List of Countries
Map of Australia and South Pacific


General background: The British and French who settled the New Hebrides in the 19th century, agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which administered the islands until independence in 1980.

Area comparative: Slightly larger than Connecticut.

Climate: Tropical; moderated by southeast trade winds.

Terrain: Mostly mountains of volcanic origin; narrow coastal plains.

Population: 196,178 (July 2002 est.)

Ethnic groups: Indigenous Melanesian 98%, French, Vietnamese, Chinese, other Pacific Islanders

Religions: Seventh-Day Adventist 6.2%, Presbyterian 36.7%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 15%, indigenous beliefs 7.6%, Church of Christ 3.8%, other 15.7% (including Jon Frum Cargo cult)

Language: Three official languages: English, French, Pidgin (known as Bislama or Bichelama), plus more than 100 local languages.

Government type: Parliamentary republic

Capital: Port-Vila

Legal system: Unified system being created from former dual French and British systems.

Economic overview: 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. 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 and left 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 has risen less than 3% on average in the 1990s. In response to foreign concerns, the government has promised to tighten regulation of its offshore financial centre.

Communication/Telephone system: Not Available.

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