Kiribati Economy Facts

Economical overview

Kiribati is regarded by the UN as one of the world’s least developed countries. The vast distances between the islands of Kiribati make it difficult to develop a modern economy. A large part of the population lives mainly on what nature provides.

Two major challenges for the economy are the effects of climate change (see Natural Resources and Energy) as well as the overpopulation of a few central islands, mainly the capital city of Tarawa.

  • Major imports by Kiribati, covering a full list of top products imported by the country and trade value for each product category.

The state’s largest source of income is the sale of fishing licenses to foreign interests; fishing provides about a quarter of revenue. Still, the country is believed to lose millions each year due to illegal fishing, as opportunities to monitor one of the world’s largest fishing zones are lacking. There is a risk of fishing, as modern fishing fleets from the industrial world almost vacuum the sea on its contents. In addition, the legal profit also ends up mainly abroad.

The Kiribatians are not able to build up a modern fishing industry themselves, but fish mainly for housing needs. In addition to fish, the sea provides shells and other materials for craft products. In addition, there is some cultivation of fish and lobster, and of seagrass, which is an important export commodity. Some fishing vessels ask for salt, and they can buy it at the Kiritimati Atoll, where you get salt as a by-product when seawater is desalinated with the help of solar energy.

Kiribati is dependent on assistance for its livelihood. Development assistance from the outside world accounts for a quarter of the gross domestic product (GDP). The most important donors are Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, the Asian Development Bank and various UN agencies. Sharply increased food prices have forced people, mainly on remote islands, to spend more than half of their income on food, and acute food shortages have been threatened. Kiribati is dependent on imported food for its supply.

  • Check this abbreviation website to find three letter ISO codes for all countries in the world, including KIR which represents the country of Kiribati. Check findjobdescriptions to learn more about Kiribati.

Tourism provides an important financial contribution, as does money that Kiribatians abroad send home. Income from tourism has increased in recent years, while contributions from Kiribati abroad have decreased. A fund with money from the previous phosphate mining on the island of Banaba also makes an important contribution to the Treasury (see Older history and Modern history).

Kiribati has a large and constant deficit in the commodity trade, as the vast majority of input and consumer goods and fuel must be imported. In addition, the country’s export opportunities are limited. The trade deficit is offset by income from tourism and by money from Kiribati working abroad.

Until the 2010s, there was generally a budget deficit, which was usually covered by funds from the phosphate fund. To avoid excessive withdrawals from the fund, VAT was introduced in April 2014. The VAT and good income from the fishing licenses during the first half of the 2010 have meant that a surplus in the budget has been noted for some years.


GDP per person

US $ 1,625 (2018)

Total GDP

US $ 188 million (2018)

GDP growth

2.0 percent (2018)

Agriculture’s share of GDP

30.8 percent (2017)

Manufacturing industry’s share of GDP

4.3 percent (2017)

The service sector’s share of GDP

63.4 percent (2017)


1.7 percent (2019)

Government debt’s share of GDP

20.6 percent (2018)


Australian dollar

Merchandise exports

US $ 15 million (2017)


US $ 114 million (2017)

Current account

US $ 71 million (2017)

Commodity trade’s share of GDP

59 percent (2018)

Main export goods

copra (dried coconut meat), coconuts, coconut oil; seagrass, fish and other products from the sea

Largest trading partner

Fiji, Australia, Morocco, Marshall Islands, Philippines, Singapore, New Zealand (2013)

Kiribati Economy Facts

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