Find a business in Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga is a group of islands in the south-west Pacific with an economy that is dominated by subsistence agriculture. A movement towards cash crops, such as squash, has been occurring and along with fish products, these are Tonga’s most important exports. Tonga has a GNI per capita of US$3,280 but has seen slow growth of 0.2% per annum (2006-10). The country remains dependent on external aid and remittances from Tongan communities overseas to offset its trade deficit.

The agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector contributes 20% of Tonga’s GDP (2010). Between 30% and 40% of employment is accounted for by the agricultural sector. Tonga’s main crops consist of yams, coconuts, squash, taro, bananas, sweet potatoes, and manioc. Fish became an important export in the 1990s and an increase in trade between 1980 and 2011 has led to fish becoming Tonga’s largest single export. The catch mainly consists of tuna and snapper, with a potential tuna harvest of around 30,000 tons a year. The fish are normally exported unprocessed and transported to countries such as the United States and Fiji.  

The construction and engineering industry contributes approximately 15% of GDP (2011). A small but growing construction sector is developing in response to the inflow of aid money, development of the tourism industry, and remittances from Tongans living abroad.
Tonga’s major trading partners are New Zealand, which receives 33% of exports, United States, receiving 31% of exports, and Japan, receiving 14% of exports (2009). The trading partners who Tonga imports the most from are New Zealand (33%), United States (31%) and Japan (13%) (2009).

The world economic downturn of 2008-09 hit Tonga hard as revenue from remittances and tourism slowed. In 2011, the GDP per capita growth rate was estimated to have grown by 1.6% – equivalent to its performance from 1990-2010 of 1.6% per annum.
There are 680km of roads, of which 27% are paved and the rest surfaced with impacted coal. Tonga has two international airports at Fua’amotu and Lupepau’u and its two main ports, Nuku’alofa and Neiafu, have connections with Australia and Europe.

Tonga is ranked 58th out of 183 for ease of doing business but 29th for both getting electricity and paying taxes, according to the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business 2012’ study. In the East Asian and Pacific region, Tonga is ranked 6th for ease of doing business ahead of countries like China (13th) and Indonesia (19th). These rankings measure the conduciveness of a regulatory regime in starting and operating a business.

There is a literacy rate of 99 per cent in people aged 15-24 (2010) and unemployment is only 1.1% of the labour force (2009). Around 75% of the adult male population participates in the labour force, but for the adult female population in Tonga this figure is only 54% (2009).