10 Interesting Facts About Nauru

By Geoffrey Migiro on September 26 2018 in World Facts

The flag of Nauru features a twelve-pointed star to represent the 12 indigenous tribes.
The flag of Nauru features a twelve-pointed star to represent the 12 indigenous tribes.

Nauru, previously referred to as Pleasant Island, is a small island nation of Micronesia in Oceania. The country occupies an area of about 8.1 square miles and has a population of 11,347 people. Its closest neighbors include the island of Banaba, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu. Germany annexed the island as a colony during the nineteenth century. Nauru later became a League of Nations mandate governed by the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia after the First World War. Once the League of Nations was dissolved, the country entered into the United Nations trusteeship until 1968, when it became an independent state.

Interesting Facts About Nauru

1. Nauru Is the Smallest Island Country in the World

Nauru is the smallest island nation and the third-smallest country in the world by area, right behind Monaco and Vatican City. The island is occupied by Micronesians and Polynesians who are divided into twelve tribes, as represented by the twelve-pointed star on the national flag. The country has no rivers, no world heritage sites, and no protected regions. Nauru has a road that is about 18.6 miles long and an old 2.4 mile-long railway which the government built for phosphate mining purposes in 1907.

2. Nauru Was Once the Wealthiest State in the World

The country had the highest GDP in the world during the early 1980s, but by 2017 it was ranked among the poorest nations. Nauru's economy depended on phosphate deposits, which originated from seabird droppings. The state had the world's highest income per person by 1975 when Nauru's economy earned approximately $2.5 billion. This high income made it possible for the government to stop collecting taxes and provide numerous essential services like education, transportation, and healthcare for free. The government used to pay medical fees for their citizens who needed treatment in Australia, with their housing being less than five dollars per month. The state saved a percentage of their earnings from the phosphates sales in the Nauru-Phosphate Royalty trust, which had about A$1.3 billion in 1991. Nauru's economic downfall began when the phosphate mines became depleted. The country had the biggest phosphate deposits in the South Pacific, but due to their excessive mining activities, the mines were declared economically unviable in 2011. With no other source of income, the government turned to its Nauru-Phosphate Royalty trust. Due to some bad investments, the funds decreased to A$138 million by 2002. Nauru's GDP per capita ranked fifty-first globally in 2013.

3. Nauru Is the Fattest State in the World

Over 71% of the country’s population is obese, and the only island which tops Nauru is American Samoa (a US territory) placing Nauru as the world's fattest country. Obesity is a problem affecting most of the Pacific states, including Kiribati, Palau, Samoa, and Tonga. Numerous people have claimed that locals are genetically predisposed to gaining weight.

4. Nauru Was Once a Pleasant Island

Although the country receives less than 200 tourists annually, Nauru was once a pleasant place. British whaler John Fearn was the first westerner to visit the state in 1798, and described it as a beautiful island. The island is surrounded by coral reef, which makes it an excellent place for snorkeling and diving. The marine life was largely destroyed out by phosphate mining.

5. Nauru Has Never Won a Medal in the Olympics

Weightlifting is the national sport in Nauru, and the country has won nine bronze, ten silver and ten gold medals in the Commonwealth Games. The only other sport that Nauru has competed in internationally is judo. The country's ten Commonwealth Games medals put them ahead of Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe. However, Nauru has never won an Olympic medal, despite participating in the Summer Olympic Games since 1996.

6. Nauru Was a Tax Haven During the 1990s

Nauru became a tax haven in the 1990s and offered passports for foreigners for a fee. Anyone could set up a licensed bank account in the country for only $25,000, with no other requirements during the 1990s. The country's loose banking laws made it possible for foreigners to set up shell accounts in Nauru, thus making it possible for people to launder money. The state had over four hundred registered shell banks which only existed on paper. The Russian mafia managed to launder over $70 billion through Nauru. The FAFT (Financial Action Task Force) listed Nauru among the fifteen uncooperative states in terms of money laundering. Nauru finally introduced anti-avoidance regulation in 2003, which caused the foreign funds to leave the country. The non-cooperative label was lifted in October 2005.

7. A Majority of Locals Speak English

The official language and the one most commonly spoken in most homes on the island is a distinct Pacific island dialect known as Nauruan. However, about half of the population can converse in English, which is not surprising given Nauru's close historical ties with the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. English is the language of commerce and government within the country.

8. Nauru Has No Armed Forces

Nauru is listed among the sixteen states with no armed forces. The Australia military is responsible for the defense of the country under the informal agreement between the two states. However, the country does has a large police force which is responsible for security within the state.

9. The Government Does Not Collect Personal Taxes

A majority of Nauru's population relied on the phosphate mines for employment, and therefore many were left jobless after most of the mines closed. The unemployment rate in Nauru is over 90%, and therefore the government does not collect taxes. Tourism is not an option since the country receives less than two hundred tourists annually. The leading employer in the island is the government, and with no other source of income, Nauru depends heavily on external assistance.

10. Over 90% of Nauru Has No Topsoil

Phosphate mining has destroyed over 90% of the island and a large percentage of the island no longer has topsoil. The only fertile place in Nauru is a coastal strip where coconuts flourished. The government announced in 2000 that they planned to rehabilitate the entire island, although the project will take more than twenty years and cost over three hundred million dollars.

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