IntroductionKiribati (kĭrˌĭbăsˈ) [key], officially Republic of Kiribati (2005 est. pop. 103,000), 342 sq mi (886 sq km), consisting of 33 islands scattered across 2,400 mi (3,860 km) of the Pacific Ocean near the equator. It includes 8 of the 11 Line Islands, including Kiritimati (formerly Christmas Island), as well as the Gilbert and Phoenix groups and Banaba (formerly Ocean Island). Tarawa is the capital. The population is nearly all Micronesian, with about 30% concentrated on Tarawa. English is the official language, and Kiribati, a Micronesian language, is also spoken. Some 50% of the inhabitants are Roman Catholic, while 40% are Protestant.
Fishing and the growing of coconuts, taro, breadfruit, and sweet potatoes form the basis of the mainly subsistence economy. The mining of Banaba's once thick phosphate deposits ended in 1979. Copra, coconuts, seaweed, and fish are the chief exports; foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, manufactured goods, and fuel are imported. Australia, Japan, Fiji, and the Unites States are the main trading partners.
A member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the nation is a republic governed under the constitution of 1979. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is elected by popular vote for a four-year term and is eligible for two more terms. The unicameral House of Parliament has 42 members, most elected by popular vote, who serve four-year terms. Administratively the country is divided into three units (the Gilbert, Line, and Phoenix islands), and subdivided into six districts. There are also 21 island councils, one for each of the inhabited islands.
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