WITH an extremely thin export base, Tonga’s economy is heavily reliant on agriculture and fisheries. Expect little change to the economy in 2016 as Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva struggles to maintain power in his second year in office with continued sniping from his detractors inside and outside the Legislature. Squash, vanilla beans, and yams continue to be the main crops for this Pacific kingdom with agricultural products, including fish, making up two-thirds of total exports.
While Tonga has reasonably maintained infrastructure – roads, airports, jetties –its development is stifled by reliance on the generosity of Japan and China. Most of its food is imported from New Zealand leading to a huge import bill which is only slightly offset by remittances from overseas Tongans and the receipts from around 39,000 visitors.
Unlike its neighbours Fiji and Samoa, Tonga has a rather under-developed tourism sector with efforts being made to boost the industry and put to good use the opportunities which exist. Pohiva’s government has emphasized the development of the private sector, encouraged development and committed increased funds for health and education.