Scattered over five million square kilometers, the 33 islands were formerly the Gilberts of the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. These mostly low-lying coral islands in the Pacific became the Republic of Kiribati in 1979. In addition to fishing and copra, the country relies on foreign financial aid, particularly from the U.K. and Japan. As its phosphate reserves diminish, the island has been forced to rely on a reserve trust. Income from citizens now working abroad augments the economy.