Monday, April 19, 2004

Here today, guano tomorrow

Here's a BBC News article about the woes of the small island republic of Nauru. I remember reading a newspaper story about Nauru, the richest little island in the world, with it's natural deposits of bird poop, as a child back in the 1970s. But now they have fallen on hard times:
Nauru's rich reserves of phosphates - an ingredient for high-grade fertiliser - created enormous wealth during the 1970s and 1980s.

The island's 10,000 inhabitants enjoyed one of the world's highest standards of living, as well as exemption from tax and immigrant labour to perform all menial jobs.

But once the phosphates started to run out, Nauru's finances collapsed - and it has emerged that much of the money salted away in investments has been either lost or stolen.

Infrastructure has collapsed, and payment problems have frequently led to the island being cut off from supplies, including fresh food.

And unpaid bills mean that Nauruans, among the unhealthiest people in the world after decades of prosperous idleness, are no longer able to fly to Australia for subsidised medical care.

This all sounds like a cautionary fable right out of Dr. Seuss, but I'm not sure what the practical moral is. Obviously it's dangerous to have an economy built on a single natural resource, (or even a man-made resource, like legal gambling on an Indian reservation.) Some Naruans apparently realized this, too, but it's not an easy problem to fix:
The island has made strenuous attempts to diversify its economy. A major shift into offshore financial services during the 1990s seemed promising, but has resulted in Nauru becoming a major haven for organised-crime financing - and being blacklisted for money laundering by both the US Government and international bodies
Here's another page with some pictures of Nauru. (Via Crescat Sententia)


Post a Comment

<< Home