How Imperial Australia rewards Nauru
- Low on money, food and water
03 January 2004
By KIM RUSCOE in NAURU
>Once the world's richest country on a per-capita basis, the Republic_________________________________________________________________
>of Nauru is verging on financial ruin.
>The island's one bank rarely has money, government workers go months
>without pay, supermarket shelves are virtually empty, petrol pumps
>lie idle much of the time, water is scarce and the power supply
>On Tuesday I saw people queue for hours outside the bank to withdraw
>the maximum allowable amount of A$100 (NZ$115). It was the first time
>in months Nauruans had access to the money in their accounts and it
>was after 10pm before the queues were cleared.
>One man said he had not been paid by the Nauruan Phosphate Company
>since March. If the refugees were to leave and Nauru no longer
>received money from the Australian Government to house them, things
>would be worse. "We're lucky they're here," he said.
>Another local believed the island's government was investing the
>people's money to generate income.
>"I'm not happy about it, but we manage," he said. "I have chickens
>and we go fishing with nets and my son goes diving."
>The house he and his family live in has no running water. They rely
>on rain water collected in a tank. When they run out, they can buy
>imported water for $3 per 3000 gallons, but orders take up to four
>months to arrive.
>Very few petrol stations on Nauru had petrol. Where there was petrol,
>cars queued for more than an hour to fill up. The shelves in the
>island's biggest supermarket offered gardening supplies and
>toiletries but little food. A few cans of asparagus spears, red
>beans, pasta, rice, spices and sauces were all that was on sale.
>Our hotel - one of two on Nauru - had no dining area. There was no
>hot water in the rooms and a half-gallon drum of water and a bucket
>placed in the shower were the only means of flushing the toilet.
>The power went off frequently. When it did, there was not only no
>alternative lighting but the water supplies dried up. The drum of
>water had to be used for washing too.
>International calls could be made only from public cardphones, but we
>could not find any store that sold cards. We resorted to buying one
>from a local teacher.
>There is no public transport, no taxis and no car hire companies.
>But then, they are mostly not needed because between the Nauruan and
>Australian governments, most outsiders are kept just that - outside.
>Visitors have to apply for visas from the Australian Government but
>almost all are refused entry.
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