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Countries Information & Lifestyle
 Marshall Islands Marshall Islands

Country Information & Lifestyle

 The Land of Tomorrow

The Land of Tomorrow

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is one of the most unique places in the world to visit and is made up of twenty nine coral atolls and five single islands spread over an exclusive economic zone of nearly 1 million square miles one of the largest in the Pacific. The deep blue ocean of coral atolls and islands is one of the most unique places in the world to visit.

The capital atoll is Majuro where the government, most of the country's businesses and around 50% of the population live, leaving the greater part of the outer islands sparsely populated. This is the most developed and urban atoll and is one of only four atoll nations in the world and is also one of the youngest nations, independent since just 1986.

The islands are natural Pacific paradises - few tourists, beautiful beaches, turquoise lagoons, palms swaying in tropical breezes, friendly islanders and spectacular sunsets. The islands are an unnamed frontier for sports fishermen and divers. With the wrecks of Bikini Atoll and Kwajalein Atoll and the deep walls and coral reefs of places like Arno and Rongelap, divers have a chance to experience virgin diving and incredible underwater sights.

The language is Marshallese and English and the weather tropical with an average of about 81F with little variation during the year and the waters of the lagoon area comfortable 80F year round. The region is known for mild winters and tropical summers and the trade winds cool the atolls much of the year typhoons are not common.

The Marshall Islands, east of the Carolines, are divided into two chains: the western, or Ralik, group, including the atolls Jaluit, Kwajalein, Wotho, Bikini, and Eniwetok; and the eastern, or Ratak, group, including the atolls Mili, Majuro, Maloelap, Wotje, and Likiep. The islands are of the coral-reef type and rise only a few feet above sea level. The Marshall Islands comprise an area slightly larger than Washington, DC.

The air is tangy with sea salt on the thousand or so slender, flat coral islands that make up the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Living on these narrow strips of land between ocean and lagoon, the Marshallese are expert fishers and navigators, having long been reliant on the sea.

Local faces reflect the islands' history. In the late 1700s, after 2000 years of isolation, these Micronesian islands were variously visited, settled, colonised or occupied by British, Russians, Germans, Japanese and Americans (at first by missionaries, later by defence forces). The Spanish were the fist Europeans to sail into and explore the Pacific with Magellan landing on Guam in 1521 and at least seven Spanish ships sailed through the Marshall Islands during the 16th century. They visited a number of atolls briefly and only minimal trade and exchange took place after these initial visits the Marshalls were not to be visited again until the late 1700s.

The British came in 1788 and Captain John Marshall and Thomas Gilbert, the captains of the ships Scarborough and Charlotte took it upon themselves to name the two neighbouring island groups after themselves. They traded with the islanders and mapped some of the atolls and further British ships followed and then the Russians, Mutineers and missionaries.

Germans declared the Marshall Islands a German Protectorate in 1885, the Japanese in 1914 took over military possession from Germany and began establishing bases on Jaluit and Majuro and in 1922 Japan was formally awarded the Marshall's as a Class C mandate by the League of Nations. Japan withdrew in 1933 from the League of Nations and in anticipation of World War II began military fortifying the atolls of Kwajalein, Wotje, Maloelap, Jaluit and later Mili and Enewetake.

After heavy fighting in the Marshalls as well as other parts of the Pacific the islands were taken over by the US and the Navy immediately governed the Marshalls and in 1947 the islands were given to the US as a UN Strategic Trust. Between 1946 to 1954 the US conducted 67 nuclear tests in above and around Bikini and Enewetak Atolls. Eventually 1986 the country was transformed into a self-governing democracy in free association with the US the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

The two main atolls have quite different characters. While it's Westernized, the capital, Majuro, retains much of the languid feel of the tropics and offers the visitor a glimpse of what the country is like. While visiting you really must take the time to do a bit of exploring, take a drive to Laura Village on the far western end of the island, go for a picnic to one of the small islands across the lagoon or scuba dive to see the rich underwater world.

Oval-shaped Majuro Atoll is the nation's political, economic and transport centre, its 53 islets arcing in a slender 108 km ribbon. When Robert Louis Stevenson visited Majuro in 1889 he called it the 'pearl of the Pacific', and while some of the lustre may have worn thin, there's enough charm remaining to recall his description.

Over 1300 Marshallese labourers work on Kwajalein Island and live on 31-hectare Ebeye Island, 5km to the north, where population density is higher than in Hong Kong. This is not a big tourist spot but the people are very friendly especially the children, its different. The workers support an additional 12,000 or so relatives and friends in mostly very simple accommodation; many are one-room shacks and lean-tos of plywood, tin and plastic sheeting, jammed together in tenement conditions with little water. Residents haul drums of drinking water in from Kwaj on the ferry; piped water is only available at certain times, so fill up containers when it comes. The electricity supply is getting better but blackouts are still common.

In contrast, Kwajalein is leased to the US military for missile testing and is virtually closed to non-military visitors, its local workers shuttled to the wall-to-wall tenements of Ebeye. Kwajalein is located in the Central Pacific Ocean, about 2,500 miles west of Hawaii and 1,500 miles east of Guam and is the world's largest coral atoll, its 97 islands surrounding an immense 2175 sq km body of water. The island is home to USAKA (United States Army Kwajalein Atoll), Kwajale in Missile Range, and over 2,500 military and civilian support personnel. There are no cars, everyone uses bicycles to get around, and for recreation, there's swimming pools, reef snorkelling, low - cost boat and dive rental, golf, bowling, large playing fields, tennis, handball courts, a complete wood and ceramic shop, and library.

The RMI's charm lies in its outer islands which, except for the traumatic nuclear history of some, still retains the pristine feel of the tropical Pacific. If you have only a few days to spend here, don't run your schedule too tightly alongside that of Air Marshall Islands (AMI) - it generally serves outer atolls just once weekly, and delays of up to many days are common. You can still get a feel for the classic Robinson Crusoe lifestyle by visiting one of the small islands in Majuro Atoll, though divers often bypass Majuro and head straight to Bikini for WWII wreck-diving or Rongelap for nature-diving.

Some of the Outer Islands still use the traditional korkor canoe although boom-booms and motorboats are steadily gaining in popularity and both are used for frequent jambos trips of picnics to uninhabited islands of the atoll. In the quiet, traditional villages away from Majuro and Kwajalein the people are friendly and a few usually speak English.

Centrally located in the Pacific Majuro serves as the melting pot of international cuisine. Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Western or local food, your taste buds will be craving and there are a good selection of restaurants that will satisfy your palate. In a country surrounded by the ocean depths you can understand why seafood is a popular choice for everyone. Fresh tuna prepared island style or served as Sashimi is one way to experience some of the delights of the sea. Some local favourites include sliced, cooked breadfruit with coconut milk sauce, pumpkin with coconut milk sauce and crushed banana mixed with grated coconut. On the quieter backstreets the Marshallese continue to live in family compounds, surrounded by flowers.

Marshallese woven craft have come to be known as the best in the Pacific. Fans, baskets, mats, ornaments, and the kili bag (made famous by Jackie Onassis)all come from the Marshalls and continue to win tremendous praise for their unique and highly intricate designs. Many creative forms of this time-honoured craft can be seen in the more modern handicrafts.

Marshallese society was and for the most part still is, stratified into three general classes: Iroij Chiefs, the Iroij have ultimate control of such things as land tenure, resource use and distribution and dispute settlements. Alap - Clan Heads, duties include maintenance of lands and supervision of daily activities, and Rijerbal Workers. They are responsible for the daily work involved in subsistence, construction, agriculture etc. In addition land is divided into twelve categories ranging from Imon bwij, land belonging to the whole lineage, to Kitdre, land given by a husband to his wife as a gift. Inheritance is matrilineal passed through the mother.

Bikini Atoll is populated by the Bikini Development Department construction workers and some U.S. Department of Energy staff. There is a large population of Bikini-ans living elsewhere in the Marshall Islands and overseas who hope to have the ability to return to their homeland someday soon. In 1996 the people of Bikini opened their atoll to the outside world and in 1998 the atoll opened for sport fishermen and has been declared one of the best saltwater fishing in the world as a dive, sport fishing and tourism destination and has since drawn praise from around the world. It has been called The Garden of Eden but the operation was suspended in June 2008 but may re-open in 2009.

The Marshall Islands are a Land of Tomorrow, one that has been almost forgotten but so beautiful that you will find it very hard to leave this "Garden of Eden".

Purchasing a Property

Foreigners are not permitted to own land in the Marshall Islands and there are no disclosed restrictions to foreign investment and foreigners can in fact lease land for up to 50 years, land tenure poses as a problem for development in the country. Land ownership is based on ancestry therefore foreign investors who wish to lease land must negotiate directly to the customarily owners of the land.

Land Tenure and Property in the Marshall Islands is held in perpetuity by members of clans and extended families, and certain lands and fishing waters are held by the entire community. Practices vary from atoll to atoll but land passes through matrilineal although the offspring of male members of the matriline also have residence rights as workers of the land. Other anthropologists have noted bilateral features of land tenure that allow for flexibility in land transfer.

On outlying Enewetak and Ujelang, land is a mark of identity claimed bilaterally. Japanese land registration in the 1930s increased the amount of communal land to which the Japanese-controlled government had access. During the American and post-independence eras, pressures have multiplied to create alienable land that can be bought and sold.

Long-term land leases have become popular in Majuro, and a lease that allows the United States Army to use large segments of Kwajalein Atoll provides income for chiefs and land-holders of Kwajalein.

Under the Compact Free Association of 1986 when the Marshall Islands attained their independence from the Untied States it was agreed that the US pays the annual rent to use the Kwajalein atoll as a base and missile test range.

Fees & Taxes

Taxes are relatively low. Income tax has two brackets with small rates 8% and 14%, the corporate tax is 11.5% and the general sales tax is 6%. There are no property taxes.

Most sales taxes are collected by the seller, who pays the tax over to the government which charges the tax. The economic burden of the tax usually falls on the purchaser, but in some circumstances may fall on the seller.

Sales taxes are commonly charged on sales of goods, but many sales taxes are also charged on sales of services. Ideally, a sales tax is fair, has a high compliance rate, is difficult to avoid, is charged exactly once on any one item, and is simple to calculate and simple to collect.

Property tax, or millage tax, is an ad valoem tax that an owner is required to pay on the value of the property being taxed.

There are three species or types of property: Land, Improvements to Land (immovable man made objects; i.e., buildings), and Personal (movable man made objects). Real estate, real property or realty are all terms for the combination of land and improvements. The taxing authority requires and/or performs an appraisal of the monetary value of the property, and tax is assessed in proportion to that value. Forms of property tax used vary between countries and jurisdictions.

The special assessment tax may often be confused with the property tax. These are two distinct forms of taxation: one (ad valorem tax) relies upon the fair market value of the property being taxed for justification, and the other (special assessment) relies upon a special enhancement called a "benefit" for its justification.

The property tax rate is often given as a percentage. It may also be expressed as a permille (amount of tax per thousand currency units of property value), which is also known as a millage rate or mill levy. (A mill is also one-thousandth of a dollar) To calculate the property tax, the authority will multiply the assessed value of the property by the mill rate and then divide by 1,000. For example, a property with an assessed value of US$ 500,000 located in a municipality with a mill rate of 20 mills would have a property tax bill of US$ 10,000.00 per year.

Tax is only paid for income in the RMI there is no treaty with other countries.

An investor would be eligible for a resident permit.

Visas

A valid passport, sufficient funds for stay and onward or return ticket for stay up to 30 days extend-able up to 90 days from date of entry. There is a departure tax of $15.

United States and all its territories, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, Pacific Islands Forum Countries including Australia and New Zealand are exempted from the requirements of entry visa.

Entry visa will be issued upon arrival to citizens of Japan, Korea, Republic of China (ROC) and Philippines provided the duration of the intended visit is no more than thirty (30) days, the visitor have a round trip or a transit ticket and a passport valid for at least one year.

Citizens of all countries not listed above must present a passport valid for at least a year with an entry visa, a round trip or transit ticket before boarding and traveling to the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

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