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Nauru Modern History

After World War II, Australia was given the UN mission to manage Nauru. When the phosphate was running out, the Naurs were offered to move to Australia, but they chose independence which was proclaimed in 1968. During the 1970s and 1980s, the economy was good thanks to the phosphate, but financial neglect led to difficulties in the 1990s. The situation worsened and from 2004 Australia took over the management of the island's economy for a few years.

Australia gained access to cheap phosphate (see Geography and Ancient History) with the UN mandate to manage the island. In the 1960s, phosphate was about to end and Nauru was considered increasingly uninhabitable due to the environmental degradation caused by phosphate degradation.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Nauru. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Australia suggested that the Naurus move to an island off Queensland. Instead, they wanted their own state, and on January 31, 1968, the Republic of Nauru was proclaimed. Chief Hammer DeRoburt became the country's first president and he held office with only a brief interruption until 1989.

Generous benefits

Contemporary History of NauruFrom 1970 the Naurus himself had control over the phosphate mining. The mining was managed by the company Nauru Phosphate Corporation. Half of the profits went to the state, the rest to landowners, local councils and an investment fund. Phosphate workers were hired from neighboring countries, while the Naurus themselves were able to take well-paid government jobs and enjoy generous benefits, virtually without having to pay taxes. Most Naurus' only income was the money they received through the state investment fund.

Revenue was invested overseas to provide assets when the phosphate completely ran out. During the 1970s and 1980s, Nauru was a generous welfare state with one of the highest GDP figures per inhabitant in the world. Citizens were provided with material abundance without the state demanding in particular much in return (see further Economic overview and Social conditions).

In 1989, Nauru sued the Australian state before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, to claim compensation for the destruction caused by phosphate extraction on the island. The compensation claim also applied to New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which however failed to sue. The parties settled well in 1993.

Uncertain future

During the 1990s, phosphate began to grow, at the same time as the realization grew that investment from phosphate exports was underperforming and that the country's future was uncertain. Accusations of gross financial neglect hail. In 2003, the situation became increasingly unsustainable. In February, Nauru appealed for help: the country was on the verge of bankruptcy, no wages were paid and sick people could no longer be sent to Australia for treatment. But the appeals were difficult to reach to the outside world at first, as telephone connections were missing for a long time after the telecommunications system broke down. Nauru was also threatened by financial sanctions because the country served as a tax haven. In the spring of 2004, the economic crisis became acute and in July, experts from the Australian Ministry of Finance took over responsibility for Naurus finances (see Economic overview).

At the same time as the economy collapsed, the domestic political chaos that characterized the country for a decade had worsened. Nauru had chronically unstable governments; in 2003, the country had four different presidents, two of whom returned a couple of times. One of them, Bernard Dowiyogo, passed away on the post he held for the seventh time (the first time he was elected was 1976).

From mid-2004, when the Australian experts took over the finances, political turmoil arose. In June, reformer Ludwig Scotty took office as president, following yet another countless distrust of sitting governments. In October, new elections were held and the government won a convincing victory. Parliament unanimously re-elected Scotty, who quickly got through a budget prepared with the help of experts from Australia. Among other things, the salaries of government employees were lowered, generous contributions were removed and taxes were increased. Laws were also passed to prevent money laundering (see Financial overview).

censure

The economic tightening continued and seemed to have the support of voters. When Scotty announced new elections in August 2007, government-loyal candidates won by a good margin and Scotty was re-elected president. But allegations of corruption helped several former Scotty supporters switch sides and in December he fell into a vote of no confidence.

New head of state and government became Marcus Stephen, an internationally successful former weightlifter. However, he had only the support of half of the MPs, which led to a political deadlock. In April 2008, Parliament Speaker David Adeang, who was a member of the opposition, decided to shut down the loyal members. Then Stephen announced a state of emergency and dissolved Parliament. The reelection that followed led to more government supporters being voted in and the president re-elected with stronger support.

But in early 2010, after allegations that an Australian company bribed politicians to gain access to phosphate, three members switched sides and the deadlock resurfaced. After several attempts to oust Stephen by vote of no confidence, new elections were announced. The election held at the end of April resulted in the re-election of all members of the dissolved Parliament. Thus the deadlock.

Election again

The turbulence continued. Several attempts to appoint the President failed. Stephen announced the state of emergency again and already in June, new elections were held, just two months after the previous election. Now all members except one were re-elected.

After various tours and new corruption allegations, in November, former President Scotty was elected President, and then Parliament could elect Stephen as president. The state of emergency was lifted, and the half-year-long crisis seemed to be over. A budget could be adopted, four months late.

However, continued allegations of irregularities related to phosphate sales led one year later, in November 2011, for Stephen to resign at the threat of a vote of no confidence. Parliament first replaced him with Frederick Pitcher, but after only a few days he was deposed and replaced by Sprent Dabwido.

Dabwido took office as president in November 2011 and made a government change in June 2012. He took in several new ministers, including President Marcus Stephen, who was in opposition. The reason was that Dabwido wanted to support a number of constitutional changes that he hoped would increase political stability. These included, among other things, increasing the number of Members of Parliament, that the President would no longer be appointed among the parliamentarians and strengthening the audit.

Despite the transformation of the government, Parliament voted down most of the president's proposals. However, the number of Members of Parliament was increased from 18 to 19 in an attempt to avoid political deadlock where voting ends in a draw (see also Political system).

Detention camps open again

Following talks with Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard, President Dabwido announced in August 2012 that the Naurus government had agreed to reopen the refugee camp that was closed just over four years earlier (see further Foreign Policy and Defense).

In early 2013, a new political crisis arose when two ministers, including Marcus Stephen, resigned and a third was fired by Dabwido. As a result, only two ministers remained in the government, while the parliament was divided into three factions. The situation led to the dissolution of Parliament by President Ludwig Scotty and a new election was announced in April.

Then Stephen and seven other MPs went to court, which decided that Parliament was not properly dissolved and that the re-election decision did not apply. Scotty resigned as President, but after a few more trips it was re-elected in June.

The result was that twelve members were re-elected while seven new names were added. After the election, the new parliament appointed former Education Minister Baron Waqa as new president. Ludwig Scotty was re-elected President of Parliament.

 
 

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