Nation at a Glance - Fiji

History

Fiji 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 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia QARASE. Reelected in May 2006, QARASE was ousted in a December 2006 military coup led by Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA, who initially appointed himself acting president but in January 2007 became interim prime minister. Following years of political turmoil, long-delayed legislative elections were held in September 2014 that were deemed "credible" by international observers and that resulted in BAINIMARAMA being reelected.

Location: Oceania, island group in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand

Border Countries: 0 km

Total Area: 18,274 sq km Land: 18,274 sq km Water: 0 sq km

Climate: Tropical marine; only slight seasonal temperature variation

Terrain: Mostly mountains of volcanic origin

Natural resources: Timber, fish, gold, copper, offshore oil potential, hydropower

Land use: Agricultural land: 23.3% arable land 9%; permanent crops 4.7%; permanent pasture 9.6% Forest: 55.7% Other: 21% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: iTaukei 56.8% (predominantly Melanesian with a Polynesian admixture), Indian 37.5%, Rotuman 1.2%, Other 4.5% (European, part European, other Pacific Islanders, Chinese)

Languages: English (official), Fijian (official), Hindustani

Religions: Protestant 45% (Methodist 34.6%, Assembly of God 5.7%, Seventh Day Adventist 3.9%, and Anglican 0.8%), Hindu 27.9%, other Christian 10.4%, Roman Catholic 9.1%, Muslim 6.3%, Sikh 0.3%, Other 0.3%, None 0.8% (2007 est.)

Population: 915,303 (July 2016 est.)

Administrative divisions: 14 provinces and 1 dependency*; Ba, Bua, Cakaudrove, Kadavu, Lau, Lomaiviti, Macuata, Nadroga and Navosa, Naitasiri, Namosi, Ra, Rewa, Rotuma*, Serua, Tailevu

Economy: Fiji, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the most developed and connected of the Pacific island economies. Earnings from the tourism industry, with an estimated 755,000 tourists visiting in 2015, and remittances from Fijian’s working abroad are the country’s largest foreign exchange earners.Fiji's sugar remains a significant industry and a major export. The sugar industry reforms since 2010 have improved productivity and returns, but the industry faces the complete withdrawal of European Union preferential prices by 2017. Fiji’s trade imbalance continues to widen with increased imports and sluggish performance of domestic exports.The return to parliamentary democracy and successful elections in September 2014 have boosted investor confidence. Private sector investment in 2015 exceeded 20% of GDP, compared to 13% in 2013.

Agriculture - products: Sugarcane, coconuts, cassava (manioc, tapioca), rice, sweet potatoes, bananas; cattle, pigs, horses, goats; fish

Industries: Tourism, sugar, clothing, copra, gold, silver, lumber, small cottage industries

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