Facts about Tonga

World Facts Index

The archipelagos of "The Friendly Islands" were united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. It became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and a British protectorate in 1900. Tonga acquired its independence in 1970 and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It remains the only monarchy in the Pacific.

Geography of Tonga

Oceania, archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand
20 00 S, 175 00 W
total: 748 sq km
water: 30 sq km
land: 718 sq km
Area comparative:
four times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
0 km
419 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
tropical; modified by trade winds; warm season (December to May), cool season (May to December)
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
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
Geography - note:
archipelago of 169 islands (36 inhabited

Population of Tonga

119,009 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 35.3% (male 20,679/female 19,843)
15-64 years: 60.5% (male 34,399/female 34,964)
65 years and over: 4.2% (male 2,059/female 2,745)
Median age:
20.7 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
12.3 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.82 years
male: 67.32 years
female: 72.45 years
Fertility rate:
3 children born/woman
noun: Tongan(s)
adjective: Tongan
Ethnic groups:
Polynesian, Europeans about 300
Christian (Free Wesleyan Church claims over 30,000 adherents)
Tongan, English
definition: can read and write Tongan and/or English
total population: 98.9%
male: 98.8%
female: 99%


Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Tonga
former: Friendly Islands
Government type:
hereditary constitutional monarchy
Administrative divisions:
3 island groups; Ha'apai, Tongatapu, Vava'u
4 June 1970 (from UK protectorate)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 4 June (1970)
4 November 1875, revised 1 January 1967
Legal system:
based on English law
21 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: King George TUPOU V
head of government: Prime Minister Dr. Feleti SEVELE ; Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Viliami TANGI
cabinet: Cabinet consists of 14 members, 10 appointed by the monarch for life; four appointed from among the elected members of the Legislative Assembly, including two each from the nobles' and peoples' representatives serving three-year terms
note: there is also a Privy Council that consists of the monarch, the cabinet, and two governors
elections: the monarch is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the monarch.
Legislative branch:
unicameral Legislative Assembly or Fale Alea (32 seats - 14 reserved for cabinet ministers sitting ex officio, 9 for nobles selected by the country's 33 nobles, and 9 elected by popular vote; members serve three-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the monarch); Court of Appeal (Chief Justice and high court justices from overseas chosen and approved by Privy Council)


Tonga has a small, open, South Pacific island economy. It has a narrow export base in agricultural goods. Squash, vanilla beans, and yams are the main crops, and agricultural exports, including fish, make up two-thirds of total exports. The country must import a high proportion of its food, mainly from New Zealand. The country remains dependent on external aid and remittances from Tongan communities overseas to offset its trade deficit. Tourism is the second-largest source of hard currency earnings following remittances. The government is emphasizing the development of the private sector, especially the encouragement of investment, and is committing increased funds for health and education. Tonga has a reasonably sound basic infrastructure and well-developed social services. High unemployment among the young, a continuing upturn in inflation, pressures for democratic reform, and rising civil service expenditures are major issues facing the government.

$526 million (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 23%
industry: 27%
services: 50% 
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 65% 
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
tourism, fishing
squash, coconuts, copra, bananas, vanilla beans, cocoa, coffee, ginger, black pepper; fish
squash, fish, vanilla beans, root crops
Export partners:
Japan 33.3%, US 26.2%, Taiwan 14.3%, NZ 11%
foodstuffs, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, chemicals
Import partners:
NZ 36.9%, Fiji 25.9%, Australia 8.6%, US 7.9%
Debt - external:
$63.4 million
pa'anga (TOP)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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