Tonga is known as the Friendly Islands and as the last Kingdom of the South Pacific. It is located about 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) southwest of Hawaii and about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) northeast of New Zealand, just below the tropic of Capricorn. The country consists of 171 islands, clustered into 3 main groups: Tongatapu, Ha’apai, and Vava’u. The total land area is 748 square kilometers (289 square miles). The coastline is 419 kilometers (260 miles). The capital Nuku’alofa, where most of the central government administration is situated, is located on the main island of Tongatapu.
Climate in Tonga is characterized by a Wet Season (Nov- April) and Dry Season (Oct-Mar). About 50-60% of the rain (up to 1,700mm per year) falls during the wet season. During summer time the temperature is between 25-32ºC and between 20-25ºC during winter season. The highest temperature recorded in Tonga is 37ºC and the lowest is 8 ºC. This balmy climate, combined with very fertile soils, is instrumental in the development of the agricultural and livestock industries.
The friendly population of Tonga was composed of 102,321 inhabitants in 2006 (2006 National Population Census). A high birth rate is counterbalanced by an important emigration, which reaches 15.1 ‰. Most of this migration is to New Zealand, but Tongans have also settled in Australia, the United States and Europe. The population is predominantly of Tongan (Polynesian) ethnic origin, although there are small numbers of Europeans and Chinese. The Tongan population is very young, with nearly 42% under 15 years of age. Those between the ages of 15 and 64 make up 54% of the population, with the remaining 4% 65 years old and over. For more information on the Tongan population, see the Statistic Department website.
The Kingdom of Tonga is a hereditary constitutional monarchy and is the only Pacific Island nation with a monarchy. The country has never been colonized and was a protectorate of Britain from 1900 to 1970. The government is made up of the King, the Privy Council, the Cabinet, the Legislative Assembly and the Judiciary. Its constitution was established in 1875.
Tongan is now looking forward for the political reform due in November this year (2010). The population and the People’s Representatives have asked for a more inclusive form of government that will enhance competition, accountability and transparency and improve the business environment in the Kingdom to promote economic growth. Businesses now in Tonga, both local and foreign-owned, are expecting positive changes.
Up to date, Tonga is a member of the WTO, UN, EU, Commonwealth, World Bank, ADB, SOPAC, SPC, FAO, One of the reasons for joining these large organizations is to promote the investment environment.
The country has a good portion of highly educated people. Literacy is estimated at more than 98%. The 2 official languages are Tongan and English, and a fair portion of the population can communicate in English.
The normal working hours in Tonga are from 8:30am to 4:30pm 5 days a week (Mon-Fri). However some organizations and businesses are open from 8:00am to 5-6pm 6 days a week (Mon-Sat).
Tonga is dependant on foreign aid and remittances from Tongans living abroad, but also on tourism (39,000 visitors in 2006), agriculture (squash, vanilla beans, yams, coconuts) and fisheries exports. Together agricultural and fish exports make up two-third of total exports. The Government is seeking to encourage private-sector led economic growth, and to reinforce three major sectors of development: tourism, agriculture & fisheries.
New Foreign Direct Investment is beginning to have an observable impact on the economy. A more competitive market and higher foreign investment is expected to lift growth after the public sector reform. In agricultural and fisheries export, new facilities and improved infrastructure are created to help boost the industries. It is a positive sign of economic improvement in the country.
Economic data can be found on the following Ministry of Labour, Commerce and Industries webpage. See also the economic section of the Statistics Department website.