Nation at a Glance - Palau

History

After three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands opted for independence in 1978 rather than join the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free Association with the US was approved in 1986 but not ratified until 1993. It entered into force the following year when the islands gained independence.

Location: Oceania, group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Philippines

Border Countries: 0 km

Total Area: 459 sq km Land: 459 sq km Water: 0 sq km

Climate: Tropical; hot and humid; wet season May to November

Terrain: Varying topography from the high, mountainous main island of Babelthuap to low, coral islands usually fringed by large barrier reefs

Natural resources: Forests, minerals (especially gold), marine products, deep-seabed minerals

Land use: Agricultural land: 10.8% arable land 2.2%; permanent crops 4.3%; permanent pasture 4.3% Forest: 87.6% Other: 1.6% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: Palauan (Micronesian with Malayan and Melanesian admixtures) 72.5%, Carolinian 1%, other Micronesian 2.4%, Filipino 16.3%, Chinese 1.6%, Vietnamese 1.6%, other Asian 3.4%, White 0.9%, Other 0.3% (2005 est.)

Languages: Palauan (official on most islands) 66.6%, Carolinian 0.7%, other Micronesian 0.7%, English (official) 15.5%, Filipino 10.8%, Chinese 1.8%, other Asian 2.6%, Other 1.3%

Religions: Roman Catholic 49.4%, Protestant 30.9% (includes Protestant (general) 23.1%, Seventh Day Adventist 5.3%, and other Protestant 2.5%), Modekngei 8.7% (indigenous to Palau), Jehovah's Witnesses 1.1%, Other 8.8%, None or unspecified 1.1% (2005 est.)

Population: 21,347 (July 2016 est.)

Literacy: 99.5%; Male: 99.5%; Female: 99.6% (2015 est.)

Administrative divisions: 16 states; Aimeliik, Airai, Angaur, Hatohobei, Kayangel, Koror, Melekeok, Ngaraard, Ngarchelong, Ngardmau, Ngatpang, Ngchesar, Ngeremlengui, Ngiwal, Peleliu, Sonsorol

Economy: The economy consists of tourism and other services such as trade, subsistence agriculture, and fishing. Government is a major employer of the work force relying on financial assistance from the US under the Compact of Free Association (Compact) with the US that took effect after the end of the UN trusteeship on 1 October 1994. The US provided Palau with roughly $700 million in aid for the first 15 years following commencement of the Compact in 1994 in return for unrestricted access to its land and waterways for strategic purposes. The population enjoys a per capita income roughly double that of the Philippines and much of Micronesia.Business and leisure tourist arrivals numbered over 125,000 in fiscal year 2014, a 13.4% increase over the previous year. Long-run prospects for tourism have been bolstered by the expansion of air travel in the Pacific, the rising prosperity of industrial East Asia, and the willingness of foreigners to finance infrastructure development. Proximity to Guam, the region's major destination for tourists from East Asia, and a regionally competitive tourist infrastructure enhance Palau's advantage as a destination.

Agriculture - products: Coconuts, copra, cassava (manioc, tapioca), sweet potatoes; fish

Industries: Tourism, craft items (from shell, wood, pearls), construction, garment making

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