ADB’s Work in Kiribati | Asian Development Bank

ADB’s Work in Kiribati

Improving Lives through Better Connections

Daybreak in South Tarawa
At daybreak at a lagoon near Tangintebu village in South Tarawa

The most important road in Kiribati, which joined the airport with the main seaport and passed through one of the country’s most densely populated areas, used to be in very poor condition.

In 2010, ADB and other development organizations partnered with Kiribati to improve the situation. The result was the largest infrastructure investment in the country since World War II. The Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project, rehabilitated more than 30 kilometers of critical roads, including the segment connecting the seaport of Betio and the airport on the atoll of South Tarawa.

The road is the only transport route on the atoll of South Tarawa and is vital to the lives of the entire population. The project also installed footpaths, speed bumps, street lighting, and road signs to improve safety. Training and jobs are being provided for women and men participating in road maintenance microenterprises, resulting in a boost in incomes for local communities.

The new road is an important link in the transport network of one of the most remote and geographically dispersed countries on the planet. In Kiribati, the entire population lives on 20 coral atolls spread over 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean. More than 56,000 people, or about half of the population, live in the capital, South Tarawa, which has an area of only 16 square kilometers.

"Fifty years of partnership with ADB is monumental to Kiribati. It has seen milestone achievements that have impacted significantly on our quality of life and overall development. The partnership continues to support and complement Kiribati’s development efforts moving forward. Our relationship with ADB over these past 50 years has been one based on mutual trust and respect, and this is the foundation of the success of our development cooperation with ADB."

Teuea Toatu
Minister of Finance and Economic Development
Kiribati

Improving lives through stronger partnership

The country’s small economy relies heavily on imports, even for basic commodities such as food and fuel. Most of the government’s revenue comes from license fees paid by distant fishing countries, remittances sent home from Kiribati citizens living and working abroad, and investment income. Since 1974, ADB and Kiribati have been working together to on a wide range of initiatives.

The first joint project, in 1976, helped build the causeway between two key atolls, Betio and Bairiki. The causeway still provides the only land link between the two population centers.

In the 1980s, ADB supported rehabilitation of the Betio shipyard and improvements to the power distribution system in Tarawa. In the late 1990s, ADB provided assistance on sanitation, public health, and better environmental management. This included restructuring the Public Utilities Board, which enabled it to provide sustained water supply, sanitation, and solid waste management, and carry out conservation work.

A villager in Bikeman Islet
A villager preparing to cast his net at Bikeman Islet in South Tarawa

ADB is supporting the improvement of other infrastructure enterprises as well by providing assistance to strengthen corporate governance and sharpen the commercial focus of state-owned enterprises. These reforms are intended to help achieve sustainability in Kiribati.

“Fifty years of partnership with ADB is monumental to Kiribati,” said Teuea Toatu, minister of finance and economic Development, Kiribati. “It has seen milestone achievements that have impacted significantly on our quality of life and overall development. Our relationship with ADB has been one based on mutual trust and respect, and this is the foundation of the success of our development cooperation with ADB.”

Since the ADB partnership began, Kiribati has benefited from more than $73 million in loans, grants, and technical assistance projects. The partnership will continue to support and complement Kiribati’s efforts to promote economic opportunity by improving public financial management and delivering sustainable infrastructure services.

This article was originally published in a special edition of Together We Deliver, which tells 50 stories highlighting the importance of good partnerships in Asia and the Pacific in meeting the complex development challenges of this dynamic region.