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Country profile: Palau

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Map of Palau

More than 200 volcanic and coral islands  many of them surrounded by a single barrier reef  make up the northern Pacific nation of Palau.

Its tropical waters are home to an abundance of marine life  making Palau a paradise for divers.

The scenery ranges from white sandy beaches to dense jungle. Palau tries to protect its wildlife from hunters and poachers. It favours sustainable tourism.



Palau became independent in 1994  after being part of a United Nations trust territory administered by the US for 47 years.

Islander carves traditional dugout canoe
Politics: Became independent in 1994 after being run by the US
Economics: Heavily dependent on US aid. Some tourism. Fishing by foreign fleets contributes to national income.
International: One of few countries to recognise Taiwan

It relies on financial aid from the US  provided under a Compact of Free Association which gives the US responsibility for Palau's defence and the right to maintain military bases there. Direct aid is set to wind up in 2009.

Tourism is low key  though growing in economic importance. Many visitors come from Taiwan  with which Palau has diplomatic ties. Taiwanese aid boosts the economy. The government is Palau's largest employer.

Monoliths and other relics are reminders of an ancient culture that thrived on the islands  but Palau's recent history has been dominated by outside influences - from Spain  Britain  Germany  Japan and the US. Palau saw some of the region's fiercest fighting in World War II.

Though embracing some Western trappings  many Palauans identify with their traditional culture and its codes and rites.

Politics in Palau sometimes has been lively; the nation's first president was assassinated in 1985.


  • Full name: Republic of Palau
  • Population: 20 000 (UN  2009)
  • Capital: Melekeok
  • Largest town: Koror
  • Area: 508 sq km (196 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Palauan  English
  • Major religions: Christianity  Modekngei (indigenous belief)
  • Life expectancy: 66 years (men)  72 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 US dollar = 100 cents
  • Main exports: Fish  garments
  • GNI per capita: US $8 650 (World Bank  2008)
  • Internet domain: .pw
  • International dialling code: +680


President: Johnson Toribiong

Johnson Toribiong
Johnson Toribiong

Mr Toribiong was elected in the presidential poll of November 2008  beating outgoing Vice-President Elias Camsek Chin. The previous president  Tommy Remengesau  had served his maximum two consecutive terms and could not run again.

A US-educated lawyer  Mr Toribiong served as ambassador to Taiwan before standing for president.

Like his predecessor  President Toribiong has said Palau must end its dependence on US aid and diversify its economy beyond tourism. He was inaugurated on 15 January 2009.


The press

  • Tia Belau - English-language weekly
  • Palau Horizon - English-language weekly
  • Roureur Belau - Palauan weekly


There are no television stations based in Palau  but most households are hooked up to cable TV  which rebroadcasts US and satellite TV channels.









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