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Background Information about Kiribati

Author: IFAD


Economic Background
Kiribati’s GDP was USD 150 million in 2010 and its per capita GNI was $US2,110. This small atoll nation supports just over 101,000 people, World Bank (2012). The economy grew at a slow pace during 1992-2002 and declined after 2004 before picking-up slowly in the recent years. The average rate of growth has been 1.6% in the last ten years but the expected growth for 2011 is 1.8% (World Bank, 2011). The people are mostly indigenous Micronesians (70%) and Chinese, Europeans and other Pacific Islanders make up the rest. Twenty one of the atolls are inhabited (17 of the Gilberts group, one of the Phoenix Islands and three of the Line group). The Gilberts host 79% of population in Tarawa. The population growth rate averages 1.9% against a very low net out-emigration rate of 0.1%. Agriculture, mainly marine activities, was about 25% of GDP while it was just under 8% industrialised in 2010. The rest of the Kiribati economy comprises service oriented activities. However, apart from fisheries and some retail trade, there is no major large scale economic activity. The 2011 HDI ranking and value are 122 (global) and 0.62, respectively. Kiribati is one of the least developed and most vulnerable economies of the Pacific. Its major exports are copra, sea weed and fish.

Baseline Poverty Analysis
UNDP (2010) analysed Kiribati’s 2006 HIES data and found that in South Tarawa and rest of the Gilberts (excluding Lines and Phoenix), the prevalence of poverty were similarly high. The national head count index was estimated at 17% for households and 21.8% for the population. South Tarawa recorded the highest incidence of basic needs poverty (8.3% of households and 24.2% of population) and 31% of then other rural and remote areas (combined) were below the national BNPL. The national average poverty gap index was 7.2 and incomes in the two rural areas ought to increase by about 10% to get the most affected rural population out of poverty. The squared gap index estimated for the rural areas averages to 4.1 and was well over the national average of 3.5. Measured in per capita adult equivalent terms, the average weekly household expenditure was 7.6 times higher in the upper 20% households compared with those in the lowest rural housholds. The national Gini Coefficient in 2006 was estimated at 0.39 but was higher at 0.42 for the rural Gilberts.

The analysis also found that female-headed households were slightly over-represented in the lowest three expenditure deciles in both South Tarawa and in the rest of the Gilberts. Overall these households were responsible for 18% of all children – one-third of who were living in the poor households. The disadvantaged lacked access to basic services (safe water, sanitation and education) and their conditions were stated to be exacerbated by the lack of employment opportunities. Of those who were actively involved in agriculture in 2010, females account for about 30%. The food expenditure and consumption patterns of the poorest households indicate a poor diet and inadequate nutrition prevalence in Kiribati. Education is a priority of the Government. The net enrolment rate is high for primary, but secondary enrolment needs further improvement.

However, data show that there is gender parity in education (IFAD, 2011). While women make-up about 4% of the parliament, they account for 28% of the labour force which is almost a third of the male’s share in employment. Youths comprise 21% of population and with limited employable skills and opportunities, face severe unemployment problems which transpire into other social issues. They continue to migrate to the urban centre for education and employment opportunities (FAO, 2011).

Agriculture and Rural Development
Agriculture is not on a large scale, except for fisheries and copra. While some livestock are domesticated (chickens and pigs), most protein are sourced from the seafood and imported meat. Efforts are being made to establish pigs, poultry and goats suitable for local breeding. There are fruits and vegetables being farmed in South Tarawa, but on a very small scale. Giant swamp taro is also commonly grown but copra is the only exported agricultural crop which accounts for about 60% of all exports. Total exports were USD 11 million but food imports were much higher at USD 100 million. Exports of copra showed a drastic decline from as high as 25,000 tonnes in 2005 to 5,000 tonnes in 2009. Fish, oil crop and meat production showed some positive increments. FAOSTAT (2012) shows that fish production picked up by 33% in 2009 from a low base on 32,000 tonnes in 2004, while the growth rate in production of oil crop and meat were marginal. Similarly, marginal rates of increase were recorded for food and agricultural commodities (coconuts, bananas, roots and tubers). Foreign owned ships and the fishery do not add much value to the economy, but for employment. However, fisheries are an important source income and food. FAOSTAT (2012) indicates that 50% of the total agricultural (or 10% of total population) were economically active in 2010 (these have remained unchanged since 2005). Agricultural GDP showed a small growth of about 1.06% per annum from 2005-2010.

Investing in the Rural Poor
Kiribati: Investing in the Rural Poor, IFAD's Rural sector performance assessment (RSP).  This publication may be found here.

Rural Development Indicators
Composite data about Kiribati may be found here.

Language:  English (United States)
Development Themes: Agriculture Food Security & Nutrition
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