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Vanuatu Overview: People, Economy, and Government

The inhabitants are mainly Melanesians, with some Polynesians. There are more than 100 indigenous languages, but a local pidgin called Bislama or Bichelama is widely spoken. Bislama, English, and French are the official languages. The majority of the population is Christian, primarily Protestant.

The chief industries are copra production, cattle raising, and fishing, but the majority of the population depends on subsistence agriculture. Manganese was mined in the 1960s and 70s. Additional revenues derive from a growing tourist industry and the development of Vila as an offshore financial center. Copra, beef, cocoa, and timber are the main exports; machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, and fuels are imported. Thailand, Japan, Australia, and Poland are the main trading partners.

Vanuatu is governed under the constitution of 1980. The president, who is head of state, is indirectly elected for a five-year term. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is elected by Parliament from among its members. Members of the 52-seat Parliament are popularly elected to serve four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into six provinces. Vanuatu is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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