Kingdom of Tonga
The Tonga archipelago (group of islands) is in the Pacific Ocean about 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) southwest of Hawaii and about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) northeast of New Zealand. The country consists of a series of islands, clustered into 3 main groups: Tongatapu, Ha'apai, and Vava'u; these were formerly known as the Friendly Islands. The total land area is 748 square kilometers (289 square miles), about 4 times the size of Washington, D.C. The coastline is 419 kilometers (260 miles). The capital is located on Tongatapu island.
The population of Tonga was estimated at 102,321 in mid-2000, a slight increase over the 1996 census population of 97,784. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 27.2 per 1,000 while the death rate stood at 6.1 per 1,000. With a projected annual population growth rate of 0.6 percent in the decade beginning with 2001, the population is expected to reach 104,100 by 2010. This relatively slow rate of growth is a result of an annual net migration rate of 15.1 per 1,000 population. Much 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. Only 32 percent of the population live in urban areas, mainly the capital, Nuku'alofa. The urban growth rate is only slightly higher than the total growth rate, which was estimated at 1.91 percent in 2000. The Tongan population is very young, with nearly 42 percent under 15 years of age. Those between the ages of 15 and 64 make up 54 percent of the population, with the remaining 4 percent 65 years old and over. Various branches of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, the Tokaikolo Church of Christ, and Free Wesleyan, are among those practiced on Tonga.
Tourism's contribution to GDP is rather minimal (about 2 to 3 percent), and it employs about 1,400 people. The industry began expanding in the late 1980s, when it welcomed 20,000 visitors per year, to 1995, when it welcomed 29,000, though there have been some fluctuations since then. Improvements in domestic and international air services have contributed to this growth, especially after the restructuring of Royal Air Tonga, the national airline. This carrier has flights to and from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, and Niue. Other airlines serving Tonga include Air New Zealand, Air Pacific, Polynesian Airlines, and Samoa Air. Tourists visit Tonga for beaches, sun, and diving, but also to explore sites unique to the region, such as the 19th century royal palace and the Ha'amonga-a-Maui, a large trilithon (stone arch-way) built by a Tongan king sometime before the 13th century. Also on the island of Tongatapu are trees full of sacred bats, which only the monarch is allowed to kill, although presumably does not because of their tourist value.
International financial services are limited in Tonga. The domestic market is mostly served by the Bank of Tonga, ANZ (Australia New Zealand) Bank, and MBF (Malaysian Borneo Finance).
Retail services are typical of those available in a small Pacific nation. In the capital, Nuku'alofa, shops provide a reasonable range of products, mainly food goods from New Zealand and manufactured goods from Asia. In other parts of the country, small village shops supply only the most basic goods. Many Tongans also rely on goods packages from relatives living overseas, which are consumed within the family or sold to others.
Tonga has no territories or colonies.
Asian Development Bank. "Key Indicators for Developing Asian and Pacific Countries." <http://www.adb.org/Tonga> . Accessed February.2001.
—. Country Assistance Plan 2001-2003. Tonga: ADB, 2000.
—. Tonga: Economic Performance and Selected Development Issues. Manila: ADB, 1996.
Fairbairn, Te'o I.J. "The Tongan Economy: Recent Performance and Future Challenges." Pacific Economic Bulletin. Vol. 13, No. 1, 1998.
Lal, Brij V. & Kate Fortune. The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2000.
United Nations Development Programme, Pacific Human Development Report 1999: Creating Opportunities. Suva: UNDP, 1999.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. "The World Factbook, 2000." <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook> . Accessed January 2001.
Pa'anga (T$ or TOP). There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 20, 50 seniti and 1 and 2 pa'anga, and notes of 1, 2, 5, 20, and 50 pa'anga. One pa'anga equals 100 seniti.
Squash, fish, vanilla beans.
Food, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, chemicals.
Exports: US$8 million (1998 est.). Imports: US$69 million (1998 est.).