Tonga - Economic development
Tonga's seven five-year plans (1966–2000) emphasized development of the islands' economic infrastructure, increasing agricultural production by revitalizing the copra and banana industries, improvements in telecommunications and transport, and expansion of tourism, industry, and exports. Through the nonprofit Commodities Board, the government has a trading monopoly in copra, bananas, melons, and other produce. In the 1990s, tourism revenues helped offset Tonga's large merchandise trade deficits, but substantial amounts of foreign aid continued to be required. From 1993–98, the economic growth was driven by a rise in exports of squash, increases in aid, and several large construction projects. Growth peaked in 1999/2000 at 6.5% but then plunged to only 0.5% in 2000/01 in the global recession that began the first quarter of 2001.
In 2001, with the appointment of a reform-minded finance minister, Tonga embarked on its seventh strategic development plan (SDP7) for 2001–2003. The overarching goal is improvement of the quality and standard of living for all Tongans. This is to be achieved through policy initiatives in five areas: 1) currency stabilization; 2) privatization; 3) updating and restructuring of the operations of state-owned enterprises (SOEs);4) maintenance and improvements in the infrastructure; and 5) environmental protection. The economic and fiscal objectives were affirmed in early 2002 when the Cabinet approved the comprehensive Economic and Public Sector Reform Program (EPSRP). The three core objectives of the EPSRP are continuing support for public sector reform; promotion of the private sector as the engine of growth; and sustainable environmental management and equitable social development. The economic reforms are being pursued in conjunction with political reforms that aim at bringing more democracy to the government.