Fiji became independent in 1970 after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987 caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract laborers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). The coups and a 1990 constitution that cemented native Melanesian control of Fiji led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. A new constitution enacted in 1997 was more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a civilian-led coup in 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia QARASE. Reelected in May 2006, QARASE was ousted in a December 2006 military coup led by Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA, who initially appointed himself acting president but in January 2007 became interim prime minister. Following years of political turmoil, long-delayed legislative elections were held in September 2014 that were deemed "credible" by international observers and that resulted in BAINIMARAMA being reelected.
Fiji, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the most developed and connected of the Pacific island economies. Earnings from the tourism industry, with an estimated 792,300 tourists visiting in 2016, and remittances from Fijian’s working abroad are the country’s largest foreign exchange earners.Fiji's sugar sector remains a significant industry and a major export, but crops and one of the sugar mills suffered damage during Cyclone Winston in 2016. The sector also faces the complete withdrawal of European Union preferential prices in 2017. Fiji’s trade imbalance continues to widen with increased imports and sluggish performance of domestic exports.The return to parliamentary democracy and successful elections in September 2014 improved investor confidence, but increasing bureaucratic regulation, new taxes and lack of consultation with relevant stakeholders brought four consecutive years of decline for Fiji on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business index. Private sector investment in 2016 exceeded 20% of GDP, compared to 13% in 2013.