Why Is Tonga Poor?The Kingdom of Tonga is a tropical group of islands located in the south Pacific Ocean. Aside from Tonga’s beautiful scenery of tropical rainforests and volcanic landscapes, there resides much isolation and scarcity. Three main factors contribute to the 22.5 percent of people living below national poverty lines. By taking a deeper look into these three causes, the question “why is Tonga poor?” can be successfully answered.

  1. Limited Resources
    Resources are scarce in Tonga, with arable land being at the top of the scarce resources list. Only 24 percent of Tonga’s land is able to grow crops. Astonishingly, of that 24 percent, about 43 percent of the land is used for agricultural purposes. High dependency on limited resources leads to a wide range of economic issues and food insecurity. Much of Tonga’s financial growth is now dependent on more than half of the population that has moved abroad.
  2. Decreased Tourism
    Tourism contributes to about 14 percent of Tonga’s total GDP. According to the South Pacific Touring Organization, the number of tourists has drastically gone down. Tourist arrivals to Tonga in the first quarter of 2017 fell dramatically by 45.7 percent compared to its previous quarter. The root cause can be traced back to decreasing travel in Tonga’s leading source markets: New Zealand and Australia. Efforts are now being considered to increase this important source of revenue.
  3. Climate Change
    The question of why Tonga is poor can also be answered by looking at climate change. Over recent years, Tonga has reported a significant decline in precipitation as well as substantial rises in atmospheric temperatures. Coastal erosion, rising sea levels and ocean acidification are at record-breaking highs. Climate change is directly linked to the depletion of the agricultural and tourism sectors in Tonga. The islands have turned to agricultural biotechnology as a possible solution.

Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pōhiva, the Prime Minister of Tonga, has been working diligently with the U.N. to progress development on these poverty-related issues. A detailed outline is currently being followed with the eradication of poverty still intact. Even though poverty remains one of the largest challenges for Tonga, these islands can take pride in the existing partnerships they have made in order to advance poverty reduction efforts.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr