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Wanted: one small island for the nation of Nauru to move to

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It's an interesting concept: When a nation grows tired of being where it is, it should pack up and move. This revolutionary idea -- new, at any rate, in the annals of contemporary geopolitics -- comes from a corner of the world not particularly famous for innovative concepts: the somnolent islands of the South Pacific.

In one part of the region the future is a bit of a worry. The Republic of Nauru is literally a dot on the map. The country occupies a scant 8.6 square miles and has about 9,000 people -- half of them alien contract workers.

The country is rich (despite a price lull) because it produces phosphate, which is used to make fertilizer. Nauru is not a tourist destination: Its only beach is popular simply because it is the only beach, and much of the interior has been stripped bare by miners' machines.

Islanders from neighboring poor island countries do the hard physical work, while key administrative posts are often farmed out to Australian or British officials. Nauruans, therefore, have much leisure time.

They also have a good deal of disposable income. Nauruans have resort and office property investments in Australia and Asia -- and a government which keeps part of their annual phosphate royalty (around $30,000 for each of less than 5,000 Nauruans) to invest abroad for their long-term future. Health, education, and welfare benefits are good.

In fact, when Nauruan sports teams turn up at Pacific island tournaments, they are often the target of envy from players of poorer countries. The reason: The Nauruans are always best-dressed and come with the latest equipment.


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