U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Micronesia, June 1996
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Prepared and released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs,
Office of Pacific Island Affairs
Official Name: Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)
Nationality: Noun and adjective: Micronesian(s).
Population: 105,900 (1994 est.).
Annual growth rate: 3.35% (1995 est.).
Ethnic groups: Nine ethnic Micronesian and Polynesian groups.
Religions: Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 47%.
Languages: English (official and common language), Chuukese,
Pohnpeian, Yapese, Kosraean.
Education: Literacy--89% (1980 est.).
Health: Infant mortality rate--37 deaths/1000 live births (1995 est.).
Life expectancy--men 66 yrs., women 70 yrs. (1995 est.).
Area: 702 sq. km. (approximately 270 sq. mi.) in four major island
groups totaling 607 islands.
Cities: FSM Capital--Palikir (Pohnpei).
Other cities: Moen (Chuuk), Colonia (Yap), Lelu (Kosrae).
Terrain: Islands vary geologically from high mountainous islands to
low, coral atolls; volcanic outcroppings on Pohnpei, Kosrae, and
Climate: Tropical; heavy year-round rainfall, especially in the eastern
islands; occasional typhoons cause severe damage.
Type: Constitutional government in free association with the U.S. The
Compact of Free Association entered into force November 3, 1986.
Independence: November 3, 1986. From 1947 until independence the
FSM was part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered
by the U.S. pursuant to an agreement with the United Nations.
Constitution: May 10, 1979
Branches: Executive--President (chief of state) and cabinet
Political Parties: No formal parties.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years of age.
Administrative subdivisions: Four state governments (Chuuk, Kosrae,
Pohnpei and Yap).
Flag: Light blue with four white five-pointed stars centered; the stars
are arranged in a diamond pattern.
GDP: $215 million (1994 est.).
Per capita income: $1,800 (1994 est.-- factoring in U.S. assistance
through Compact of Free Association payments).
Natural resources: Forests, marine products, deep-seabed minerals.
Agriculture: Black pepper, tropical fruits and vegetables, coconuts,
cassava, sweet potatoes, pigs, chickens (mainly subsistence-level).
Industries: Tourism, fish processing, copra, handicrafts.
Trade: Exports--$31 million: fish, copra (1994 est.). Imports--$141
million: food, fuel, consumer products.
The FSM consists of 607 islands extending 1,800 miles across the
archipelago of the Caroline Islands. The islands are located between
the equator and 9 degrees north and 138 degrees and 168 degrees east.
Traditionally the Micronesian societies have been matrilineal. Three of
the four states recognize the role of the traditional leaders and customs.
Kosrae has no traditional leaders.
Nearly all Micronesians are Christian. Yapese are mostly Catholic,
Kosraeans mostly Protestant, and Pohnpeians and Chuukese divided.
Eight languages are spoken in the FSM: Chuukese, Kosraean,
Kapingamarangi, Nukuoran, Pohnpeian, Ulithian, Woleaian, and
Yapese. English has become the common language.
In 1525, Portuguese navigators in search of the Spice Islands
(Indonesia) came upon Yap and Ulithi. Spanish expeditions later
explored the rest of the Caroline Islands. The Spanish Empire claimed
sovereignty over the Carolines until 1899 when it sold all of its Pacific
island territories to Germany, except Guam which became a U.S.
The German administration of the Carolines encouraged development
of trade and production of copra. In 1914, German administration
ended when Japanese naval squadrons took over possession of the
Carolines, Marshalls, and Marianas.
Japan began its formal administration under a League of Nations
mandate in 1920. Through extensive settlement the Japanese
population in Micronesia exceeded 100,000 (as compared to an
indigenous population of about 40,000 at the time).
Following U.S. occupation of the islands in World War II, the United
Nations in 1947 created the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
(TTPI) with the U.S. as administering authority. The TTPI consisted of
Kosrae, Ponape (now Pohnpei), Truk (now Chuuk), and Yap (which
now are the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia), Palau,
the Marshall Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. On November
3, 1986, the FSM became independent and entered into free association
with the U.S.
The constitution separates the executive, legislative, and judicial
branches. It provides for a unicameral legislature of 14 senators: ten
elected every two years from districts apportioned according to
population, and one elected at large from each state every four years.
Two of the at-large senators are elected President and Vice-President
by congress every four years. Their congressional seats are then filled
by special elections. President Bailey Olter (of Pohnpei) and Vice-
President Jacob Nena (of Kosrae) were re-elected to second four-year
terms in March 1995.
The FSM judiciary is headed by the Supreme Court, which is divided
into trial and appellate divisions. The President appoints judges with
the advice and consent of the congress.
The four state governments have considerable power. Each state
government has its own executive, legislature, and court systems.
Governors and legislators are popularly elected.
Citizens of the FSM live with a democratic political system and a
hierarchical, traditional culture. In each of the states, traditional leaders
hold considerable sway over local governmental activity. There have
been a number of local and national elections since the inception of the
Federated States of Micronesia. Overall, democracy has functioned
well in the FSM.
The economy is dependent on government spending, primarily
supported by funds from the United States. Under the Compact of Free
Association, the U.S. is committed to provide to the FSM over $1
billion in funds and services from 1986 to 2001. In the FSM,
government (national and state) employs over half of the country's
workers. Other economic activity consists of mainly subsistence-level
farming and fishing.
Copra and fish account for the major portion of FSM exports. The
FSM also sells fishing rights to foreign companies, including firms
from Taiwan, Japan, the People's Republic of China, and the U.S. The
FSM has made the development of agriculture, fisheries, and tourism
its top priorities.
The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia conducts its
own foreign relations. Since independence, the FSM has established
diplomatic relations with a number of nations, including most of its
Pacific neighbors. Regional cooperation through various multilateral
organizations is a key element in its foreign policy. The FSM became
a member of the United Nations in 1991.
The governments of the FSM and the U.S. signed the final version of
the Compact of Free Association on October 1, 1982. On November 3,
1986 the Compact went into effect and the FSM became a sovereign
nation in free association with the United States. Under the Compact,
the United States has full authority and responsibility for the defense of
the FSM. This security relationship can be changed or terminated by
mutual agreement. The Compact provides U.S. grant funds and federal
program assistance to the FSM. The basic relationship of free
association continues indefinitely, but certain economic and defense
provisions of the Compact expire in 2001, subject to re-negotiation.
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