|General background: After three decades as
part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under
US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline
Islands opted for independence in 1978 rather than join
the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free
Association with the US was approved in 1986, but not
ratified until 1993. It entered into force the following
year when the islands gained independence.
Area comparative: Slightly more than 2.5 times
the size of Washington, DC
Wet season May to November; hot and humid.
Terrain: Varying geologically from the high,
mountainous main island of Babelthuap to low, coral
islands usually fringed by large barrier reefs.
Population: 19,409 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Palauan (Micronesian with Malayan
and Melanesian admixtures) 70%, Asian (mainly Filipinos,
followed by Chinese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese) 28%,
white 2% (2000 est.).
Religions: Christian (Seventh-Day Adventists,
Roman Catholics 49%, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Assembly
of God, the Liebenzell Mission, and Latter-Day Saints),
Modekngei religion (one-third of the population observes
this religion which is indigenous to Palau).
Language: English and Palauan official in
all states except Sonsoral (Sonsorolese and English
are official), Tobi (Tobi and English are official),
and Angaur (Angaur, Japanese, and English are official).
Government type: Constitutional government
in free association with the US; the Compact of Free
Association entered into force 1 October 1994.
Capital: Koror; note - a new capital is being
built about 20 km northeast of Koror.
Legal system: Based on Trust Territory laws,
acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary
Economic overview: The economy consists primarily
of tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing. The
government is the major employer of the work force,
relying heavily on financial assistance from the US.
Business and tourist arrivals numbered 50,000 in FY00/01.
The population enjoys a per capita income twice that
of the Philippines and much of Micronesia. Long-run
prospects for the key tourist sector have been greatly
bolstered by the expansion of air travel in the Pacific,
the rising prosperity of leading East Asian countries,
and the willingness of foreigners to finance infrastructure
Communication/Telephone system: Not available
Places of interest: If you're an avid scuba diver,
you already know tropical Palau's the last word in
Travel tips: Bring your binoculars as well
as your beach towel - you're going to like what you