Tuvalu is a group of nine tiny islands in the South Pacific.
1974, the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands faced ethnic
tensions. This resulted in the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands
voting to separate from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands. The
next year, Ellice Islands was renamed Tuvalu and became a separate
British colony. Tuvalu became independent in 1978.
Tuvalu is a constitutional monarchy (Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the state) and a parliamentary democracy without any political parties. Citizens vote for candidates based on personalities and geography. The current prime minister, Apisai Ielemia, took office in August 2006 after nearly all the ministers in the previous government were defeated in the last elections.
Tuvalu islands are low-lying, with no point higher than 4.5 meters above sea level. Tuvalu’s politicians have been concerned about global warming, which could result in the islands being submerged under the sea.
Copra - dried coconut kernel - is virtually the country’s only export commodity. Tuvalu also depends heavily on foreign aid, income from the sale of fishing licenses, sale of postage stamps and interest from a trust fund set up in 1987.
Tuvalu maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which funded the construction of the country’s tallest building: a three-story administrative headquarters.
In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract with a California based company, leasing its Internet domain name “.tv” for $50 million in royalties over a 12-year period. The company in turn sells the suffix to television broadcasters. Part of the money raised has been used to build schools and pave roads, which were earlier made of crushed coral.
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.