About Nauru


Youth literacy (2011)


of the total population is unemployed (2011)


Youth unemployment (2011)


years is the life expectancy (2007-11)


infant mortality per 1,000 live births (2007-11)


is the population growth rate


 Nauru Secondary School. Photo: UNICEF.

Nauru is a Westminster-style constitutional democracy. The Nauru legislature is a unicameral parliament with 18 members, elected every three years. The executive consists of a President who is appointed from amongst the members of the legislature. The President performs the functions of both the Head of State and Head of Government. The President appoints the Cabinet, which can be made up of six ministers (including him/herself) from the elected Members of Parliament.

Historically, Nauru has not had recognized political parties within its Parliament, although in recent years there have been strong party-like groupings forming. Voting in general election appears to be based more upon family ties than policies. With the absence of political parties, Nauru’s political situation has remained very fluid, with frequent votes of no confidence, to the detriment of good governance.

For the first two decades after independence in 1968, Nauru’s political system was stable. Since the late 1980s, however, the nation has been plagued by political instability, with 23 changes of administration between 1989 and 2011. Politics stabilized to some degree after the 2004 elections, but in 2010, a political stalemate between the Government and Opposition resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency until the political impasse was resolved. The political instability has impacted on the implementation of national policy objectives that have slowed or stalled due to constant changes in government.

Nauruan control of the phosphate industry almost coincided with independence. Although two thirds of the island’s phosphate had already been mined by foreigners, Nauru’s economic prospects looked bright based on the revenue to be generated from the remaining phosphate. Mining revenue was shared between the Government, landowners, the Nauru Local Government Council and the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust. The Government provided extensive public services for free and also concentrated on foreign investments that were intended to provide for the day when the phosphate reserves would be exhausted. However corruption, poor investment decisions, overspending and lack of planning intervened. By the 1990s, when the phosphate was almost completely gone, Nauru’s assets had also mostly disappeared. The Government then ran deficit budgets and drew from reserves to finance these deficits.


In 2009, the top five industries contributing to GDP were mining and quarrying, commerce, public administration and services, transport and communication, and ownership of dwellings.3 Phosphate mining has been the backbone of Nauru’s economy since the 1900s. However, the collapse of the major Australian market in the 1980s, the subsequent huge decline in phosphate exports from 1.58 million tonnes in 1980 to 0.5 million tonnes in 1990, poor management of the investment portfolio of the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust (NPRT), and the collapse of Nauru’s financial system crippled Nauru’s small economy. The resurgence of large-scale phosphate mining in 2008 has seen GDP grow substantially in recent years.

Economic recovery efforts were supported through the Pacific Regional Assistance to Nauru, a regional response program from 2004 to 2009. Nauru has increased its efforts in agriculture and fish production including the maximization of revenue from fisheries access fees and development of the informal sector. Limited power and water supply continue to be critical concerns for businesses. Now that major reforms have been undertaken by the Government, Nauru is removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist.

Government and state owned enterprises dominate employment, particularly the Nauru Phosphate Company (RonPhos). Of the total employed population of 2,970 in 2010, government employed 42%, state-owned enterprises employed 40%, and other sectors, including the private sector, employed 18%.

Development Goals and Objectives

Nauru’s National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) 2005-2015 was formulated after a period of financial crisis and the political watershed of the 2004 election, and was revised in 2009 through focused community consultations. This first national planning exercise is the means by which the Government and people will guide Nauru to greater self-reliance through sustainable development. The NSDS recognizes the MDGs as an appropriate framework for Nauru’s development and has integrated them as national development objectives, targets and a monitoring mechanism. The production of MDGs assessment reports is therefore an important monitoring and planning tool for the NSDS. The MDGs framework is being further incorporated into sector strategies and Government corporate plans, annual work plans and progress reports.

Nauru Progress Report 1990-2011

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