Nauru, Poor and Fat

Neatorama has a rundown of the 5 Smallest Countries in the World. The most interesting story is number three, the smallest island nation, Nauru:

Nauru only has one significant source of income: phosphates from thousands of years’ worth of guano or bird droppings. This proved to be both a boon and a bane for Nauruans – for a long time, its residents enjoyed a relatively high level of income as the country exported its phosphate like there’s no tomorrow.

The government employed 95% of Nauruans, and lavished free medical care and schooling for its citizens. Most didn’t take advantage of this offer: only one-third of children went on to secondary school. The adults didn’t really work, either – office hours were flexible and the most popular pastime was drinking beer and driving the 20-minute circuit around the island. For a while, Nauru was a paradise – for a brief moment in 1970s, Nauruans were even amongst the richest people on the planet.

Nothing lasts forever and sure enough, Nauru’s phosphate reserves soon dried up and left 90% of the island as a barren, jagged mining wasteland. Wasteful investments (like buying hotels only to leave them to rot) and gross incompetence by the government (former presidents used to commandeer Air Nauru’s planes for holidays, leaving paying customers stranded on the tarmac!) didn’t help either.

As if that’s not bad enough, Nauru is also beset by obesity problem. Decades of leisurely lifestyle and high consumption of alcohol and fatty foods have left as many as 9 out of 10 people overweight! Nauru also has the world’s highest level of type 2 diabetes – over 40% of its population is affected.

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