Tonga – unique among Pacific nations – never completely lost its indigenous governance. The archipelagos of “The Friendly Islands” were united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. Tonga became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and a British protectorate in 1900; it withdrew from the protectorate and joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970. Tonga remains the only monarchy in the Pacific


Location: Oceania, archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand.  Area 747 sq km. Coastline 419 km

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

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

Terrain: mostly flat islands with limestone bedrock formed from uplifted coral formation; others have limestone overlying volcanic rock

Elevation: highest point unnamed elevation on Kao Island 1,033 m

Natural resources: fish, arable land

Land use: agricultural land: 43.1%, arable land 22.2%; permanent crops 15.3%; permanent pasture 5.6%, forest: 12.5% other: 44.4% (2011 est.)

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

Volcanism: moderate volcanic activity; Fonualei (elev. 180 m) has shown frequent activity in recent years, while Niuafo’ou (elev. 260 m), which last erupted in 1985, has forced evacuations; other historically active volcanoes include Late and Tofua

Environment – 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 Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution

Geography note: archipelago of 169 islands (36 inhabited)

People and Society

Nationality: noun Tongan(s)

Ethnic groups: Tongan 96.6%, part-Tongan 1.7%, other 1.7%, unspecified 0.03% (2006 est.)

Languages: English and Tongan 87%, Tongan (official) 10.7%, English (official) 1.2%, other 1.1%, unspecified 0.03% (2006 est.)

Religions: Protestant 64.9% (includes Free Wesleyan Church 37.3%, Free Church of Tonga 11.4%, Church of Tonga 7.2%, Tokaikolo Christian Church 2.6%, Assembly of God 2.3% Seventh Day Adventist 2.2%, Constitutional Church of Tonga .9%, Anglican .8% and Full Gospel Church .2%), Mormon 16.8%, Roman Catholic 15.6%, other 1.1%, none 0.03%, unspecified 1.7% (2006 est.)

Population: 106,501 (July 2015 est.)

Urbanization: urban population 23.7% of total population (2015), rate of urbanization: 0.71% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas – population: NUKU’ALOFA 25,000 (2014)

Physicians density: 0.56 physicians/1,000 population (2010)

Hospital bed density: 2.6 beds/1,000 population (2010)

Drinking water source: improved urban 99.7% of population, rural 99.6% of population, total: 99.6% of population. Unimproved urban  0.3% of population, rural: 0.4% of population total: 0.4% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access: improved urban 97.6% of population, rural 89% of population, total: 91% of population; unimproved urban 2.4% of population, rural 11% of population, total 9% of population (2015 est.)


Country name: conventional long form is Kingdom of Tonga, conventional short form: Tonga, local long form: Pule’anga Tonga

Former: Friendly Islands

Government type: constitutional monarchy

Capital: Nuku’alofa

Time difference: UTC+13 (18 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions – 5 island divisions; ‘Eua, Ha’apai, Ongo Niua, Tongatapu, Vava’u

Independence: 4 June 1970 (from UK protectorate)

National holiday: National Day, 4 November (1875)

Constitution: adopted 4 November 1875, revised 1988; amended many times, last in 2014 (2016)

Legal system: English common law

International law organization participation: has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Executive branch: chief of state: King TUPOU VI (since 18 March 2012); note – on 18 March 2012, King George TUPOU V died and his brother, Crown Prince TUPOUTO’A Lavaka, assumed the throne as TUPOU VI. Head of Government: Prime Minister ‘Akilisi POHIVA (since 30 December 2014). Cabinet: Cabinet nominated by the prime minister and appointed by the monarch. Elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime minister indirectly elected by the Legislative Assembly and appointed by the monarch; election last held on 21 December 2010 (next to be held in November 2014)

Election results: ‘Akilisi POHIVA (Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands) elected prime minister by parliament on 29 December 2014; vote – 15 of 26 votes

Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Fale Alea (26 seats; 17 people’s representatives directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 9 indirectly elected by hereditary leaders; members serve 3-year terms). Elections: last held on 27 November 2014 (next to be held in 2017). Election results: percent of vote – NA; seats by party – Democratic Party 9, noble’s representatives 9, independent 8

Judicial branch: highest court(s): Court of Appeal (consists of the court president and a number of judges determined by the monarch); note – appeals beyond the Court of Appeal are brought before the King in Privy Council, the monarch’s advisory organ that has both judicial and legislative powers. Judge selection and term of office: judge appointments and tenures made by the King in Privy Council, judge appointments subject to consent of the Legislative Assembly. Subordinate courts: Supreme Court; Magistrate’s Courts; Land Courts

Political parties and leaders: democratic Party of the Friendly Islands [Samuela ‘Akilisi POHIVA]. People’s Democratic Party or PDP [Tesina FUKO]. Sustainable Nation-Building Party [Sione FONUA]. Tonga Democratic Labor Party. Tonga Human Rights and Democracy Movement or THRDM

National symbol: red cross on white field, arms equal length; national colors: red, white


Tonga has a small, open, island economy and is the last constitutional monarchy among the Pacific Island countries. It has a narrow export base in agricultural goods. Squash, vanilla beans, and yams are the main crops. Agricultural exports, including fish, make up two-thirds of total exports. Tourism is the second-largest source of hard currency earnings following remittances. Tonga had 39,000 visitors in 2006. The country must import a high proportion of its food, mainly from New Zealand.

The country remains dependent on external aid and remittances from overseas Tongans to offset its trade deficit. The government is emphasizing the development of the private sector, encouraging investment, and is committing increased funds for health and education. Tonga’s English-speaking and educated workforce offer a viable labor market, and the tropical climate provides fertile soil. Renewable energy and deep sea mining also offer opportunities for investment.

Tonga has a reasonably sound basic infrastructure and well developed social services. The government faces high unemployment among the young, moderate inflation, pressures for democratic reform, and rising civil service expenditures.

Agriculture – products: squash, coconuts, copra, bananas, vanilla beans, cocoa, coffee, sweet potatoes, cassava, taro and kava

Industries: tourism, construction, fishing

Population below poverty line: 24% (FY03/04 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 0.2% (2015 est.), 2.5% (2014 est.)

Exports – commodities: squash, fish, vanilla beans, root crops

Exports – partners: NZ 16.7%, US 15.6%, Fiji 11.2%, Japan 10.3%, Samoa 9.5%, South Korea 9%, Australia 7.9%, American Samoa 6%, Belgium 5.6% (2014)

Imports – commodities: foodstuffs, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, chemicals

Imports – partners: Fiji 35%, NZ 20.5%, China 10.8%, US 9.1%, Japan 5%, Australia 4.3% (2014)

Currency: pa’anga (TOP)

Energy Electricity 240V Australian and New Zealand plug-in type

Communications Telephone system general assessment: competition between Tonga Telecommunications Corporation (TCC) and Shoreline Communications Tonga (SCT) is accelerating expansion of telecommunications; SCT granted approval to introduce high-speed digital service for telephone, Internet, and television while TCC has exclusive rights to operate the mobile-phone network; international telecom services are provided by government-owned Tonga Telecommunications International

domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity about 80 telephones per 100 persons; fully automatic switched network

international: country code – 676; satellite earth station – 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2011)

Broadcast media: 2 state-owned TV stations and 2 privately owned TV stations; satellite and cable TV services are available; 2 state-owned and 3 privately owned radio stations; Radio Australia broadcasts available via satellite (2009)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 4, shortwave 1 (2001)

Television broadcast stations: 3 (2004)

Internet country code: .to

Internet users: percent of population: 37.9% (2014 est.)

Transportation Airports: 6 (2013)

Roadways: total: 680 km, paved: 184 km, unpaved: 496 km (2011)

Merchant marine total: 7, type: cargo 4, carrier 1, passenger/cargo 2.  Major seaport(s): Nuku’alofa, Neiafu, Pangai

Military and Security – Military branches: Tonga Defense Services (TDS): Land Force (Royal Guard), Maritime Force (includes Royal Marines, Air Wing) (2013)