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Northern Mariana Islands

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Northern Mariana Islands

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Quick Facts
Governmentcommonwealth; self-governing with locally elected governor, lieutenant governor, and legislature
CurrencyUS dollar (USD)
Areatotal: 477 sq km
note: includes 14 islands including Saipan, Rota, and Tinian
water: 0 sq km
land: 477 sq km
Population77,311 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageEnglish, Chamorro, Carolinian
note: 86% of population speaks a language other than English at home
ReligionChristian (Roman Catholic majority, although traditional beliefs and taboos may still be found)

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Under US administration as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific, the people of the Northern Mariana Islands decided in the 1970s not to seek independence but instead to forge closer links with the US. Negotiations for territorial status began in 1972. A covenant to establish a commonwealth in political union with the US was approved in 1975. A new government and constitution went into effect in 1978.


Map of Northern Mariana Islands
Oceania, islands in the North Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines
Geographic coordinates 
15 12 N, 145 45 E
Map references 
total: 477 sq km
note: includes 14 islands including Saipan, Rota, and Tinian
water: 0 sq km
land: 477 sq km
Area - comparative 
2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries 
0 km
1,482 km
Maritime claims 
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
tropical marine; moderated by northeast trade winds, little seasonal temperature variation; dry season December to June, rainy season July to October
southern islands are limestone with level terraces and fringing coral reefs; northern islands are volcanic
Elevation extremes 
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Agrihan 965 m
Natural resources 
arable land, fish
Land use 
arable land: 15.22%
permanent crops: 6.52%
other: 78.26% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land 
NA sq km
Natural hazards 
active volcanoes on Pagan and Agrihan; typhoons (especially August to November)
Environment - current issues 
contamination of groundwater on Saipan may contribute to disease; clean-up of landfill; protection of endangered species conflicts with development
Geography - note 
strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean


77,311 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 
0-14 years: 23.4% (male 9,208; female 8,902)
15-64 years: 74.8% (male 27,041; female 30,781)
65 years and over: 1.8% (male 690; female 689) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 
3.49% (2002 est.)
Birth rate 
20.29 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate 
2.42 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate 
17.02 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio 
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.88 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1 male(s)/female
total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 
5.61 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth 
total population: 75.95 years
female: 79.23 years (2002 est.)
male: 72.85 years
Total fertility rate 
1.76 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate 
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS 
HIV/AIDS - deaths 
noun: NA
adjective: NA
Ethnic groups 
Chamorro, Carolinians and other Micronesians, Caucasian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean
Christian (Roman Catholic majority, although traditional beliefs and taboos may still be found)
English, Chamorro, Carolinian
note: 86% of population speaks a language other than English at home
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97%
male: 97%
female: 96% (1980 est.)


Country name 
conventional long form: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
conventional short form: Northern Mariana Islands
former: Mariana Islands District (Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands)
Dependency status 
commonwealth in political union with the US; federal funds to the Commonwealth administered by the US Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs
Government type 
commonwealth; self-governing with locally elected governor, lieutenant governor, and legislature
Administrative divisions 
none (commonwealth in political union with the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are four municipalities at the second order; Northern Islands, Rota, Saipan, Tinian
none (commonwealth in political union with the US)
National holiday 
Commonwealth Day, 8 January (1978)
Covenant Agreement effective 4 November 1986 and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands effective 1 January 1978
Legal system 
based on US system, except for customs, wages, immigration laws, and taxation
18 years of age; universal; indigenous inhabitants are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections
Executive branch 
chief of state: President George W. BUSH of the US (since 20 January 2001); Vice President Richard B. CHENEY (since 20 January 2001)
head of government: Governor Juan N. BABAUTA (since NA January 2002); Lieutenant Governor Diego T. BENEVENTE (since NA January 2002)
cabinet: NA
elections: US president and vice president elected on the same ticket for four-year terms; governor and lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms; election last held NA November 2001 (next to be held NA November 2005)
election results: Juan N. BABAUTA elected governor in a four-way race; percent of vote - Juan N. BABAUTA (Republican Party) 49%
Legislative branch 
bicameral Legislature consists of the Senate (9 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year staggered terms) and the House of Representatives (18 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Republican Party 4, Democratic Party 3, Reform Party 1, independent 1; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Republican Party 16, Democratic Party 1, Covenant Party 1
note: the Northern Mariana Islands does not have a nonvoting delegate in the US Congress; instead, it has an elected official or "resident representative" located in Washington, DC; seats by party - Republican Party 1 (Pedro A. TENORIO)
elections: Senate - last held 5 November 2001 (next to be held NA November 2003); House of Representatives - last held 5 November 2001 (next to be held NA November 2003)
Judicial branch 
Commonwealth Supreme Court; Superior Court; Federal District Court
Political parties and leaders 
Democratic Party [Dr. Carlos S. CAMACHO]; Republican Party [Benigno R. FITIAL]
Political pressure groups and leaders 
International organization participation 
ESCAP (associate), Interpol (subbureau), SPC
Flag description 
blue, with a white, five-pointed star superimposed on the gray silhouette of a latte stone (a traditional foundation stone used in building) in the center, surrounded by a wreath


Economy - overview 
The economy benefits substantially from financial assistance from the US. The rate of funding has declined as locally generated government revenues have grown. The key tourist industry employs about 50% of the work force and accounts for roughly one-fourth of GDP. Japanese tourists predominate. Annual tourist entries have exceeded one-half million in recent years, but financial difficulties in Japan have caused a temporary slowdown. The agricultural sector is made up of cattle ranches and small farms producing coconuts, breadfruit, tomatoes, and melons. Garment production is by far the most important industry with employment of 17,500 mostly Chinese workers and sizable shipments to the US under duty and quota exemptions.
purchasing power parity - $900 million
note: GDP numbers reflect US spending (2000 est.)
GDP - real growth rate 
GDP - per capita 
purchasing power parity - $12,500 (2000 est.)
GDP - composition by sector 
agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%
Population below poverty line 
Household income or consumption by percentage share 
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices) 
1.2% (1997 est.)
Labor force 
6,006 total indigenous labor force; 2,699 unemployed; 28,717 foreign workers (1995)
Labor force - by occupation 
Unemployment rate 
revenues: $193 million
expenditures: $223 million, including capital expenditures of NA (FY 2001/02 est.)
tourism, construction, garments, handicrafts
Industrial production growth rate 
Electricity - production 
NA kWh
Electricity - consumption 
NA kWh
Agriculture - products 
coconuts, fruits, vegetables; cattle
Exports - commodities 
Exports - partners 
Imports - commodities 
food, construction equipment and materials, petroleum products
Imports - partners 
US, Japan
Debt - external 
Economic aid - recipient 
extensive funding from US
US dollar (USD)
Currency code 
Exchange rates 
the US dollar is used
Fiscal year 
1 October - 30 September


Telephones - main lines in use 
21,000 (1996)
Telephones - mobile cellular 
1,200 (1995)
Telephone system 
general assessment: NA
domestic: NA
international: satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations 
AM 2, FM 3, shortwave 1 (1998)
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)
Internet country code 
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) 
1 (2001)
Internet users 


0 km
total: 362 km
paved: NA km
unpaved: NA km (1991)
Ports and harbors 
Saipan, Tinian
Merchant marine 
none (2002 est.)
6 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways 
total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways 
total: 3
under 914 m: 2 (2002)
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1 (2002)


Military - note 
defense is the responsibility of the US

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international