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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (May 4, 2000 -- Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---The high cost of living on the outer atolls in the Marshall Islands is forcing many people to move to the capital, Majuro.

As a result, Ailinglaplap Senator Christopher Loeak has sponsored a bill seeking to impose an import tax to raise funds to subsidize freight costs to the outer islands. Similar moves have been implemented in Kiribati and Tuvalu, where prices on the outer islands have been higher than in the urban centers.

Giff Johnson, editor of the Marshall Islands Journal, said migration patterns from the outer islands have shown that people are moving in droves to the urban center.

He said the shipping service in the Marshalls over the last couple of years has declined, and, as a result, residents are not getting their copra picked up, which prevents them from selling it and earning money to buy goods.

"It makes living on the outer island a real problem," he said. "Things are expensive enough as it is."

For example, a 20-pound bag of rice, a staple food in the islands, costs about $5. That same bag of rice sells for $10 to $14 on the outer islands.

As the government moves itself out of the outer island shipping business, private companies are undertaking a greater role in making sure basic nationwide wide shipping services are provided.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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