General Information about Tonga

The official name is the Kingdom of Tonga (Pule anga Fakatu ‘i ‘o Tonga).

Located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Area 748 km2, population approx. 108 thousand people (2003). The official languages are Tongan and English. The capital is the city of Nuku’alofa (about 30 thousand people, 2003). Public holiday – Independence Day June 4 (since 1970). The monetary unit is pa’anga (Tongan dollar).

Member of the UN (since 1999), IMF (since 1991), Pacific Islands Forum (formerly UTF, 1971).

The Kingdom of Tonga is located east of Fiji on the archipelago of the same name, consisting of three island groups (Tongatapu, Haapai and Vavau): two island chains (171 islands, 36 inhabited) stretch from north to south for about 1000 km. Geographical coordinates: 20°00 south latitude and 175°00 west longitude.

The islands of the western chain are volcanic (height on the island of Kao is 1033 m), the eastern chain is coral: hilly (up to 200 m) and low atolls. The length of the coastline is 419 km. The soils (limestone) on most of the islands are fertile. Rivers are only on two islands. On the volcanic islands there are dense tropical forests (pandanus, palm trees, tree ferns, etc.). There are rats, mice and flying foxes, snakes and lizards, approx. 30 kinds of birds. Coastal waters are rich in fish and fish farms.

Minerals: fish stocks in the 200-mile economic zone (700 thousand km2).

The climate is cooler and drier than usual in the tropics. Constant winds blow. Humid – in October-April (+24-32°C). Dry land – in May-September (+18-25°C). 1500-2000 mm of precipitation falls annually, but there are also droughts.

Tonga is inhabited by Polynesians (at least 85% are actually Tongans). According to Countryaah, approximately 2/3 of the population is concentrated on the island of Tongatapu. Emigration is significant, mainly to New Zealand (up to 30 thousand Tongans live there). English and Tongan are used. Competently 98% of the adult population. Life expectancy for men is 66 years, for women – 71 years. Infant mortality 14 people per 1000 newborns.

The majority of believers belong to the Evangelical Free Church of Tonga. There are Anglicans, Seventh-day Adventists, Catholics, and so on.

Tonga united under the current royal dynasty in 1845. Since 1875, the current Constitution of the country has been in force (with additions). In 1900, the King of Tonga signed the Protectorate Treaty with Great Britain, but the country was not considered a colony, and in 1970 it became completely independent.

The Kingdom of Tonga is the only constitutional monarchy in Oceania, a member of the Commonwealth (formerly British) of Nations. Administratively divided into 3 island groups.

The head of state is the king (since 1965 – Taufa’ahau Tupou IV).

The King appoints the Prime Minister (Prince Ulukala Lawaka Ata), his Deputy (both for life) and the Cabinet. There is also a Privy Council (consisting of the king, the cabinet of ministers and the king-appointed governors of the Haapai and Vavau island groups). The 30-member Legislative Assembly ex officio includes 12 cabinet ministers, 9 members are elected from their ranks by 33 hereditary aristocrats, and 9 members are elected by popular vote for 3 years (next election in 2005).

There are no political parties, but there is the Tongan Movement for Human Rights and Democracy.

The armed forces of Tonga consist of the marines, the royal guard and the navy, logistics and training units, as well as the police. An aviation wing is being created. The Tongans were part of the Pacific Islands Forum peacekeeping contingent that landed on the Solomon Islands in the summer of 2003.

The Kingdom of Tonga has diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation (established with the USSR in 1975).

GDP per capita – 2.2 thousand US dollars. The average annual GDP growth rate in 1984-97 was 2%, but in 1998-2001 it increased to 3.35%, although in 2002 it fell again. The role of semi-subsistence agriculture is significant. Yams, taro, coconut palm, bananas, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, gourds and vegetables are grown, cattle, pigs, goats, and poultry are bred. Fishing, light industry, and the production of souvenirs are developing. Agriculture employs 60% of the population, the rest – mainly in the public sector and the service sector. Unemployment 12%.

Of the 680 km of roads, 184 km are paved. The main island groups have one port or harbor each. To the ports of Tonga are attributed St. 60 foreign ships. Regular flights connect Nuku’alofa Airport with New Zealand, Australia, USA, Fiji, etc. For local traffic, there are 5 airfields with unpaved runways.

Tourism (up to 40,000 people per year) is the second source of foreign exchange income after remittances from Tongans living abroad. The country also depends on external financial assistance (Australia and New Zealand).

The basis of exports is pumpkin, coconuts, vanilla, black pepper, tropical fruits (2/3 of the value), seafood is also exported. A significant part of the food is imported. The main partners are New Zealand, Japan, USA, Australia, Fiji.

Primary school attendance is compulsory and free of charge for all children aged 6-14. There are vocational schools: agricultural, police and medical, pedagogical college. Tongans receive higher education mainly in New Zealand.

People of Tonga