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Fiji Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Fiji Map

Introduction

Background

Austronesians settled Fiji around 1000 B.C., followed by successive waves of Melanesians starting around the first century A.D. Fijians traded with Polynesian groups in Samoa and Tonga, and by about 900, much of Fiji was in the Tu’i Tongan Empire’s sphere of influence. The Tongan influence declined significantly by 1200 while Melanesian seafarers continued to periodically arrive in Fiji, further mixing Melanesian and Polynesian cultural traditions. Dutch explorer Abel TASMAN was the first European to spot Fiji in 1643, followed by British explorer James COOK in 1774. Captain William BLIGH plotted the islands in 1789. In the 1800s, merchants, traders, and whalers frequented the islands and the first missionaries arrived in 1835. Rival kings and chiefs competed for power, at times aided by Europeans and their weapons, and in 1865, Seru Epenisa CAKOBAU united many groups into the Confederacy of Independent Kingdoms of Viti. The arrangement proved weak and a subsequent attempt in 1871 to centralize power as a Kingdom of Fiji also faltered. Fearing a hostile takeover by a foreign power, CAKOBAU ceded Fiji to the UK in 1874.

The first British governor set up a plantation-style economy and brought in more than 60,000 Indians as indentured laborers, most of whom chose to stay in Fiji rather than return to India when their contracts expired. In the early 1900s, society was divided along ethnic lines, with iTaukei (indigenous Fijians), Europeans, and Indo-Fijians living in separate areas and maintaining their own languages and traditions. ITaukei fears of an Indo-Fijian takeover of government delayed independence through the 1960s; Fiji achieved independence in 1970 with agreements in place to allocate parliamentary seats by ethnic groups. Long-serving Prime Minister Kamisese MARA largely balanced these ethnic divisions but concerns about growing Indo-Fijian political influence led to two coups in 1987. A new constitution in 1990 cemented iTaukei control of politics, leading thousands of Indo-Fijians to leave. A reformed constitution in 1997 was more equitable and led to the election of an Indo-Fijian prime minister in 1999, who was ousted in a coup the following year. In 2005, the new prime minister put forward a bill that would grant pardons to the coup perpetrators, leading Commodore Josaia BAINIMARAMA to launch a coup in 2006. BAINIMARAMA  appointed himself prime minister in 2007 and continues to hold the position after elections in 2014 and 2018 that international observers deemed credible.

With well-developed infrastructure, Fiji has become a hub for the Pacific, hosting the secretariat for the Pacific Islands Forum and the main campus of the University of the South Pacific. In addition, Fiji is a center for Pacific tourism, and Nadi International Airport is by far the busiest airport in a pacific island country.

Geography

Location

Oceania, island group in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand

Geographic coordinates

18 00 S, 175 00 E

Map references

Oceania

Area

total: 18,274 sq km

land:18,274 sq km

water:0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 156

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than New Jersey

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

1,129 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone:24 nm

exclusive economic zone:200 nm

continental shelf:200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation

measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines

Climate

tropical marine; only slight seasonal temperature variation

Terrain

mostly mountains of volcanic origin

Elevation

highest point: Tomanivi 1,324 m

lowest point:Pacific Ocean 0 m

Natural resources

timber, fish, gold, copper, offshore oil potential, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 23.3% (2018 est.)

arable land: 9% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 4.7% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 9.6% (2018 est.)

forest:55.7% (2018 est.)

other:21% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

40 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

28.55 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

approximately 70% of the population lives on the island of Viti Levu; roughly half of the population lives in urban areas

Natural hazards

cyclonic storms can occur from November to January

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified:none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

consists of 332 islands, approximately 110 of which are inhabited, and more than 500 islets

People and Society

Population

939,535 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 161

Nationality

noun: Fijian(s)

adjective:Fijian

Ethnic groups

iTaukei 56.8% (predominantly Melanesian with a Polynesian admixture), Indo-Fijian 37.5%, Rotuman 1.2%, other 4.5% (European, part European, other Pacific Islanders, Chinese) (2007 est.)

note: a 2010 law replaces 'Fijian' with 'iTaukei' when referring to the original and native settlers of Fiji

Languages

English (official), iTaukei (official), Fiji Hindi (official)

Religions

Protestant 45% (Methodist 34.6%, Assembly of God 5.7%, Seventh Day Adventist 3.9%, and Anglican 0.8%), Hindu 27.9%, other Christian 10.4%, Roman Catholic 9.1%, Muslim 6.3%, Sikh 0.3%, other 0.3%, none 0.8% (2007 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Fiji

conventional short form:Fiji

local long form:Republic of Fiji/Matanitu ko Viti

local short form:Fiji/Viti

etymology:the Fijians called their home Viti, but the neighboring Tongans called it Fisi, and in the Anglicized spelling of the Tongan pronunciation - promulgated by explorer Captain James COOK - the designation became Fiji

Government type

parliamentary republic

Capital

name: Suva (on Viti Levu)

geographic coordinates:18 08 S, 178 25 E

time difference:UTC+12 (17 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time:+1hr, begins first Sunday in November; ends second Sunday in January

Administrative divisions

14 provinces and 1 dependency*; Ba, Bua, Cakaudrove, Kadavu, Lau, Lomaiviti, Macuata, Nadroga and Navosa, Naitasiri, Namosi, Ra, Rewa, Rotuma*, Serua, Tailevu

Independence

10 October 1970 (from the UK)

National holiday

Fiji (Independence) Day, 10 October (1970)

Constitution

history: several previous; latest signed into law 6 September 2013

amendments:proposed as a bill by Parliament and supported by at least three quarters of its members, followed by referral to the president and then to the Electoral Commission, which conducts a referendum; passage requires approval by at least three-quarters of registered voters and assent by the president

Legal system

common law system based on the English model

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only:at least one parent must be a citizen of Fiji

dual citizenship recognized:yes

residency requirement for naturalization:at least 5 years residency out of the 10 years preceding application

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Jioji Konousi KONROTE (since 12 November 2015)

head of government:Prime Minister Voreqe "Frank" BAINIMARAMA (since 22 September 2014)

cabinet:Cabinet appointed by the prime minister from among members of Parliament and is responsible to Parliament

elections/appointments:president elected by Parliament for a 3-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 31 August 2018 (next to be held in 2021); prime minister endorsed by the president

election results:Jioji Konousi KONROTE reelected president (unopposed)

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament (51 seats; members directly elected in a nationwide, multi-seat constituency by open-list proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms)

elections:last held on 14 November 2018 (next to be held in 2022)

election results:percent of vote by party - FijiFirst 50%, SODELPA 39.6%, NFP 7.4%; seats by party - FijiFirst 27, SODELPA 21, NFP 3; composition - men 41, women 10, percent of women 19.6%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice, all justices of the Court of Appeal, and judges appointed specifically as Supreme Court judges); Court of Appeal (consists of the court president, all puisne judges of the High Court, and judges specifically appointed to the Court of Appeal); High Court (chaired by the chief justice and includes a minimum of 10 puisne judges; High Court organized into civil, criminal, family, employment, and tax divisions)

judge selection and term of office:chief justice appointed by the president of Fiji on the advice of the prime minister following consultation with the parliamentary leader of the opposition; judges of the Supreme Court, the president of the Court of Appeal, the justices of the Court of Appeal, and puisne judges of the High Court appointed by the president of Fiji upon the nomination of the Judicial Service Commission after consulting with the cabinet minister and the committee of the House of Representatives responsible for the administration of justice; the chief justice, Supreme Court judges and justices of Appeal generally required to retire at age 70, but this requirement may be waived for one or more sessions of the court; puisne judges appointed for not less than 4 years nor more than 7 years, with mandatory retirement at age 65

subordinate courts:Magistrates' Court (organized into civil, criminal, juvenile, and small claims divisions)

Political parties and leaders

FijiFirst [Veroqe "Frank" BAINIMARAMA]
Fiji Labor Party or FLP [Mahendra CHAUDHRY]
Fiji United Freedon Party or FUFP [Jagath KARUNARATNE]
National Federation Party or NFP [Biman PRASAD] (primarily Indian)
Peoples Democratic Party or PDP [Lynda TABUYA]
Social Democratic Liberal Party or SODELPA
Unity Fiji [Adi QORO]

International organization participation

ACP, ADB, AOSIS, C, CP, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, OPCW, PCA, PIF, Sparteca (suspended), SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNDOF, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMISS, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Akuila VUIRA

chancery:2000 M Street NW, Suite 710, Washington, DC 20036

telephone:[1] (202) 466-8320

FAX:[1] (202) 466-8325

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Tony GREUBEL (since 20 January 2021); note - also accredited to Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu

embassy:158 Princes Road, Tamavua, Suva

mailing address:4290 Suva Place, Washington DC  20521-4290

telephone:[679] 331-4466

FAX:[679] 330-2267

email address and website:
SuvaACS@state.gov

https://fj.usembassy.gov/

Flag description

light blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the Fijian shield centered on the outer half of the flag; the blue symbolizes the Pacific Ocean and the Union Jack reflects the links with Great Britain; the shield - taken from Fiji's coat of arms - depicts a yellow lion, holding a coconut pod between its paws, above a white field quartered by the cross of Saint George; the four quarters depict stalks of sugarcane, a palm tree, a banana bunch, and a white dove of peace

National symbol(s)

Fijian canoe; national color: light blue

National anthem

name: God Bless Fiji

lyrics/music:Michael Francis Alexander PRESCOTT/C. Austin MILES (adapted by Michael Francis Alexander PRESCOTT)

note: adopted 1970; known in Fijian as "Meda Dau Doka" (Let Us Show Pride); adapted from the hymn, "Dwelling in Beulah Land," the anthem's English lyrics are generally sung, although they differ in meaning from the official Fijian lyrics

Economy

Economic overview

Fiji, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the most developed and connected of the Pacific island economies. Earnings from the tourism industry, with an estimated 842,884 tourists visiting in 2017, and remittances from Fijian’s working abroad are the country’s largest foreign exchange earners.

Bottled water exports to the US is Fiji’s largest domestic export. Fiji's sugar sector remains a significant industry and a major export, but crops and one of the sugar mills suffered damage during Cyclone Winston in 2016. Fiji’s trade imbalance continues to widen with increased imports and sluggish performance of domestic exports.

The return to parliamentary democracy and successful elections in September 2014 improved investor confidence, but increasing bureaucratic regulation, new taxes, and lack of consultation with relevant stakeholders brought four consecutive years of decline for Fiji on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business index. Private sector investment in 2017 approached 20% of GDP, compared to 13% in 2013.

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 80,650

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:8.66 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 144

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 1,097,345

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:117.83 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 161

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: 

Fiji has a relatively sophisticated communications infrastructure with the highest mobile and Internet penetration in the Pacific Islands; aggressively developing LTE and 5G, though the pandemic negatively affected the economy, largely reliant on tourism; population is spread across more than 100 islands, yet most live on two main islands, with communications based on link by a submarine cable system; cables provide a secure link during natural disasters, protecting telecom connectivity; provider plans to expand fiber infrastructure to remote islands (2021)

(2020)

domestic:fixed-line 9 per 100 persons and mobile-cellular teledensity roughly 118 per 100 persons (2019)

international:country code - 679; landing points for the ICN1, SCCN, Southern Cross NEXT, Tonga Cable and Tui-Samoa submarine cable links to US, NZ, Australia and Pacific islands of Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Fallis & Futuna, and American Samoa; satellite earth stations - 2 Inmarsat (Pacific Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

Fiji TV, a publicly traded company, operates a free-to-air channel; Digicel Fiji operates the Sky Fiji and Sky Pacific multi-channel pay-TV services; state-owned commercial company, Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Ltd, operates 6 radio stations - 2 public broadcasters and 4 commercial broadcasters with multiple repeaters; 5 radio stations with repeaters operated by Communications Fiji, Ltd; transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are available

Internet country code

.fj

Internet users

total: 462,860

percent of population:49.97% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 154

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 13,033

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:1 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 164

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers:16

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers:1,670,216 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers:106.83 million mt-km (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

DQ

Airports

total: 28 (2013)

country comparison to the world: 120

Airports - with paved runways

total: 4 (2017)

over 3,047 m:1 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m:1 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m:2 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 24 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m:5 (2013)

under 914 m:19 (2013)

Railways

total: 597 km (2008)

narrow gauge:597 km 0.600-m gauge (2008)

note: belongs to the government-owned Fiji Sugar Corporation; used to haul sugarcane during the harvest season, which runs from May to December

country comparison to the world: 109

Roadways

total: 3,440 km (2011)

paved:1,686 km (2011)

unpaved:1,754 km (2011)

country comparison to the world: 159

Waterways

203 km (122 km are navigable by motorized craft and 200-metric-ton barges) (2012)

country comparison to the world: 97

Merchant marine

total: 70

by type:general cargo 18, oil tanker 4, other 48 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 101

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Lautoka, Levuka, Suva

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF): Land Force Command, Maritime Command (2021)

Military expenditures

1.6% of GDP (2019)

1.6% of GDP (2018)

1.5% of GDP (2017)

1.2% of GDP (2016)

1% of GDP (2015)

country comparison to the world: 78

Military and security service personnel strengths

theRepublic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) have about 3,500 personnel (3,200 Land Force; 300 Maritime Command) (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the RFMF is lightly armed and equipped; Australia has provided patrol boats and a few armored personnel carriers; it also provides logistical support for RFMF regional or UN operations; in recent years, China has provided construction equipment and military vehicles (2020)

Military deployments

170 Egypt (MFO); 160 Iraq (UNAMI); 130 Golan Heights (UNDOF) (Jan 2021)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service; mandatory retirement at age 55 (2013)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

maritime boundary dispute with Tonga

Trafficking in persons

current situation: human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Fiji and Fijians abroad; Fijian women and children and victims from Thailand and China are sex trafficked in illegal brothels, local hotels, private homes, and massage parlors; Fijian children sent to live with families in larger cities are vulnerable to forced labor or sexual activity in exchange for food, clothing, shelter, or school fees; labor traffickers exploit Southeast Asian workers on small informal farms and factories and in construction; Southeast Asian fisherman may be subject to forced labor on Fijian-flagged ships or foreign-flagged ships transiting Fijian ports and water

tier rating:Tier 2 Watch List — Fiji does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so; authorities maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement, investigating a similar number of cases as the prior year and convicting a trafficker for the first time since 2014; a government-convened working group finalized an updated anti-trafficking national action plan; however, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts; law enforcement was often unaware of the definition of trafficking, procedures for interviewing victims, and how to proactively screen vulnerable populations for trafficking victims; inspectors did not adequately investigate labor violations for trafficking indicators or provide adequate support to victims (2020)

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