Facts about Fiji

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FijiFiji became independent in 1970, after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract laborers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). The coups and a 1990 constitution that cemented native Melanesian control of Fiji, led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. A new constitution enacted in 1997 was more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a civilian-led coup in May 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in August 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia QARASE. Re-elected in May 2006, QARASE was ousted in a December 2006 military coup led by Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA, who initially appointed himself acting president. In January 2007, BAINIMARAMA was appointed interim prime minister.

Geography of Fiji

Oceania, island group in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand
18 00 S, 175 00 E
total: 18,270 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 18,270 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries:
0 km
1,129 km
Maritime claims:
measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation; rectilinear shelf claim added
tropical marine; only slight seasonal temperature variation
mostly mountains of volcanic origin
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Tomanivi 1,324 m
Natural resources:
timber, fish, gold, copper, offshore oil potential, hydropower
Natural hazards:
cyclonic storms can occur from November to January
Environment current issues:
deforestation; soil erosion
Geography - note:
includes 332 islands of which approximately 110 are inhabited

Population of Fiji

931,741 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 31.1% (male 143,847/female 138,061)
15-64 years: 64.6% (male 293,072/female 292,312)
65 years and over: 4.3% (male 17,583/female 21,074)
Median age:
24.6 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
12.3 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.82 years
male: 67.32 years
female: 72.45 years
Fertility rate:
2.73 children born/woman
noun: Fijian(s)
adjective: Fijian
Ethnic groups:
Fijian 51% (predominantly Melanesian with a Polynesian admixture), Indian 44%, European, other Pacific Islanders, overseas Chinese, and other 5% (1998 est.)
Christian 52% (Methodist 37%, Roman Catholic 9%), Hindu 38%, Muslim 8%, other 2%
note: Fijians are mainly Christian, Indians are Hindu, and there is a Muslim minority 
English (official), Fijian, Hindustani
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.7%
male: 95.5%
female: 91.9% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of the Fiji Islands
Government type:
note: military coup leader Maj. Gen. Sitiveni RABUKA formally declared Fiji a republic on 6 October 1987
Suva (Viti Levu)
Administrative divisions:
4 divisions and 1 dependency*; Central, Eastern, Northern, Rotuma*, Western
10 October 1970 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, second Monday of October (1970)
promulgated on 25 July 1990 and amended on 25 July 1997 to allow nonethnic Fijians greater say in government and to make multiparty government mandatory; entered into force 28 July 1998; note - the May 1999 election was the first test of the amended constitution and introduced open voting - not racially prescribed - for the first time at the national level
Legal system:
based on British system
21 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Ratu Josefa ILOILOVATU Uluivuda (since 18 July 2000); note - ILOILOVATU was reaffirmed as president by the Great Council of Chiefs in a statement issued on 22 December, and reappointed by the coup leader Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA in January 2007
head of government: Prime Minister Laisenia QARASE (since 10 September 2000); note - although QARASE is still the legal prime minister, he has been confined to his home island; the president appointed Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA interim prime minister under the military regime
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister from among the members of Parliament and is responsible to Parliament; note - coup leader Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA has appointed an interim cabinet
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (32 seats; 14 appointed by the president on the advice of the Great Council of Chiefs, 9 appointed by the president on the advice of the Prime Minister, 8 on the advice of the Opposition Leader, and 1 appointed on the advice of the council of Rotuma) and the House of Representatives (71 seats; 23 reserved for ethnic Fijians, 19 reserved for ethnic Indians, 3 reserved for other ethnic groups, 1 reserved for the council of Rotuma constituency encompassing the whole of Fiji, and 25 open seats; members serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president); Court of Appeal; High Court; Magistrates' Courts


Fiji, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the most developed of the Pacific island economies, though still with a large subsistence sector. Sugar exports, remittances from Fijians working abroad, and a growing tourist industry - with 400,000 to 500,000 tourists annually - are the major sources of foreign exchange. Fiji's sugar has special access to European Union markets, but will be harmed by the EU's decision to cut sugar subsidies. Sugar processing makes up one-third of industrial activity but is not efficient. Fiji's tourism industry was damaged by the December 2006 coup and is facing an uncertain recovery time. The coup has created a difficult business climate. Tourist arrivals for 2007 are estimated to be down almost 6%, with substantial job losses in the service sector. In July 2007 the Reserve Bank of Fiji announced the economy was expected to contract by 3.1% in 2007. Fiji's current account deficit reached 23% of GDP in 2006. The EU has suspended all aid until the interim government takes steps toward new elections. Long-term problems include low investment, uncertain land ownership rights, and the government's inability to manage its budget. Overseas remittances from Fijians working in Kuwait and Iraq have decreased significantly.

$5.079 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 16.6%
industry: 22.4%
services: 61% 
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture, including subsistence agriculture 70% 
revenues: $427.9 million
expenditures: $531.4 million
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 18.5%
hydro: 81.5%
other: 0% 
nuclear: 0%
tourism, sugar, clothing, copra, gold, silver, lumber, small cottage industries
sugarcane, coconuts, cassava (tapioca), rice, sweet potatoes, bananas; cattle, pigs, horses, goats; fish
sugar, garments, gold, timber, fish, molasses, coconut oil
Export partners:
US 18.7%, Australia 17.6%, UK 12%, Samoa 7.3%, Japan 4.9%
manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, petroleum products, food, chemicals
Import partners:
Singapore 26.9%, Australia 23.1%, NZ 19.6%, Thailand 4.4%
Fijian dollar (FJD)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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