousands of Asian immigrants. Saipan's territorial status enables its employers to claim their clothing is “Made in the USA,” while paying workers low wages and sidestepping import duties and tariffs.

On February 12, 2013, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) House of Representatives voted to impeach Benigno Fitial on 18 different charges. The charges against Fitial included abuse of power, neglect of his duties, and commission of felonies. Fitial became the first governor in any U.S. territory to be impeached. Next Fitial must stand trial in front of CNMI's Senate which would happen just as soon as the Senate finalized rules and regulations for the impeachment trial.

Governor Eloy S. Inos died on Dec. 28, 2015. The following day, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Torres was sworn in to replace Inos.

See also Encyclopedia: Northern Mariana Islands.

U.S. Territories and Outlying Areas