FOOD AND ECONOMY OF NAURU

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Food in Daily Life. Almost all food is imported, with the exception of fish caught by Kiribati fishermen. Nauru provided pandanus and fish in premining times, and these were eaten with coconut meat. In times of drought, food shortages could last for two or more years. As a result of mining revenues, the people have a variety of supermarket foods, from turkey to milk. Rice is the basic staple, and fish with rice is the ideal meal. This diet is said to contribute to a high rate of obesity, which often is a precursor to diabetes.

Basic Economy. Phosphate revenues are the mainstay of the economy, together with investments made with revenues earned from earlier mining activities. An average per capita income of $14,400 (U.S.) per year covers up the two extremes: those who have a large number of investments offshore and those who have barely enough to live on. Nauru is an expensive place to live, as almost all necessities have to be imported, although water is now obtained from a desalinization plant. Until the mid-1980s, Nauruans had a strong welfare economy in which housing, education, and health were provided and government scholarships were available for tertiary education overseas. Major cutbacks in social welfare provisions have forced people to buy the materials for their houses and rely more on their personal incomes. Nauru Trust Funds are another potential source of income for all citizens who are recognized landowners and members of Nauruan matrilineage. Five funds were set up between 1920 and 1968, but payments have not been forthcoming as the trustees and the government struggle to assess the amount of revenue in the funds. The Nauruan people will have to live off the proceeds of mining, which is almost finished. The government is looking for economic alternatives.