Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Republic of Nauru

Hi everyone. Fergus here. Much has happened since I last wrote my pithy prose. Not sure I can be arsed to bore you with it though. Instead, I will tell you a little bit about the Republic of Nauru. Everything written below is, as far as I know, true;

Nauru is the world's smallest island nation (8.1sq miles) and has a population of about 14,000 and is situated somewhere in Micronesia (abroad). So far, so wikipedia but that is not what is interesting about Nauru... Nauru's entire economy is based on bird shit*. I don't really know the science of it but essentially the Nauru-ians 'mine' phosphate from the significant amount of bird shit that lands on their island and then sell it. But then I imagine those of you with phosphate habits already knew that. Now, this is where in my opinion it gets proper funny...

Surprisingly enough the bird shit money was providing a pretty hefty revenue and considering the size of the island they were loaded. Just from the droppings they were pulling in AU$100-120 million a year and it was costing them only AU$30 million to run the island. The government of Nauru was left with a problem which I picture them wording like this - 'What are we going to do with all this bird shit money?' The answer came in the form of the 'Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust' which was set up in the 1970s to make 'investments'.

At first the trust did well with sensible investments in properties in Australia and elsewhere. The island was nicknamed 'The Kuwait of The Pacific'. The Nauru government grew cocky. 1500 people out of a population that was at the time less than 10,000 worked for the state and flaunted their wealth with abandon. With their pockets stuffed with bird shit money they travelled the world, many of them developing a particular fondness for golf in the Bahamas.

But then the trust's investments became a little eccentric. Money was loaned to a Aussie Rules Football club that went bankrupt and a number of failed developments in Australia. Craziness peaked in 1993 when the Republic of Nauru decided to invest 2 million pounds in Leonardo the Musical. The rambling plot focused Da Vinci getting a young model named 'Lisa' pregnant. In what I assume was a nod to the pink pound it also hinted that he might have been a bit of a gay. As it turned out Leonardo the Musical was one of the biggest failures in West End history and closed after 5 weeks having lost (bird) shit loads.

With so many failed investments the trust's funds were rapidly dwindling. At least they still had the bird shit. But no! For some reason (my entirely Wikipedia based research can't find out why) there was hardly any phosphate left to mine. I like to think that the birds looked down on the arrogant folk below and aware of the wealth their bowels provided decided to go and shit somewhere else.

Nauru is now a relatively poor nation which relies on financial help from other countries. Unemployment is at 90%. It's a sad story really. A whole country made rich by bird shit and then brought down by a shit musical. I'm sure there are many lessons we can learn from it but I'll leave that up to you. Right now, I have to sort out my visa for my trip to India and as with all bureaucratic bullshit it's a pain in the arse. Can somebody do it for me please? Go on. Do it.

*I want you to know that I chose not to do a joke about ITV2's revenue also being based on shit because I thought that that would be cheap.

1 comment:

  1. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/253/The-Middle-of-Nowhere