View the information below regarding the economy of Tonga. The summary and statistics contains
gdp, industry, agriculture and more for Tonga. If you need other information please visit the
Tonga Country Page.
GDP (2000 est.): $225 million.
Per capita GDP: $2,200.
GDP real growth rate (2000 est.): 5.3%.
Natural resources: Fish.
Agriculture (30% of GDP): Products--Squash, coconuts, copra (dried coconut meat); bananas, vanilla beans, cocoa, coffee, ginger, black pepper, fish.
Industry: 10% of GNP.
Services: 60% of GDP.
Trade (2000 est.): Exports--$9.3 million; squash, fish, vanilla beans, root crops. Major export markets--Japan, U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Fiji. Imports--$70 million; food, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, chemicals. Major importers--New Zealand, Japan, Australia, U.S., Fiji.
Fiscal year: July 1 to June 30.
Economy of Tonga
Tonga's economy is characterized by a large nonmonetary sector and a heavy dependence on remittances from the half of the country's population that lives abroad, chiefly in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Much of the monetary sector of the economy is dominated, if not owned, by the royal family and nobles. This is particularly true of the telecommunications and satellite services. Much of small business, particularly retailing on Tongatapu, is now dominated by recent Chinese immigrants who arrived under a cash-for-passports scheme ended in 1998.
The manufacturing sector consists of handicrafts and a few other very smallscale industries, all of which contribute only about 3% of GDP. Commercial business activities also are inconspicuous and, to a large extent, are dominated by the same large trading companies found throughout the South Pacific. In September 1974, the country's first commercial trading bank, the Bank of Tonga, opened.
Rural Tongans rely on plantation and subsistence agriculture. Coconuts, vanilla beans, and bananas are the major cash crops. The processing of coconuts into copra and desiccated coconut is the only significant industry. Pigs and poultry are the major types of livestock. Horses are kept for draft purposes, primarily by farmers working their api. More cattle are being raised, and beef imports are declining.
Tonga's development plans emphasize a growing private sector, upgrading agricultural productivity, revitalizing the squash and vanilla bean industries, developing tourism, and improving the island's communications and transportation systems. Substantial progress has been made, but much work remains to be done. A small but growing construction sector is developing in response to the inflow of aid monies and remittances from Tongans abroad. The copra industry is plagued by world prices that have been dipressed for years.
Efforts are being made to discover ways to diversify. One hope is seen in fisheries; tests have shown that sufficient skipjack tuna pass through Tongan waters to support a fishing industry. Another potential development activity is exploitation of forests, which cover 35% of the kingdom's land area but are decreasing as land is cleared. Coconut trees past their prime bearing years also provide a potential source of lumber.
The tourist industry is relatively undeveloped; however, the government recognizes that tourism can play a major role in economic development, and efforts are being made to increase this source of revenue. Cruise ships often stop in Nuku'alofa and Vava'u.