Tonga [Country Flag of Tonga]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Tonga]



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Location: Oceania, archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand

Geographic coordinates: 20 00 S, 175 00 W

Map references: Oceania

total: 748 sq km
land: 718 sq km
water: 30 sq km

Area—comparative: four times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 419 km

Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: tropical; modified by trade winds; warm season (December to May), cool season (May to December)

Terrain: most islands have limestone base formed from uplifted coral formation; others have limestone overlying volcanic base

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Kao Island 1,033 m

Natural resources: fish, fertile soil

Land use:
arable land: 24%
permanent crops: 43%
permanent pastures: 6%
forests and woodland: 11%
other: 16% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: cyclones (October to April); earthquakes and volcanic activity on Fonuafo'ou

Environment—current issues: deforestation results as more and more land is being cleared for agriculture and settlement; some damage to coral reefs from starfish and indiscriminate coral and shell collectors; overhunting threatens native sea turtle populations

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ship Pollution, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography—note: archipelago of 170 islands (36 inhabited)


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Population: 108,207 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: NA
15-64 years: NA
65 years and over: NA

Population growth rate: 0.81% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 26.43 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 6.07 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: -1.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 38.57 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.54 years
male: 67.51 years
female: 71.96 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 3.63 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Tongan(s)
adjective: Tongan

Ethnic groups: Polynesian, Europeans about 300

Religions: Christian (Free Wesleyan Church claims over 30,000 adherents)

Languages: Tongan, English

definition: can read and write Tongan and/or English
total population: 98.5%
male: 98.4%
female: 98.7% (1996 est.)


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Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Tonga
conventional short form: Tonga
former: Friendly Islands

Data code: TN

Government type: hereditary constitutional monarchy

National capital: Nuku'alofa

Administrative divisions: three island groups; Ha'apai, Tongatapu, Vava'u

Independence: 4 June 1970 (emancipation from UK protectorate)

National holiday: Emancipation Day, 4 June (1970)

Constitution: 4 November 1875, revised 1 January 1967

Legal system: based on English law

Suffrage: 21 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: King Taufa'ahau TUPOU IV (since 16 December 1965)
head of government: Prime Minister Baron VAEA (since 22 August 1991) and Deputy Prime Minister S. Langi KAVALIKU (since 22 August 1991)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the king
note: there is also a Privy Council that consists of the king and the Cabinet
elections: none; the king is a constitutional monarch; prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed for life by the king

Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Fale Alea (30 seats—12 reserved for cabinet ministers sitting ex officio, nine for nobles selected by the country's 33 nobles, and nine elected by popular vote; members serve three-year terms)
elections: last held 24-25 January 1996 (next to be held NA February 1999)
election results: percent of vote—NA; seats—7 proreform, 2 traditionalist

Judicial branch: Supreme Court, judges are appointed by the king; Privy Council with the addition of the chief justice of the Supreme Court sits as the Court of Appeal

Political parties and leaders: Tonga People's Party, Viliami FUKOFUKA

International organization participation: ACP, AsDB, C, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, IMF, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WMO, WTrO (applicant)

Diplomatic representation in the US: Tonga does not have an embassy in the US; Ambassador Akosita FINEANGANOFO, resides in London
consulate(s) general : San Francisco

Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Tonga; the ambassador to Fiji is accredited to Tonga

Flag description: red with a bold red cross on a white rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner


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Economy—overview: The economy's base is agriculture, which contributes 32% to GDP. Squash, coconuts, bananas, and vanilla beans are the main crops, and agricultural exports make up two-thirds of total exports. The country must import a high proportion of its food, mainly from New Zealand. The industrial sector accounts for only 10% of GDP. Tourism is the primary source of hard currency earnings; the country also remains dependent on sizable external aid and remittances to offset its trade deficit. The economy grew at a declining rate in 1993-96. The government has been turning its attention to further development of the private sector and the reduction of the budget deficit.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$239 million (1996 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 1% (1996 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$2,250 (1996 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 32%
industry: 10%
services: 58% (1996)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 2% (1997 est.)

Labor force:
total: 36,665 (1994)
by occupation: agriculture 65% (1997 est.)

Unemployment rate: 11.8% (FY93/94)

revenues: $49 million
expenditures: $120 million, including capital expenditures of $75 million (FY96/97 est.)

Industries: tourism, fishing

Industrial production growth rate: 1.9% (FY95/96)

Electricity—capacity: 7,000 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 30 million kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 284 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: coconuts, copra, bananas, vanilla beans, cocoa, coffee, ginger, black pepper; fish

total value: $15.3 million (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: squash, fish, vanilla, root crops, coconut oil
partners: Japan 43%, US 19%, Canada 14%, NZ 5%, Australia 5% (1996 est.)

total value: $82.9 million (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: food products, live animals, machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, fuels, chemicals
partners: NZ 34%, Australia 16%, US 10%, UK 8%, Japan 6% (1996 est.)

Debt—external: $70 million (1995)

Economic aid:
recipient: ODA, $37 million (1994)

Currency: 1 pa'anga (T$) = 100 seniti

Exchange rates: pa'anga (T$) per US$1—1.3112 (November 1997), 1.2323 (1996), 1.2709 (1995), 1.3202 (1994), 1.3841 (1993)

Fiscal year: 1 July—30 June


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Telephones: 6,000 (1994 est.)

Telephone system:
domestic: NA
international: satellite earth station—1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 0, shortwave 0

Radios: 66,000 (1993 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 1 (1995)

Televisions: 2,000 (1994 est.)


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Railways: 0 km

total: 680 km
paved: 184 km
unpaved: 496 km (1996 est.)

Ports and harbors: Neiafu, Nuku'alofa, Pangai

Merchant marine:
total: 4 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 11,278 GRT/16,441 DWT
ships by type: bulk 1, liquefied gas tanker 2, roll-on/roll-off cargo 1 (1997 est.)

Airports: 6 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 2 (1997 est.)


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Military branches: Tonga Defense Services (includes, Royal Tongan Marines, Tongan Royal Guards, Maritime Force, Police); note—a new Air Wing which will be subordinate to the Defense Ministry is being developed

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $NA

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: NA%

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: none