What is Naurus main export

Nauru at a glance

It was only two centuries and a decade and a half ago that Nauru came into the crosshairs of Europeans. It is said to have been the captain of an English whaler who discovered the island and named it "Pleasant Island" because of its scenic beauty. But what followed was a visitation that would never end.

Not because of the whalers who stocked up here, it was the adventurers, the emigrants of dubious origin, who made the island unsafe with alcohol and firearms in their luggage and with their game of intrigue set the local tribes against each other. With alcohol in their blood and guns at the ready, the tribal warriors devastated their villages in a 10-year civil war and reduced the population to only 900 survivors.

Photo: "Courtesy: U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program."

The grueling hustle and bustle on the island came to an abrupt end when European power politics came into play in the form of the Anglo-German Convention of 1886. She established the spheres of interest in the western Pacific and added Nauru to the German sphere of influence. Imperial troops occupied the island in 1888 and incorporated it into the Protectorate of the Marshall Islands. Alcohol consumption was forbidden with immediate effect, and weapons and ammunition had to be delivered. For a few years there was silence, then, in 1900, it turned out that you were sitting on a treasure: on phosphate - but not just any, but phosphate lime with a purity of 85%. No other phosphate deposit in the world showed a higher degree of purity. At that time, the entire island plateau consisted of fossil bird droppings, which had mutated to phosphate due to the chemical combination with seawater. So that both nations, Germans and British alike, could benefit from the valuable basic fertilizer, they jointly founded the Pacific Phosphate Company in 1905. Dismantling began in 1906 and the first ship was loaded in 1907.

An (almost) unbelievable story

The Germans were quickly driven out of business and in 1914 Berlin gave up the island of Nauru, with Australian troops moving up. England, Australia and New Zealand take power through a League of Nations mandate, "With Australia responsible for the administration". Nauru thus becomes a precious resource for the British Empire. The fact that the long-established Nauru might have rights to the mineral resources of their island is not taken into account until independence (1968). A lot is invested in machine parks, loading bridges, excavators, barracks for workers, and even hospital wards. The profits are gushing. This is ensured by the workers brought into the country from the Philippines and Hong Kong, from the islands of Kiribatis and Tuvalus. They steer the excavators, move the hoes and shovels.

Remnants of corals
Photo: By d-online (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Then the shock of 1942: Japan attacks, occupies Nauru and deported over 1,200 locals as forced laborers to the island of Chuuk, which is now part of Micronesia. Just over 700 of them survive martyrdom and return after the war. Once again, Australia takes over the administration of Naurus as a UN trust territory. Meanwhile, the exploitation of the deposits continues unabated until the last remnants of the original tropical rainforest have disappeared and the island plateau is increasingly transformed into a lunar landscape.

What is new, on the other hand, are independence strivings, which are emphatically supported by the UN and also enforced against fierce resistance from Australia. In 1968 the time has come. The sovereign Republic of Nauru enters the political stage with a bang. It takes over the extraction and loading facilities from the British and from now on directs the considerable flow of money to its own accounts.
It was the overture to the crazy capers and escapades that were supposed to turn Naurus society into a madhouse. The money flowed steadily and abundantly, after all, almost every family had land for which the phosphate sharks paid well. And the government went one better, covered all the costs for social benefits, nobody had to pay taxes, imports (especially important: alcohol) were duty-free. Those who became seriously ill were treated at state expense in Australia, where a residential area was bought in Melbourne especially for the accompanying family members. And at home, on the island, the state gave them neat houses for a symbolic rent. Electricity was free, people flew to Australia to shop and those who needed a cleaning lady had the state pay for her.
The per capita income was among the best in the world in 1983 at US $ 18,750; in the mid-1990s it was still 23,000 Australian dollars.

So why work?

Agriculture and fishing were the first to fall by the wayside, followed by all other branches of the economy. But there was enough money in circulation to import everything your heart desires and that the times remained so heavenly, that was ensured by the "islanders", the guest workers in the phosphate mines.

The sudden prosperity, celebrated in an infantile way - buy, consume, throw away - only too soon showed its downsides: decay of morals, cultural uprooting, three quarters of islanders are becoming overweight, diabetes is among the best in the world according to the WHO, heart disease and alcoholism are widespread.

You not only suspected it, you knew pretty well that the phosphate treasures would be exhausted by the end of the 90s. So they built ahead, created the sovereign wealth fund “Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust”, invested in foreign real estate, securities, stocks and made more than one speculation in the process. Financial sharks clung to the heels of the more or less unsuspecting islanders, funds disappeared, gigantic bad investments piled up. The island drifted into astronomical debt ($ 869 million in fiscal year 2009/10). The Bank of Nauru went bankrupt and hundreds of Nauru people lost all their fortunes.

But there were "ways out"

For example offshore banking. In the twinkling of an eye, more than 400 banks that existed only as “letterbox companies” were registered without Nauru even having any mechanisms to curb illegal financial transactions. Investment fraud and money laundering were therefore the order of the day. Russia's central bank complained that in 1999 alone around 80 billion US dollars, including a lot of Russian drug money, were refined through the detour via Nauru. Not least because of pressure from the Americans, a regulation was adopted in 2003 that introduced the abolition of offshore banking.

Another way to get money was to issue passports for $ 15,000 apiece. The story became known when two figures close to al-Qaeda were caught with Nauruan passports. Then Australia jumped in again, which anyway has to bear the brunt of the financial support. "Pacific Solution" was the cynical name of the project that provided for two reception camps in Nauru for refugees (mostly Afghans) who were unwanted in Australia. The warehouses existed until 2008 and 30 million Australian dollars flowed into the island nation's empty coffers.

In 2012, the camps on Nauru were reactivated after the flow of refugees to Australia swelled significantly. The camps were again filled with boat refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and other countries that faced an indefinite future. Riots broke out and in July 2013 violent clashes set the camps up in flames and destroyed around 80% of the camp buildings.

In the summer of 2016, 442 asylum seekers were interned. In 2018, the camp still existed with around 900 inmates, including 120 children: boat refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka who wanted to apply for asylum in Australia, but were intercepted and interned on Nauru. T. for years. The responsible Australian authorities deliberately allow inhumane conditions in the camps in order to deter imitators from fleeing boats to Australia.

Finally, in 2009, Russia showed its willingness to diplomatically recognize the alienated Georgian Autonomous Region of Abkhazia with a $ 50 million loan. In addition to Nicaragua and Venezuela, the two other South Pacific have-nots Tuvalu and Vanuatu also took part for a decent reward.

An opportunity for tourism?

In 1986 an independent commission of inquiry established the responsibility of the former colonial powers for the unprecedented ecological overexploitation on Nauru. Claims for reparation were rejected, and the International Court of Justice was brought in. After much back and forth, a bilateral agreement was reached between Australia and Nauru in 1993, according to which Australia made a one-off payment of 57 million Australian dollars and annual payments of 2.5 million over a period of 20 years to cover the damage to the environment to be eliminated, if that is at all possible.

Without renaturation there are no acceptable living conditions and no chances to interest tourists in the island. We once agreed on that. Anibare Bay on the east coast of Naurus with the most beautiful white coral sand beach and the only "real" hotel on the island could have been the starting point for a new beginning for tourism. Instead, the phosphate card is played again. This time it is about the secondary deposits under the coral limestone, the extraction of which is technologically complex. Extraction and export began in 2006, and in 2008 the government said it was time to encourage private banking activities again. . .

It looks as if the ruinous destruction of nature is going on and Australia's suggestion, decades ago, to relocate the islanders as a whole does not seem so absurd. As a new home they were offered Curtis Island off the north coast of Queensland. If the development continues as before, the Australian offer will be remembered with gratitude one not-so-distant day.

Eckart Fiene

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General travel information and current Entry requirements as well as notes on security and medical care can be found on the following pages of the Foreign Office (Berlin): Foreign Office

The popular city of Brisbane on the coast of northeast Australia is a cheap springboard for travelers from Europe. The first stage is with Lufthansa from Frankfurt / Main to Singapore. There, Singapore Airlines takes over the passengers and flies them to Brisbane. Travel time Frankfurt-Brisbane: 24.20 hours. An alternative is the LH flight from Frankfurt / Main to Hong Kong. There they switch to a machine from the Australian company Quantas, which heads for Brisbane. Total travel time to Brisbane: 22.40 hours. Here, passengers traveling on to Nauru board a plane operated by Nauru Airlines, a virtual airline of the Republic of Nauru that operates from Brisbane under an Australian Air Operator certificate. It is the only airline that flies to Nauru. Flight time Brisbane - Nauru approximately six hours with a 50-minute stopover in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Since Nauru Airlines, in addition to Brisbane, also connects Tarawa in the island state of Kiribati, Nadi on the Fiji Islands, Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands and the state of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia and Honiara on the Solomon Islands / Solomon Islands with Nauru, one could also enter from there or continue to travel there.

There are no public transport facilities, no taxis and no car rentals. You have to know how to help. The hotel receptions could provide assistance or private car owners. Renting a bike from someone else would be an alternative. The island is surrounded by a tar road (16 km). A cul-de-sac leads into the interior of the island to the Buada Lagoon and the phosphate deposits. There is left-hand traffic.

Nauru Time (NRT) is 11 hours ahead of CET and 10 hours ahead of CEST.

All year round, as the temperatures - average maximum 30-31 degrees - fluctuate only insignificantly. The water temperature is consistently between 27 and 28 degrees.

The official currency is the Australian dollar. You pay in cash. There are no ATMs on Nauru. Travelers should therefore have a sufficient amount of Australian dollars with them (e.g. get them in Brisbane). Credit cards are not accepted.

110/240 V, 50 Hz. An adapter is necessary as Australian plugs and sockets are in use.

The tiny republic, comprising only one island, is located in the western Pacific about 50 km south of the equator, surrounded by a ring of small island states such as the Federated States of Micronesia in the northwest, the Marshall Islands in the north and the widely scattered islands of Kiribati in the east. To the southeast lies the Tuvalu archipelago and in the southwest the island world of the Solomon Islands is the closest neighbor. It is around 4,300 km to Sydney / Australia, around 4,500 km to Hawaii and 5,000 km to Tokyo. With 21.3 km², Nauru is one of the smallest states on earth. For comparison: the North Frisian Amrum has an area of ​​20 km², the East Frisian island Norderney has an area of ​​26 km².

Similar in shape to an oyster, Nauru is an upscale atoll. Originally an ordinary atoll, it was raised by tectonic or volcanic activity. A limestone plateau that reaches heights of 65 m forms the center of the island. At its outer edges is a 150 to 300 m wide strip of fertile soil, followed by beaches of white coral sand and the lagoon. It is bordered by a fringing reef that falls dry at low tide. The reef prevented the construction of a harbor. There are 16 artificial passages through the reef, but they can only be passed by small boats. The now largely bare plateau, which in places resembles a lunar landscape, made up of white coral tips and mining pits, was the scene of ruthless phosphate mining for over 100 years. An elaborate renaturation program should help to remove the worst damage.

Due to its proximity to the equator, Nauru has a hot, humid tropical climate. The maximum temperatures (30 degrees and just above) fluctuate only slightly over the course of the year, while the rainfall during the northwest monsoon from December to February varies greatly. There are always droughts with hardly more than 100 mm of rain and very heavy rain months that can bring up to 4,500 mm. Between 1985 and 2010, an average of 2,080 mm of rain fell annually. After the rainy season, a dry northeast trade wind determines the weather from March to October.

The flora is species-poor, which is due on the one hand to the nutrient-poor, coralline soils, and on the other to the devastation associated with phosphate mining. At most, scrub still thrives as residual vegetation. Coconut palms and pandanus (screw tree) with edible fruits grow on the fertile strip between the plateau and the beach and around the Buada lagoon. Pineapples, bananas and vegetables as well as local hardwoods such as the tomano (rosewood) tree are also grown here. The majority of the population also lives in these fertile island regions. There are no larger, wild animals on Nauru. The underwater fauna is rich in species (tuna, bonito, marlin, barracuda and many others). It is not uncommon for an unpleasant representative, the Portuguese galley, to be a jellyfish with many meters of fishing threads and poisonous nettle cells.

The UN Trust Territory of Nauru, administered by Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain, gained independence in January 1968. The Ripublik Naoero, in the local language, is a parliamentary republic in the Commonwealth. The small state comprises 14 districts. The parliament, which is elected every three years, consists of 19 members in eight constituencies, who elect the president from among their ranks. The cabinet responsible to Parliament (currently six members) is appointed by the President. As a result of allegations of corruption and votes of no confidence, there have been around 40 changes of government since 1968. Nauru has no military. Australia is responsible for defense. A small police force ensures peace and order on the island.

Nauru does not have an official capital. The administrative center is the district of Yaren, where the airfield is also located.

The 2011 census found 10,084 residents. According to estimates by the UN Population Division, the population was 11,312 in mid-2018. The annual population growth has been in negative territory for a few years (minus 0.41%). In 2016, life expectancy was 67.1 years. Nauru was ranked 169th out of 224 countries and regions. For comparison Germany: 80.7 years, rank 33. The residents of Naurus are a mixed ethnic group of Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian parts, with the Micronesian parts predominating.

Nauruan is a separate Austronesian-Malayo-Polynesian language. It is spoken by the vast majority of residents.Some immigrant minorities only speak English, which is understood and can also be spoken by the majority of the population. English is the official language of the little republic.

A large number of religious communities exist in the small island nation. The Protestant Nauru Congregrational Church has the most supporters, followed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Asssembly of God, which belongs to the group of evangelical Pentecostal congregations, the evangelical Nauru Independent Church, the Seven-Day Adventists, the Baptist Lovoni Church and smaller ones Religious communities such as Jehovah's Witnesses and followers of the Baha'i Faith.

For many decades, Nauru's only source of income was the proceeds from phosphate mining. More about this in the main part. When, towards the end of the 1990s, the near-surface phosphate deposits with a high phosphoric acid content were exhausted (around 80 million tons had been mined by then), attempts were made to reclaim the less pure phosphate deposits (estimated at 20 million tons) under the coral limestone to tap into future funding. A “National Sustainable Development Strategy” advertises this project to foreign investors. In 2006, for the first time in more than ten years, it was possible to ship a larger amount of phosphate again. In 2015/16 160,000 t were exported. The state of the Naurus economy is still desolate. The island cannot survive without outside help. An example of not entirely unselfish aid is Australia's long-term program to restore infrastructure and stabilize the financial sector. A “Nauru Intergenerational Trust Fund”, into which the Australian government, Taiwan and the Asian Development Bank also contribute, is supposed to help. Unemployment is high. Anyone who can pursue a regular job is either employed in public administration, with the airline "Nauru Airlines" (it operates four Boeing 737-300s for 130 passengers each and one 737 cargo version) or in the phosphate industry. The open pit made the island surface 90% uninhabitable and useless for agriculture. With a few insignificant exceptions, all food and, in drought years, even drinking water must be imported. Their own agriculture has not been able to meet the demand for decades. In addition to food, all technical goods, building materials, chemical products, fuels etc. must also be imported. The sale of licenses that allow countries such as China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the USA to fish in the territorial waters of Naurus represents a large block of revenue. The largest portion of the revenue is made by the payments made by Australia for the operation of the worldwide heavy criticized refugee camps. Nauru is completely dependent on international aid.