Tuvalu Politics and Economy

Politics and law


According to the constitution of October 1, 1978 (revised in 1986), Tuvalu is a parliamentary monarchy in the Commonwealth. The head of state and chief executive officer is the British monarch, represented by a local governor-general who is appointed on the proposal of the prime minister. The government is responsible to the parliament, which also elects the prime minister from among the members of parliament. According to politicsezine, the unicameral parliament has 15 members elected for 4 years (majority voting). The active right to vote begins at the age of 18, the passive at the age of 21.

National symbols

The national flag was introduced with independence. In the light blue cloth in the upper corner is the British Union Jack in memory of the colonial power. The flying end features nine gold stars that represent the islands that make up Tuvalu. The stars are arranged in such a way that they show the exact position of the islands relative to one another when the mast side shows north and the top edge shows east.

The coat of arms was awarded by Queen Elizabeth II on December 3, 1976. It shows a traditional meeting house in a yellow bordered sign above blue-yellow waves and a narrow green strip of land. Eight green banana leaves and eight white mussels lie alternately on the edge. Under the sign there is a tape with the motto “Tuvalu Mo Te Atua” (Tuvalu for God).

National holiday is October 1st. It commemorates independence in 1978.


Parties in the European sense do not exist.


Tuvalu has no armed forces. There is only the Tuvalu Police Force with a maritime surveillance unit.


Each of the nine atolls has an elected island council as the executive branch for local affairs.


The legal system is heavily influenced by British law, but is complemented by local customary law. The High Court has general jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters, and is the appellate authority for decisions of the magistrate courts. The highest national court is the appellate court. The last instance of appeal is the Privy Council in London. Island courts decide on smaller, local disputes. In addition, there are regional courts for disputes about property.


According to topschoolsintheusa, there is eight years of compulsory schooling from the age of 6. School education is free of charge. Spread over the individual atolls there are ten primary schools, including one private and two two-year secondary schools (state and church) on Vaitupu and Funafuti. On Funafuti there is a branch of the University of the South Pacific (USP), as well as a nautical school (Tuvalu Maritime Training Institute).


A paper published by the Ministry of Broadcasting and Information, »Tuvalu Echoes« (founded in 1984), appears every two weeks in English, as well as the ecclesiastical publication »Te Lama« every quarter.

The state-run Tuvalu Media Corporation operates “Radio Tuvalu” (founded in 1975), which broadcasts a radio program in Tuvaluan and English; there is no TV station of its own. A large part of the island’s population receives foreign television channels via satellite.



Tuvalu is economically underdeveloped, because the small, flat islands with their nutrient-poor soils offer only limited areas for settlement and cultivation. The population lives mainly from subsistence farming, especially from copra extraction in small businesses and fishing. The dried coconut meat is used as the basis for making coconut oil, soaps and candles. Tourism is hardly developed. Significant sources of income for the state budget are the sale of fishing licenses, the leasing of Tuvaluan internet identification (.tv) and development aid. An important, albeit strongly declining, economic factor is the remittances from Tuvaluans working abroad, in particular the income of Tuvaluan seafarers on foreign ships.

Foreign trade: Tuvalu has a consistently high foreign trade deficit (export value 2012: A 0.9 million; import value: A 24.1 million). Coconuts are the only agricultural export good. All important industrial and consumer goods, including food, are imported. The main trading partners are Japan, China and Singapore.


The archipelago is poorly developed for traffic. There is only a paved road on Funafuti. There is also a port and an airport (flight connections with Fiji). Larger aircraft cannot be used due to the short runway.


In 1568 the first island was discovered by the Spaniard Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira (* 1549, † 1595). Whalers have headed for the islands since the 1820s; the Christian mission began in the 1860s. In the second half of the 19th century, the population was decimated by slave traders and diseases brought in by Europeans. The Ellice Islands had been a British protectorate since 1892, and from 1916 part of the British crown colony of Gilbert and Ellice Islands. After a referendum (1974) and the renaming to Tuvalu (1975), the final administrative separation from the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati, Story). Tuvalu received internal self-government in May 1978 and independence within the Commonwealth on October 1, 1978. In 2000 Tuvalu became a member of the UN.

Tuvalu Politics and Economy

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