and largest city
|Legislature||House of Representatives|
|92,404 km2 (35,677 sq mi) (111th)|
• Water (%)
• 2014 census
|Currency||Bijani guilder (ƒ) (JHG)|
|Time zone||Bijani Standard Time (UTC+5:30)|
• Summer (DST)
|Bijani Summer Time (UTC+6:00)|
|Drives on the||right|
Bijan, officially the Bijani Republic (Esperanto: Biĵana Respubliko) is an island country in the southern Indian Ocean, 3600km west of Australia. The nation comprises the island of Bijan as well as numerous smaller peripheral islands. A volcanic island formation, Bijan's flora and fauna evolved in relative isolation, producing unique wildlife, much of which can be found nowehere else on Earth. The islands' diverse ecosystems and wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population and other environmental threats.
Initial human settlement of Bijan occurred between 250 BCE and 450 CE by Austronesian peoples arriving on outrigger canoes from Borneo. Other groups continued to settle on Bijan over time, each one making lasting contributions to Bijani cultural life. The Portuguese and later the Dutch established contact with the islands in the fifteenth century, and Bijan was occasionally used as a transoceanic stopover point. Until the late 16th century, Bijan was ruled by a fragmented assortment of shifting socio-political alliances. Beginning in the early 17th century, most of the island was united and ruled as the Kingdom of Bijan by a series of local nobles, while European powers established an increasingly influential presence on the island. An object of colonial interest by both the British and the Dutch, the indigenous monarchy collapsed in 1783 when the Peace of Paris formally incorporated Bijan into the Dutch colonial empire. Apart from a brief period of British rule from 1797 to 1814, Bijan remained a Dutch colony until its independence in 1949.
The 1949 constitution established a parliamentary system, which exists to this day. In 2014, the population of Bijan was estimated at just over 15 million, 40 percent of whom live on less than two dollars per day. Reflecting the diverse ethnic and cultural background of is citizenry, the republic adopted the international language Esperanto as its official language, with Bijani, Mawasi, Koho and Dutch as recognized national languages. The majority of the population adheres to Christianity. Bijan is notable for its relatively large Bahá'í community, approximately five percent of the population. Ecotourism and agriculture, paired with greater investments in education, health and private enterprise, are key elements of Bijan's development strategy.
In the official Esperanto language, the island of Bijan is called "Biĵano" and its people are referred to as "biĵanoj." In Dutch, they are called "Bizjan" and "bizjaners," respectively. The island is called "Bijan," "Pishan" and "Biza" in the Bijani, Mawasi and Koho languages, respectively.
The island's appellation "Bijan" is not of local origin but rather has its origins in the French word bijou, meaning "jewel," a name more often attributed to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), some 4000 kilometers to the north. Bijou was pronounced bijão by the Portuguese, and ultimately recorded as Bijan by Portuguese explorer Dogo Dias in the early 1500s. No single indigenous language name predating Bijan appears to have been used by the local population to refer to the island as a whole, although some communities had their own name for part or all of the land they inhabited.
At 92,404 square kilometers (35,677 square miles), Bijan is the world's 111th largest country and 20th largest island. The island is notable for its remoteness; its nearest neighbors are Australia, Sri Lanka and Madagascar. The islands are volcanic in origin, allowing plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. The island is roughly 400 kilometers (250 miles) long and ranges from 50 to 230 kilometers (30 to 140 kilometers) wide. Its area has been expanding with land reclamation and coastal uplift in the south, but global sea level rise and diminished these effects.
Mountainous and volcanic, Bijan has frequent earthquakes. The highest peak is the dormant volcano Black Mountain. There are many rivers, including the Hakina, its longest. The climate is temperate, but has marked difference between the eastern/southern side, and the western/northern side. A mountain range runs along the length of Bijan from end to end, in a chain commonly referred to as the Bijani Alps.
The President of the Republic is Bijan's head of state. The President is the embodiment of the people's sovereignty and the chief representative of Bijan. Because Bijani is a parliamentary republic, the President exercises little actual political power, with the day-to-day government mostly the duty of the Chief Minister and Government. The President is elected by the House of Representatives, or by the Electoral Assembly, to a six-year term.
Chief Minister and Government
House of Representatives
The Bijani House of Representatives is the country's national, unicameral legislature. It consists of 245 members, directly elected under open party list proportional representation to a term of four years. The House's normal four-year term can be ended prematurely if there is no Government able to command the support of a majority of the representatives, or if the House fails to adopt an annual budget.
The Bijani Republic is divided into twenty-three counties (kantonoj), which are the administrative subdivisions of the country. The county government (kantona registaro) of each county is led by a county governor (kantonestro), who represents the national government at the regional level. Governors are appointed by the Government of the Republic for a term of five years.
Each county is further divided into municipalities (municipoj), which is also the smallest administrative subdivision of Bijan. There are two types of municipalities: an urban municipality (urba municipo) and a rural municipality (kampara municipo). There is no other status distinction between them. Each municipality is a unit of self-government with its own representative and executive bodies.
A municipality may contain one or more populated places, of which there are four types: cities (urboj), towns (urbetoj), villages (vilaĝoj) and hamlets (vilaĝetoj). Hadar is divided into eight districts (distriktoj) with limited self-government.
Municipalities range in size from Hadar with 600,000 inhabitants, to Vulu, with fewer than fifty. As over two-thirds of the municipalities have a population of under 5,000, many of them have found it advantageous to cooperate in providing services and carrying out administrative functions. There have also bee calls for an administrative reform to merge smaller municipalities together. As of January 2014, there are a total of 561 municipalities in Bijan; 482 rural and 79 urban.
During Bijan's early years of independence, the Netherlands heavily influenced Bijan's economic planning and policy, and served as its key trading partner. Key products were cultivated and distributed nationally through producers' and consumers' cooperatives. Government initiatives such as a rural development program and state farms were established to boost production of commodities such as rice, coffee, cattle, silk and palm oil.
Natural resources and trade
Bijan's natural wealth includes a variety of unprocessed agricultural and mineral resources. Agriculture, fishing and forestry are mainstays of the economy. Key agricultural resources include coffee and shrimp. Mineral resources include various types of precious and semi-precious stones. The island holds important reserves of chromite, coal, iron, cobalt, copper and nickel. Several major projects are underway in the mining, oil and gas sectors that are anticipated to give a significant boost to the Bijani economy. These include projects such as ilmenite and zircon mining from heavy mineral sands, extraction and processing of nickel, and the development of giant offshore heavy oil deposits.
Most of the country's export revenue is derived from the textiles industry, fish and shellfish, and foodstuffs. The Netherlands is Bijan's main trading partner, although the United States, Indonesia, Japan and Germany also have strong economic ties to the country. The main sources of Bijan's imports include Australia, China, the Netherlands, India and Hong Kong.
Infrastructure and media
The majority of roads in Bijan are unpaved, with many becoming impassable in rainy weather. Paved national routes connect the largest regional towns to Hadar, with minor paved and unpaved routes providing access to other population centers in each county. There are several rail lines on the island. The most important seaport in Bijan is located in Hadar, on the northern coast. Other ports are significantly less used due to their remoteness. Air Bijan services the island's many small regional airports, which offer the only practical means of access to many of the more remote regions during road washouts.
Running water and electricity are supplied at the national level by a government service provider, which is unable to service the entire population. Most of Bijan's power is provided by hydroelectric power plants, with the rest provided by diesel engine generators. Mobile telephone and internet access are widespread in urban areas but remain limited in rural parts of the island.
Radio broadcasts remain the principal means by which the Bijani population access international, national and local news. National radio broadcasts are transmitted across the entire island. Hundreds of public and private radio stations with local or regional range provide alternatives to national broadcasting. In addition to the national television channel, a variety of privately owned television stations broadcast local and international programming throughout Bijan. Several media outlets are owned by political parties or politicians themselves, contributing to political polarization in reporting. The media has historically come under varying degrees of pressure over the decades to censor their criticism of the government. Reporters are occasionally threatened or harassed and media outlets are periodically forced to close. Access to the internet has grown dramatically over the past decade, with an estimated 500,000 residents of Bijan accessing the internet from home or in one of the nation's many internet cafes.
Medical centers, dispensaries and hospitals are found throughout the island, although they are concentrated in urban areas and particularly in Hadar. Access to medical care remains beyond the reach of many Bijanis. In addition to the high expense of medical care relative to the average Bijani income, the prevalence of trained medical professionals remains low. Approximately four-fifths of spending on health was contributed by the government, with the remainder originating from international donors and other private sources. The government provides at least one basic health center in each municipality. Private health centers are concentrated within urban areas and particularly in the Hadar metropolitan area.
Despite these barriers to income, health services have down a trend toward improvement over the past 20 years. Child immunizations against such diseases as hepatitis B, diphtheria and measles increased sharply in this period, indicating low but increasing availability of basic medical services and treatments. Schistosomiasis, malaria and sexually transmitted diseases are common in Bijan, although infection rates of HIV remain low relative to many countries of similar human development, at only 0.1 percent of the adult population. The malaria mortality rate is also among the lowest in the region. Adult life expectancy was 66 years for men and 71 years for women.
Prior to the 19th century, all education in Bijan was informal and typically served to teach practical skills as well as social and cultural values, including respect for ancestors and elders. The first formal European-style school was established in 1799 in Hadar by members of the London Missionary Society. The LMS later expanded its schools throughout Bijan to teach basic literacy and numeracy to aristocratic children. The schools were closed when Dutch rule over the island was restored in 1814, but later reopened and expanded under a Dutch model. By the end of the 19th century, Bijan had a highly developed and modern school system. Access to schooling was expanded to most areas of the country during the colonial period, with Dutch language and basic work skills becoming the focus of the curriculum. Dutch as the language of instruction displeased many Bijanis, and a League of Nations recommendation led to the adoption of Esperanto as a neutral second language for inter-ethnic communication in 1923.
In the early years of the post-colonial republic, Dutch nationals working in the country as teachers were expelled and a large cadre of young Bijanis were rapidly trained to teach at remote rural schools. This policy coincided with a dramatic decline in the quality of education, and those schooled during this period generally failed to master the Esperanto language or many other subjects and struggled to find employment, forcing many to take low-paying jobs in the informal or black market that mired them in deepening poverty. Education was prioritized under later governments, and is currently free and compulsory at the primary level. In the past two decades, thousands of new primary schools and classrooms have been constructed and tens of thousands of new primary teachers have been recruited and trained. Government school construction initiatives have ensured at least one primary school per municipality and at least two lower secondary schools per county. At least one upper secondary school is located in each of the larger urban centers. The two branches of the national public university are located in Hadar and Reliket. These are complemented by public teacher-training colleges, several private universities, and local technical colleges.
As a result of increased educational access, enrollment rates have continue to rise. Quality of education varies greatly by area, however, and is particularly weak in rural areas, producing high rates of grade repetition and dropout. Recent education policy has focused on quality issues, including an increase in minimum standards for the recruitment of primary teachers, the establishment of leaving certificate examinations at the lower and upper secondary levels, and a reformed teacher training program to support the transition from traditional didactic instruction to student-centered teaching methods to boost learning and participation in the classroom.