The government of the Marshall Islands is the largest employer, employing 30.6% of the work force, down by 3.4% since 1988. GDP is derived mainly from payments made by the United States under the terms of the amended Compact of Free Association. Direct U.S. aid accounted for 60% of the Marshall Islands' $90 million budget. The economy combines a small subsistence sector and a modern urban sector.
The subsistence economy consists of fishing and breadfruit, banana, taro, and pandanus cultivation. On the outer islands, production of copra and handicrafts income provide cash income. The modern service-oriented economy is located in Majuro and Ebeye. It is sustained by government expenditures and the U.S. Army installation at Kwajalein Atoll. The airfield there also serves as a second national hub for international flights.
The modern sector consists of wholesale and retail trade; restaurants; banking and insurance; construction, repair, and professional services; and copra processing. Copra cake and oil are by far the nation's largest exports. A tuna loining plant employs 300 workers, mostly women, at $1.50 per hour. Copra production, the most important single commercial activity for the past 100 years, now depends on government subsidies. The subsidies, more a social policy than an economic strategy, help reduce migration from outer atolls to densely populated Majuro and Ebeye.
Marine resources, including fishing, aquaculture, tourism development, and agriculture, are top government development priorities. The Marshall Islands sells fishing rights to other nations as a source of income. In recent years, the Marshall Islands has begun to offer ship registrations under the Marshall Islands flag. As a small nation, the Marshall Islands must import a wide variety of goods, including foodstuffs, consumer goods, machinery, and petroleum products.
On September 15, 2007, Witon Barry, of the Tobolar Copra processing plant in Majuro, Marshall Islands announced that power authorities, private companies and entrepreneurs were experimenting with coconut oil as an alternative to diesel fuel for vehicles, power generators and ships. Coconut trees abound in the Pacific's tropical islands. Copra, from 6 to 10 coconuts makes 1 litre oil.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $150 million (2011 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 3% (2011 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $2 500 (2011 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
services: 60% (2008)
The islands have few natural resources, and their imports far exceed exports. According to the CIA, the value of exports in 2013 was approximately $53.7 million while estimated imports were $133.7 million. Agricultural products include coconuts, tomatoes, melons, taro, breadfruit, fruits, pigs and chickens. Industry is made up of the production of copra and craft items, tuna processing and tourism. The CIA estimates that the GDP in 2016 was an estimated $180 million, with a real growth rate of 1.7% while the GDP per capita was $3,300.
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5% (2007)
Labor force: NA
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 48%, industry 12%, services 40% (2008)
Unemployment rate: 8% (2011 est.)
revenues: $169.5 million
expenditures: $112.1 million, including capital expenditures of $19.5 million (FY08/09 est.)
Industries: copra, fish, tourism, craft items from shell, wood, and pearls, offshore banking (embryonic)
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Electricity - production: 114 GWh (2008)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: NA%
Electricity - consumption: 57 GWh (1994)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1994)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1994)
Exports: $132 million (f.o.b., 2008 est.)
Exports - commodities: fish, coconut oil, trochus shells
Imports: $125 million (f.o.b., 2008 est.)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels, beverages and tobacco
Debt - external: $68 million (2008 est.)
Economic aid - recipient: approximately $40 million annually from the US
Currency: 1 United States dollar (US$) = 100 cents
Exchange rates: US currency is used
Fiscal year: 1 October - 30 September