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The Marshall Islands economy is almost entirely dependent on US dollars. Leased land and payments associated with military tests on Kwajalein, for example, have earned the Marshall Islands about $30 million a year for 30 years. Even more lucrative is the $4 billion "Compact" that brought in more than a billion dollars in 2001.

In addition, the United States has paid $240 million as a kind of ransom for the expected claims for damages as a result of nuclear tests. Over the last decade, however, there has been talk of the Marshall Islands storing nuclear waste from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. This would undoubtedly have brought in a lot of money, but the population was resolutely against it. In 1998, it was decided to ban all nuclear waste from the islands.

On the remote islands in particular, there is an economy that produces mainly for its own needs. There is some income from the production of copra, industry and fishing. Arno atoll is the largest producer of copra. Agriculture is done on a small scale, and people mainly harvest coconuts, tomatoes, melons and breadfruit, mainly for their own consumption.

More promising is a side effect of El Niño. Large schools of tuna are now passing through the eastern Marshall Islands. Taiwan and South Korea immediately bought fishing licences for the Marshall Islands. Canned tuna is produced on Majuro.

In 2017, exports amounted to a paltry sum, mainly to the United States, Japan and Australia, and imports from the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Guam and Singapore amounted to $104 million. Tourism and fishing are seen as the most important economic sectors for the future. Already today, the tourism industry employs about 10% of the labour force. A special tourist activity with economic prospects is diving for wrecks of aircraft and ships from the Second World War.

Research on the seabed has revealed, among other things, manganese, phosphate and high-quality cobalt. Whether these reserves can be exploited remains to be seen. There are also many Marshallese who work abroad and send the money they have earned to those left behind on the Marshall Islands. More and more money is also earned by ships from other nations flying the Marshall Islands flag. The Marshall Islands have the 10th largest fleet in the world! There are international airports at Kwajalein and Majuro. Air Marshall Islands flies between Fiji, Kiribati, the rest of Micronesia and Tuvalu.


Galbraith, K. / Micronesia
Lonely Planet

Levy, N.M. / Micronesia handbook Moon

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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