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Country Profile

Area: 26 sq km (16 sq mi)
Population: 12,177 (July 2008 est.)
Capital city: Funafuti
People: Polynesian 96%, Micronesian 4%
Languages: Tuvaluan, English, Samoan, Kiribati (on the island of Nui)
Religions: Church of Tuvalu (Congregationalist) 97% 1.4%, Baha'i 1%, Other 0.6%Currency: Australian dollar (AUD); there is also a Tuvaluan dollar, which exists only as coinage
Major political parties: Independent, Westminster-style parliamentary democracy.
Government: Unicameral Parliament or Fale I Fono, also called House of Assembly (15 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General HE the Reverend Filoimeia Telito GCMG MBE (since April 2005)
Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs & Labour:Hon Apisai Ielemia (since 14 August 2006)
Membership of international groups/ organisations: Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Commonwealth, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Intelsat (nonsignatory user), International Telecommunication Union, South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement (SPARTECA), Pacific Community (SPC), Pacific Island Forum (PIF), United Nations (UN), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD ), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Universal Postal Union (UPU), World Health Organisation (WHO), World Trade Organisation (WTO) (applicant)

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As in other developing countries, health care financing remains a problem in Tuvalu. However, the government is working towards improving it. Human resources are the main challenge.

The national health policy goals for Tuvalu are to prevent diseases, promote healthy lifestyles and raise the standard of living; to provide high quality primary, secondary and tertiary health services, to continually improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the health care delivery system, to develop all health services to be customer-focused and to produce and retain high quality personnel for the health services.

There is one hospital, located on the main island of Funafuti. The outer islands have clinics staffed by trained nurses. Health services are working to meet the new demands of the changing lifestyles (especially regarding diet) of the population.

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Basic economic facts

GDP: US$26.7 million (2007 est)
GDP per capita: US$2,718 (2007 est)
Annual growth: 2.5% (2008 UN ESCAP)
Inflation: 4.6% (second quarter 2008)
Major industries: fishing and copra
Major trading partners: Japan, US, NZ, Australia
Exchange rate: (Tuvalu uses the Australian dollar)
Please see the Government of Tuvalu Biannual Statistical Report June 2008 ( for latest statistics about Tuvalu.

Tuvalu is one of the smallest countries of the region. Its economy was for many years based on fishing and subsistence farming. The sale of fishing licences was, until recently, one of the main sources of foreign exchange and revenue. Tuvalu has bilateral fishing agreements with the USA, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. About 800 sailors from Tuvalu work abroad foreign ships and remittances from these seamen provide a further source of foreign exchange.

In 2000 Tuvalu leased its internet top level domain name (.tv) to a North American company for a reported US$50m over 12 years. Income from this venture has fluctuated and not met expectations.

The Tuvalu Trust Fund, an investment vehicle owned by the state of Tuvalu, was established in 1987 to help the government achieve greater financial autonomy in the management of its financial affairs, and to help maintain or improve the levels of social infrastructure and services. The Fund was established with significant contributions from the governments of the UK, Australia and New Zealand, with smaller amounts being added subsequently by Japan and the Republic of Korea. Over the years, both the government and donors have contributed to increasing the capital of the Fund, which has established a reputation for open and effective management. This has contributed to helping the government manage its budget effectively. With market volatility in recent years, low returns have reduced the sums available for public expenditure. The capital of the Fund, however, has been maintained and represents an important asset for Tuvalu.

Tuvalu’s public sector accounts for 70% of the GDP, and in an effort to reduce its dependence on foreign aid, the Tuvalu government is pursing public sector reforms, including privatisation of some government functions and personnel cuts of up to 7%.

Due to its remoteness, tourism does not provide much income. Almost all visitors are government officials, non-governmental organisation officials or consultants.

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Longer historical perspective

The Ellice Islands were proclaimed a British Protectorate along with the Gilbert Islands in 1892, and renamed the Gilbert and Ellice Island Colony in 1916. They separated from the Gilbert Islands in 1975 and became and independent Realm within the Commonwealth on 1 Oct 1978. Gilbert Islands went on to become the Republic of Kiribati in 1979, taking in the Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands.

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Tuvalu's relations with its neighbours

Tuvalu is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum. Tuvalu has a High Commissioner in Suva, Fiji, a Permanent Representative at the UN in New York, a mission in Brussels, Consuls-General in Australia and New Zealand and an Honorary Consul in Japan.

Tuvalu's relations with the international community

Tuvalu acceded to full membership of both the UN and the Commonwealth in 2000. Tuvalu is also associated with the EU as a member of the Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Group, through its accession to the Cotonou Agreement.

Tuvalu's international interests are minimal and centre on its concerns over climate change and rising sea-levels. As a direct result of its concerns about the long-term habitability of the islands, the government has looked at the options for re-settling the entire population overseas, possibly in New Zealand or Australia. In practice, however, this is unlikely to be a realistic option in the near future. Tuvalu became one of the newest members of the Olympic movement gaining full membership in 2007.

Tuvalu's relations with the UK

The United Kingdom has a long-standing and warm relationship with Tuvalu based on our shared historic links.

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Tuvalu (formerly known as the Ellice Islands) consists of a small group of nine low-lying coral atolls located in the central Pacific Ocean, some 1000 kilometres north of Fiji. No point in Tuvalu is more than four metres above sea level.

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Trade and investment with the UK

Given the immense distances involved there is little direct trade between the UK and Tuvalu, although some goods and services are provided in Tuvalu by the subsidiaries of British firms based in the region.

Aid and development

Tuvalu receives development assistance from the United Nations funds, programmes and specialised agencies, New Zealand, Australia, European Union, Japan, and Taiwan. The UK Government's engagement in the Pacific is largely delivered through multilateral organisations including the United Nations, the Commonwealth, European Union, World and Asian Development Banks. The UK actively supports the development of work programmes in those organisations and contributes significantly to funding their activities.

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There are no parties and politics are based on personal, family and island loyalties. Parliamentary elections are held every four years. Following the August 2006 General Election MPs selected Hon Apisai Ielemia as Prime Minister. The new administration includes five MPs elected to parliament for the first time, of which four are former senior civil servants.

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The UK has no significant concerns about the human rights situation in Tuvalu.

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Last Updated: July 2010

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