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The Republic of Vanuatu is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago is located some 1,750 km east of Australia, 500 km north-east of New Caledonia, west of Fiji and south of the Solomon Islands. It was named New Hebrides during its colonial period.
Ripablik blong Vanuatu
Republic of Vanuatu
République du Vanuatu
Flag of Vanuatu Coat of Arms of Vanuatu
( In Detail) ( In Detail)
National motto: Let us stand firm in God
Location of Vanuatu
Official languages Bislama, English, French
Capital Port Vila
Largest City Port Vila
President Kalkot Mataskelekele
Prime Minister Ham Lini
- Total
- % water
Ranked 156th
12,200 km²
- Total (?)
- Density
Ranked 172
HDI (2003) 0.659 ( 118th) – medium
Independence 30 July 1980
Currency Vatu
Time zone UTC + 11
National anthem Yumi, Yumi, Yumi
Internet TLD .vu
Calling Code +678

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History - Contents

Many of the islands of Vanuatu have been inhabited for thousands of years, the oldest evidence found dating to 2000 BC. In 1606, the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernández de Quirós became the first European to reach the islands. Europeans began settling the islands in the late 18th century, after British explorer James Cook visited the islands on his second voyage.In 1906, the French and British agreed to an Anglo-French Condominium on the New Hebrides, as the islands were then known. In the 1960s, the ni-Vanuatu people started to press for self-governance and later independence; full sovereignty was finally granted by both European nations on July 30, 1980.During the 1990s, Vanuatu experienced political instability, which eventually resulted in a more decentralised government.Vanuatu is considered by some to be one of the few remaining truly unspoilt island paradises.

Politics - Contents

The parliament of Vanuatu is unicameral, and has 52 members; these are elected every four years by popular vote. The leader of the main party in the parliament is usually elected Prime Minister, and heads the government. The head of state, the President, is chosen every five years by the parliament and the presidents of the six provincial governments. Forming coalition governments, however, has proved problematic at times, owing to differences between English and French speakers. Vanuatu used to be called the New Hebrides during World War 2.

Provinces - Contents

Vanuatu has six provinces:
  • Malampa
  • Penama
  • Sanma
  • Shefa
  • Tafea
  • Torba

Geography - Contents

Vanuatu is not just one island. It is actually an 83-island archipelago, of which two — Matthew and Hunter — are also claimed by the French overseas department of New Caledonia. Of all the 83 islands, 14 have surface areas of more than 100 square kilometer, namely Espiritu Santo (3956 km²), Malakula (2041 km²), Éfaté (900 km²), Erromango (888 km²), Ambrym (678 km²), Tanna (555 km²), Pentecôte (491 km²), Épi (445 km²), Ambae or Aoba (402 km²), Vanua Lava (334 km²), Santa Maria (328 km²), Maéwo (304 km²), Malo (180 km²) and Anatom or Aneityum (159 km²). Most of the islands are mountainous and of volcanic origin, and have a tropical or sub-tropical climate. The nation's largest towns are the capital Port Vila, which is situated on Éfaté, and Luganville, on Espiritu Santo. The highest point in Vanuatu is Mount Tabwemasana, at 1879 m (6158 ft), also on the island of Espiritu Santo.

Ecology - Contents

Vanuatu is recognized as a distinct terrestrial ecoregion, called the Vanuatu rain forests (see article). Vanuatu is part of the Australasia ecozone, which also includes neighboring New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands, as well as Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand.

Economy - Contents

The economy is based primarily on subsistence or small-scale agriculture, which provides a living for 65% of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism (with about 50,000 visitors in 1997), are other mainstays of the economy. Mineral deposits are negligible; the country has no known petroleum deposits. A small light industry sector caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import duties and a 12.5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services.Economic development is hindered by dependence on relatively few commodity exports, vulnerability to natural disasters, and long distances from main markets and between constituent islands. A severe earthquake in November 1999, followed by a tsunami, caused extensive damage to the northern island of Pentecote, leaving thousands homeless. Another powerful earthquake in January 2002 caused extensive damage in the capital, Port-Vila, and surrounding areas, and also was followed by a tsunami. GDP growth rose less than 3% on average in the 1990s. In response to foreign concerns, the government has promised to tighten regulation of its offshore financial center. In mid-2002, the government stepped up efforts to boost tourism. Australia and New Zealand are the main suppliers of Vanuatu's foreign aid.Vanuatu is a tax haven that does not release account information to other governments and law enforcement agencies. In Vanuatu, there is no income tax, no withholding tax, no capital gains tax, no inheritance taxes, and no exchange controls. Companies, like Kazaa and WinMX, choose to incorporate in Vanuatu to avoid regulation and legal challenges.

Demographics - Contents

Map of Vanuatu
Map of Vanuatu
Population: 202,609 (July 2004)Most of the inhabitants of Vanuatu (95%) are native Melanesian, or Ni-Vanuatu, with the remainder made up of Europeans, Asians and other Pacific islanders. There are three official languages: English, French and Bislama (a creole language which evolved from English). In addition, over one hundred local languages are spoken on the islands. The density of languages per capita is the highest of any nation in the world (average of only 2000 speakers per language); only Papua New Guinea comes close.Christianity is the predominant religion in Vanuatu, consisting of several denominations. The Presbyterian Church, adhered to by about one third of the population, is the largest of them. Cargo cults also attract some followers, see Jon Frum.

Culture - Contents

Vanuatu culture retains a strong diversity derived through local regional variations and through foreign influence. Vanuatu may be divided into three major cultural regions:
  • In the north wealth is established by how much one can give away (especially pigs, which are considered a symbol of wealth throughout Vanuatu).
  • In the center, more traditional Polynesian cultural systems dominate.
  • In the south, a system involving grants of title with associated privileges has developed.
Young men under go a various coming-of-age ceremonies and rituals to initiate them into manhood.Visitors are encouraged to display modesty and politeness and to dress in a respectful manner.
  • Music of Vanuatu
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