Friday, December 20, 2002

Not Nauru!

The Washington Post has an article this morning about how Nauru is being targeted by the US for lax financial regulations. Nauru, in case you didn't know, at one point had the highest per capita in the world. Phosphate deposits (seagull crap) provided the nation's wealth, but there's only so many droppings to go around, so the country's wealth has been due to run out for some time now.

I wrote a paper on Nauru in college as part of my Upper-Level Writing Requirement. By the way, that requirement was a little bit of a joke. The class had to include a certain number of pages of writing. I was proud of myself for fulfulling the requirement outside of my major, but the class ended up counting the pages in the paper I wrote twice -- once for the writing, and once for the revision. When I submitted the original version, I was told it was good enough that I didn't need to revise it. I mean, cool, I was happy, but that seems like a weak way to satisfy the requirement.

One goal of my paper was to examine the way Nauruans were dealing with the imminent end of their resource-based economy and see what lessons that held for Middle Eastern oil-based economies. I've since become convinced that the oil will last significantly longer, but their time will come, too.

Anyway, the picture from Nauru doesn't look good. (Not that it looks great from the Middle East, either.) They've invested a lot of their money abroad, but a lot of times unwisely. I remember reading an article about Nauruans investing in a play in London, and a whole bunch of them flying out there for the premiere. Unfortuntely, most of them were probably there for the finale, as it closed within a week.

Nauru has mostly been in the news lately because the Australians stuck a bunch of asylum seekers there. I guess Nauru made out all right financially from that deal, but I don't think that contributes to their long-term financial soundness. And now this latest blow -- I guess their attempt to ride the financial-smuggling gravy train is grinding to a halt.

It's another sad chapter for them. I guess I have some sort of weird affection for trouble island nations. I'd still like to go there some day -- I wonder if tourism is their ultimate salvation.
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