Kiribati Economics and Business

According to cheeroutdoor, Kiribati is an island nation located in the central Pacific Ocean. The economy is largely reliant on fishing, agriculture, and tourism. Fishing provides employment for a significant portion of the population and accounts for a large percentage of the country’s export earnings. Agriculture is also important, as it provides food security to the population and generates income from exports. Tourism is another key economic sector, as it provides jobs to many people and brings in foreign exchange. In recent years, the government has implemented various economic reforms to stimulate growth and to attract foreign investment. These efforts have helped to diversify the economy away from traditional sectors such as fishing and towards more modern sectors such as IT and manufacturing.


According to COUNTRYAAH, Kiribati’s most important industries are agriculture, mostly as self-catering, as well as fishing on a local scale. The soil is barren, and the most common crops are bananas and fruits from coconut palms and pandanus palms (related screw palms), papaya and breadfruit trees. During the 1980s, copra agriculture was the only export commodity but a very uncertain source of income due to recurring drought and highly fluctuating world market prices. A new crop is seagrass, which is grown exclusively for export to Denmark; it supplemented Copran as an export commodity during the 1990s. With foreign aid, commercial fishing has also begun to develop, focusing mainly on tuna.

Kiribati GDP (Nominal, $USD) 2003-2017

The manufacturing industry is poorly developed. In Tarawa, a small center was established in 1990 for the manufacture of clothing, shoes, furniture and other consumer goods.

The current account deficit grew gradually during the 1980s and 1990s. Exports mainly consist of copra, coconuts, fish and fish products and seagrass and mainly went to France, Japan and the USA. Imports, which came mainly from Australia, Fiji and Japan, consisted primarily of food, machinery and transport.

In addition to export revenue, licenses that allow fishing fleets from, for example, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan to fish within the 200-nautical mile limit as well as growing tourism provide important revenue for the country. In 1995, an agreement was reached between Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru and the Marshall Islands to start a joint airline, among other things, to develop the tourism industry.

Tourism and gastronomy

Today, tourism contributes about 20 percent of GDP and the hope is that it will increase. However, the country is difficult to access, and it will probably take time before the 5,000 annual tourists increase to any significant extent. Attempts to increase tourism are made, for example, by opening several war scenes from the Second World War.

Note: the capital city of Kiribati, abbreviated as KIR by, is capital atoll Tarawa with a population of 45,700 (2015).

The base of the kitchen is seafood combined with coconut, fresh fruit, taro and jams. The latter two are included in almost every meal. Pork is very popular, chicken as well. Whole roast pork served on banana leaves is ritual feast food, like palusami, meat or shrimp and onions cooked in coconut milk and wrapped in taro leaves.

Kiribati Economics and Business


At the beginning of the nineties, Kiribati’s situation was strongly conditioned by a rampant corruption of the ruling class and a parallel distrust of the population for political life. On the international level, the country’s chronic situation of poverty – characterized by a permanent budget deficit – had on the other hand exacerbated its dependence on international financial aid.

Following the Parliament’s vote of no confidence over some financial scandals involving government officials (May 1994), the political and presidential elections (respectively in July and September) saw the defeat of the National Progressive Party of T. Teannaki, in power since from independence, and the clear affirmation of the opposition group, the Maneaban Te Mauri led by T. Tito, who was reconfirmed at the helm of the country in the subsequent elections of November 1998. As part of a campaign against corruption in the political class, the new government led by Tito, as soon as he took office, started a series of criminal proceedings against members of the previous administration, bringing Teannaki himself to court. But the accusations of acting for personal ends and having abused the power he enjoyed blocked the action of President Tito, and neither did the results of the commission of inquiry for a constitutional revision that would guarantee a greater balance between powers and forces in campo, presented to the government in 1996, led to the desired institutional referendum.

On the international level, in the autumn of 1994 the Tito cabinet submitted to Japan the request (already made unsuccessfully by the Parliament two years earlier) for compensation for the damage caused to the country during the Second World War, while on several occasions the use of areas just outside the territorial waters of Kiribati on the part of France (for nuclear tests), Japan and China (for oil research) repeatedly created moments of strong tension in diplomatic relations with these countries. On the other hand, Kiribati reconsolidated relations with China during 1996.

About the author