With 33 coral atolls and islands spanning an area of 3.5 million square kilometres of ocean in the Pacific, Kiribati is constrained by geographic isolation, high transport and shipping costs and a low population base. The very nature of the relative infertility of its coral islands prohibits agricultural production on a large scale. The population in 20101 was 103,058 and is spread out over 24 islands.
UNDP Human Development Indicators in 2014 place Kiribati at a low figure of 133 in the ountry ranking, unchanged from 2013.2 In 2015, the UN Committee for Development Policy reviewed the status of Kiribati as a Least Developed Country (LDC) and decided not to recommend graduation at this time but to review the situation in 2018, for possible graduation in 2021. The main reason for the decision was the economic vulnerability of Kiribati.
The population growth in 2010 was 2.2 per cent but South Tarawa’s growth rate was 4.4 percent compared with 0.2 per cent in all the other islands combined. This growth in South 1 Kiribati Population Census 2010, KNSO 2 UNDP, Human Development Report. 2014.
Box 1: Graduation from Least Developed Country Status for Kiribati The Committee for Development Policy (CDP) of the UN concluded its triennial review of the list of LDCs in March 2015. The Committee found that Kiribati fulfilled the criteria for graduation from least developed country category for the second consecutive time. However, the Committee deferred its decision on a recommendation for graduation for Kiribati to the next triennial review which will be held in 2018. Kiribati was regarded as having the highest level of vulnerability of all countries and there were also concerns about the sustainability of its current level of income. The situation of Kiribati will be reviewed again in 2018.
There are three criteria that the CDP uses for graduation: GNI per capita (averaged over three years) above a certain level; human resource weakness (based on indicators of nutrition, health, education and adult literacy); and economic vulnerability (based on instability of agricultural production, instability of exports of goods and services, economic importance of non-traditional activities, merchandise export concentration, handicap of economic smallness, and the percentage of population displaced by natural disasters).
For Kiribati to be in a situation to graduate from LDC status, the economic vulnerability criterion
will have to be satisfied.
The 2016-19 KDP will address the eight key priority areas of the Istanbul Programme of Action:
(a) Productive capacity
(b) Agriculture, food security and rural development
(e) Private Sector development
(f) Human and social development
(g) Multiple crises and other emerging challenges
(h) Mobilising financial resources for development and capacity building
(i) Good governance at all levels 7
Tarawa reflects the continual migration of people from the outer islands to the cash economy of South Tarawa. This equates to a doubling by the year 2026 when the population of South Tarawa would be 100,000. This population growth in South Tarawa has placed severe burdens on the supply of basic services such as sanitation and water. Kiribati has adopted a Population Implementation Strategy which promotes healthy family concepts and family planning. The strategy intends to stem outer island migration by improving access to economic and social infrastructure to the outer islands and ensure that all people of Kiribati can access the associated opportunities.
The long term issue that threatens the sustainability of economic development in Kiribati is Climate Change. Kiribati is working with donors to finance adaptation programs which will be vital for a nation with the majority of its land lying just above sea level. Climate Change needs to be acted upon at a global level.
The table below summarises the main achievements of the 2012-15 KDP. Significant improvements occurred with Key Priority Area (KPA) 1 (Human Resource Development), KPA 2 (Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction), KPA 4 (Environment), KPA 5 (Governance) and KPA 6 (Infrastructure). Improvements made under KPA 2 include school enrolment levels which have risen in 2014 and tests for literacy and numeracy had improved from 2011 to 2013. Improvements have been made in health, but Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs), child mortality, maternal mortality and Tuberculosis (TB) remain problem areas.
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