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December 2011



Samoa skips a day and crosses the International Date Line. On December 29th, Samoa advances its calendar to December 31st, to bring it in line with its trading partners in Asia.

Samoa (officially the Independent State of Samoa) in the South Pacific Ocean about half way between Hawaii and New Zealand, is slightly smaller than Rhode Island. The main island of Upolu is home to nearly three-quarters of Samoa's population and its capital, Apia. Two main cities on the island of Savai'i are Matavai and Salelologa.

The natural hazards facing Samoa include typhoons and volcanoes. Samoa's natural resources include: hardwood forests, fish, and hydropower. The terrain of the islands is mostly a narrow coastal plain with volcanic, rocky, rugged mountains in the interior.

The Fa'a Samoa, or traditional Samoan way, remains a strong force in Samoan life and politics. Despite centuries of European influence, Samoa maintains its historical customs, social systems, and language, which is believed to be the oldest form of Polynesian speech still in existence. Only the Maoris of New Zealand outnumber the Samoans among Polynesian groups. There are significant Samoan communities in the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. In general these communities maintain ties with family remaining in Samoa, and still consider themselves to be Samoan.

The 1960 Constitution, which formally came into force with independence, is based on the British Westminster parliamentary system, modified to allow for Samoan customs. The Fono (parliament) contains 49 members serving 5-year terms. The judicial system is based on English common law and local customs.

Samoans operate in a predominantly informal economy, with only 18% of the population formally employed in a salaried position. New Zealand is Samoa's principal trading partner, typically providing between 35% and 40% of imports and purchasing 45%-50% of exports. Australia, Fiji, and the United States, including American Samoa, also are important trading partners. Samoa's principal exports are coconut products, nonu fruit, and fish. Its main imports are food and beverages, consumer goods, industrial supplies, and fuels.

There are a few Samoas to differentiate. Samoa, in general, is a chain of islands in the South Pacific, near Fiji and Tonga, roughly at the midpoint between Honolulu, Hawaii and Sydney, Australia. American Samoa, is an unincorporated territory of the U.S., comprising the eastern sector of the Samoa island chain in the South Pacific. Specifically this group consists of six islands: Tutuila, the Manu’a group (Ta’u, Ofu, and Olosega), Rose and Sand Islands, and Swains Island. Samoa (the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa), is a constitutional monarchy in the South Pacific, which includes the main western islands of the Samoa chain.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; The Columbia Gazeteer, 11/2011; 6/2011; 12/2011