Northern Mariana Islands


Commonwealth of the Northern   Mariana Islands

Status: Commonwealth

Governor: Benigno R. Fitial (2006)

Capital: Chalan Kanoa (on Saipan)

Total area: 184 sq mi (477 sq km)

Population (2008 est.): 86,616 (growth rate: 2.3%); birth rate: 19.0/1000; infant mortality: 6.7/1000; life expectancy: 76.5; density per sq mi: 181

Languages: English (official), Chamorro, Carolinian

Ethnicity/race: Chamorro, Carolinian, other Micronesian, Caucasian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean

Religion: Primarily Roman Catholic

National Holiday: Commonwealth Day, January 8

Literacy rate: 97% (1980 est.)

Monetary unit: U.S. dollar

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2000 est.): $900 million; note: GDP numbers reflect U.S. spending; per capita $12,500. Real growth rate: n.a. Inflation: 1.2% (1997 est.). Unemployment: n.a. Arable land: 13%. Agriculture: coconuts, fruits, vegetables; cattle. Labor force: 6,006 total indigenous labor force; 2,699 unemployed; 28,717 foreign workers (June 1995). Industries: tourism, construction, garments, handicrafts. Natural resources: arable land, fish. Exports: $ n.a.: garments. Imports: $ n.a.: food, construction equipment and materials, petroleum products. Major trading partners: U.S., Japan (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 21,000 (1996); mobile cellular: 1,200 (1995). Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 3, shortwave 1 (1998). Radios: n.a.. Television broadcast stations: 1 (on Saipan and one station planned for Rota; in addition, two cable services on Saipan provide varied programming from satellite networks) (1997). Televisions: n.a.. Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2001). Internet users: n.a.

Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 362 km (1991); paved: n.a. km; unpaved: n.a. km. Waterways: none. Ports and harbors: Saipan, Tinian. Airports: 6 (2002).

International disputes: none.

Major sources and definitions

The Northern Mariana Islands, east of the Philippines and south of Japan, include the islands of Rota, Saipan, Tinian, Pagan, Guguan, Agrihan, and Aguijan. Although sighted by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 as he sailed for Spain, the islands were not settled by Europeans until 1668, when missionaries converted the indigenous Chamorro people to Catholicism. They were ruled successively by Spain, Germany, and Japan before they became a UN Trusteeship (administered by the U.S.) after World War II. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) became part of the United States in Nov. 1986. Spanish cultural traditions remain strong.

In recent years, Saipan's garment industry has been accused of exploiting thousands of Asian immigrants. Saipan's territorial status enables its employers to claim their clothing is “Made in the USA,” while paying workers low wages and sidestepping import duties and tariffs.

On February 12, 2013, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) House of Representatives voted to impeach Benigno Fitial on 18 different charges. The charges against Fitial included abuse of power, neglect of his duties, and commission of felonies. Fitial became the first governor in any U.S. territory to be impeached. Next Fitial must stand trial in front of CNMI's Senate which would happen just as soon as the Senate finalized rules and regulations for the impeachment trial.

See also Encyclopedia: Northern Mariana Islands.

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