Tonga graduated to upper middle-income status (Gross National Income per capita of US$4,290) in 2014, and is one of the best performers in the Pacific in achieving its Sustainable Development Goals.
Tonga still faces development challenges. It was ranked second on the 2016 World Risk Index because it is threatened by natural hazards but has little capacity to respond. It has a geographically isolated population of around 100,000 people, subsistence agriculture, and a narrow resource, production and export base.
Agriculture is the leading productive sector, but Tonga imports substantially more than it exports and has a low level of business. Remittances from Tongans working overseas are an important element of the economy, representing 26% of Gross Domestic Product in 2015. Approximately one quarter of Tongan households (especially those on outer islands and those who do not receive overseas remittances) find it difficult to meet their basic needs.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, will increasingly drain the economy over coming years. Tonga is combatting NCD risk factors with Australian support, but NCDs remain an obstacle to Tonga’s development.
Gender inequality in Tonga undermines economic growth, human development and poverty reduction. Women in the Pacific are under-represented in Parliament—Tonga has one female parliamentarian (4% of total parliamentarians) compared to the global average of 21.7%. Rates of domestic violence are concerning.
Australia will work with Tonga and its development partners to address these obstacles, building on important reforms and investments made to date. Australia is working with the Tongan Government and other development partners in line with the Australia–Tonga Aid Partnership.
- Making horticulture, forestry and fisheries secure and more competitive