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Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the official arm of Government dealing with most aid assistance to Tonga especially bilateral assistance from Australia, New Zealand and Japan.  Multilateral  assistance is coordinated by various ministries:

At present, there are no mechanisms to coordinate efforts concerning international cooperation/development assistance for sustainable development.  Each of the ministries mentioned above manages funds from their respective sources.  Whilst, the Central Planning Department has the mandate for coordinating development in Tonga.  Unfortunately, the Department is only able to do so within the areas of bilateral assistance and some multilateral assistance that comes through the Department such a funds from UNDP.

Government ministries are the lowest levels of public authority to which decisions with regards to international relations and cooperation are delegated.  Whilst this is so, ministries are only able to recommend to government what international cooperation should the government adopt with final decision being with Cabinet and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

There are no such laws, regulations or directives in Tonga that address matters concerning cooperation of sustainable development at sub-regional, regional and international levels.  There are no foreign policy regulations or directives related to Agenda 21.

At present, Tonga is trying to become a WTO member.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

Whilst Tonga has acceded to many international agreements such as Conservation of Biological Diversity, UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol and Montreal Protocol, the country has yet to translate these into domestic policies and programmes.

Tonga is an observant member to WTO, and is in the process of developing domestic policies in line with WTO guidelines.

At present, there are no systems whereby domestic savings are mobilized.  However,  in the meantime, a proposal by the UNDP, and the ILO to set up a National Retirement Benefits Scheme on a contributory basis is currently underway.  The Scheme considers three main target groups identified as appropriate to Tonga and these include:

A feasible model for Tonga's population had been calculated to be the one that encompass the above three target areas.  The expected fund balance by the year 2050 is projected at $350.5 million.  Further to the establishment of this Scheme, there are further plans to merge all existing funds under one National Retirement Benefit Fund.

There have been various attempts to transfer not just environmentally sound technology but appropriate technology but, this has been limited to photovoltaic for domestic lighting.  However, overall for Tonga there isn't a guiding policy that specifically aims at transferring environmentally sound technology and know-how.  Such initiatives are left to individual Ministries and private sector  to initiate and to implement.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

On the bilateral scene, many of these groups are consulted such as; NGOs, business and industry, local authorities, youth, and  women groups in particular.  Whilst others are consulted in the process, women groups, represented by Women In Development Center (WIDC) of the Prime Minister's Office, are represented in many negotiations.

It is only women's groups that have an established role in decision-making process within the government and in participation in international programmes and activities.  The establishment of the WIDC in the Prime Minister's Office has ensured that women's participation in the decision-making process coupled with the priority given to them by all of Tonga's development partners, have strengthened their role.

Several government monopolies such as the Tonga Commodities Board and to some degree the Tonga Electric Power Board have been deregulated by government which led to loss of employment.  Government presently do not provide a welfare system, however, the extended family system provides support to the laid off  workers..

Programmes and Projects   

Whilst Tonga is eligible for  GEF assistance, the country has recently accessed such funds although there has been difficulty in implementing projects that have both local and global environmental significance.

UNDP currently has one project under GEF which is the TON/99/G31-Climate Change National Communication (Enabling Activity).  The second project which is currently in the process of being finalized for submission to New York, is the National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy Action Plan and First Report to the COP.  Under the UNDP Multilateral Programme with the Government of Tonga, there exists two project.  These are namely:   

Tonga's main bilateral partners are Australia, New Zealand and Japan.  All these assistance aim at promoting sustainable development.  However, the focus of each partner varies:

The Grant Assistance for Grassroots Project is made available to cover the const of relatively small projects for which assistance under the Grant Assistance  for General Projects has been difficult to obtain.  This year, the Government of Japan also has a General Grant Aid Project in Tonga, the Nuku'alofa Water Supply Improvement Project for a total of approximately T$18.4 million, its main objective include:

The Australian Government seek to continues its work to help the Government of Tonga to effectively implement key elements of its development plan.  Support provided within the policy and investment thrust of the plan.  However, underlying these two broad strategies is the commitment to assist the Government to address public sector reform.  Aid assistance also supports education and training, health and an environment project.  In addition, Australia provides Aid on a geographic basis to the Ha'apai island group, aiming at improving the quality of life of the area through a combination of infrastructure and training programs.

The Government of New Zealand's bilateral assistance to Tonga focuses on:

New Zealand supports the activities mentioned above because of their contribution to lasting improvements in the economic, social and political conditions of men, women and children in Tonga.  this means that support for economic strategies which are equitable, maintain the natural resource base and the quality of the environment and provide the greatest level of self reliance possible.

The following institutional strengthening project are provided under the AusAID and NZODA and compose mainly of Technical Assistance.

Capacity-building in the design and implementation of the economic policies, public administration, etc; 


Design and operation of efficient tax and accounting systems, financial institutions and markets;


 Promotion of Entrepreneurship;


Environmental Research, Management, Conservation, etc.;



Trading programmes include:


The bilateral programs with the Governments of New Zealand and Australia both have a set budgeted for Tonga.  That is for NZ, Tonga received a NZ$5.6 million grant per financial year.  This is usually programmed to be fully spent, however, if there is any discrepancy in the actual expenditure of the program and the planned aid program, it may only amount to a small amount of the program.  Similarly, the Australian Aid program to Tonga, the budgeted allocation amounts to A$9.4 million and the actual expenditure is usually along the same lines.  These allocations from NZ and Australia have been maintained in nominal terms for the past 5 years.


Agenda 21 is yet to be ratified and translated into domestic policies.

Building multi-stakeholder partnerships have not yet been attempted in Tonga.

Lack of a variety of institutional support to trade is a major obstacle.  Only one institution has been set up, the Tonga Trade,  but it lacks professional staff and finance, therefore, not yet effective in eliminating trade barriers.

High trade tariffs particularly on imports is a major structural barrier to trade.  However, the Ministry of Finance is in the process of reforming trade tariffs in line with trade liberalization philosophy.

Lack of sound policies has been identified as an inhibiting factor for private sector development and foreign direct investment.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

Tonga's assistance from UNDP has focused on sustainable development with emphasis on capacity building and gender.

Capacity-building is most needed in the area of project management and administration.  No concrete effort has been made to identify measures to strengthen international cooperation in these areas.


Information and data on bilateral, sub-regional, regional or multilateral/international  cooperation is only available from source and is not readily disseminated to the general public.

Whilst the government information is disseminated through radio, television and newspapers by the Information Unit in the Prime Minister's Office.  Open forums are not used.

Research and Technologies   

No information is available


ODA accounts for about 85 to 95 percent of Tonga's development budget.  Thus Tonga is highly reliant on ODA for development.

  Table 1:  Percentage Distribution of the Tonga New Zealand                                                                   Bilateral Aid 1998/1999


Approved          1998/1999          (NZ$'000) % Share                   1998/1999
Human Resource Development

Development of Private Sector & State Owned Enterprises

Regional Development

















 Table 2:    Percentage Distribution of the Tonga-Australia                                                                                     Bilateral Aid 1999/2000, 1998/1999


Propose  1999/2000 (A$'000) % Share 1999/2000 Allocation 1998/1999 % Share 1998/19999
Public Sector Reform

Education and Training


Natural Resource Management



New Projects


Budget Allocation (A$ million)










































Multilateral sources include: UNDP, EU and ADB.  However, while their assistance to contribute to sustainable development, they do not specifically target sustainable development projects.


Whilst Tonga has signed many international conventions such as Conservation of Biological Diversity, Montreal Protocol, Kyoto Protocol, and UNFCCC, Tonga has not ratified them yet.

For details see all the above.

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This information was provided by the Government of Tonga to the 9th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update:  April 2001.

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Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies  

Transport in Tonga is managed under three categories: land; sea; and air. 

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations

Land transport: is governed by Traffic Act Cap 156 (Amendments Act in 91 and 97), Bicycle Registration Act Cap 157, Roads Act Cap 155.

Sea transport: is governed by Shipping Act Cap 136 (shipping Amended Act 99), Carriage of Goods by Sea Act Cap 141, Carriage of passengers and luggage by sea Act 142, Harbors Act Cap 137 (Amendments 92, 94, and 987), Wharfs Act Cap 138 (Amendment 92, 94, 97 and 98), Dock Regulations Act Cap 140 (Amendments 92), Shipping (Limitation of Liability Act) Cap 143, Marine Insurance Act Cap 144 Ports Authority Act 1998.

Air transport:  is governed by Civil Aviation Act Cap 151, Aerodomes Act Cap, 152, Aircraft Offences Act Cap 153m carriage by Air Act 1991.

These laws have not been modified since the Rio Summit to reflect on issues highlighted.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans 

Tonga's last Five-Year Development Plan contains strategies for urban planning, rural development and transport infrastructure.  However, the country does not have an integrated transport strategy. 

Tonga's draft strategic plan contains an integrated infrastructure strategy but is yet to be published.

In terms of land transport infrastructure, Tonga has a limited land resource, and as the bulk of the land has been sub-divided, it is not likely that the total length of road networks in the country can be increased.  The objective of road transport at present is to move towards a more sustainable method to keep up with road maintenance and rehabilitation.  The bulk of road network in Tonga was constructed from aid resources.  These resources will not continue to flow into this sector, thus it is crucial for government to move forward a sustainable method for managing its physical infrastructure.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement 

Decision-making is only made by public officials.  Once these decisions are made, then the rest of the public is informed and awareness campaigns are implemented.  However, people in rural areas are able to participate if roads or access to a village needs improvement, the villagers themselves will raise the bulk of the funds required to undertake the work and request only for government subsidy.  For example, with road construction, villages requiring road improvement or  upgrade will provide construction materials and the government subsidy is through the provision of equipment and expertise.

Sea transport:  Proposed Bills are circulated to the maritime industry, Chamber of Commerce and local community are consulted for comments before a Bill is processed to Cabinet.  Comments to the Proposed Bill or workshop is held where the issues are discussed and amendments agreed upon.

The scattered nature of the islands of Tonga means that all modes of transport are essential and the value of each differ from island to island.  The bulk of Tonga's population, 68.5 percent live on the main island of Tongatapu where there is a high demand for good road system network.  However, there is also a strong need for a good system of air and sea transport to facilitate trade with Tonga's trading partners.  On the outer islands namely 'Eua, Ha'apai, Vava'u and two Niuas, not only require good road networks but also good sea and air transport to maintain trade and transportation links with both the main Island of Tongatapu and the rest of the world. 

Programmes and Projects 

Tonga now has a comprehensive road network system and all parts of the Island can now be accessed by road.  The next task is to upgrade the road network so that all roads are sealed.  This is a goal that the Ministry of Works is working towards achieving.

To improve traffic congestion in the populated areas, traffic police officers are now stationed during the peak hours at points of congestion to assist the flow of traffic and ease congestion.  Tonga does not have traffic lights or roundabouts, thus the use of traffic officers have greatly improved the flow of traffic to and from the main urban centers during peak hours improving efficiency.

All public transport in Tonga is operated by the private sector such as buses, taxi, boats, and ferries.  These are run without the government subsidy with the exception of the shipping service to Tonga's most remote islands, the Niuas that is subsidized by the government.  The other exception is with air transport.  Tonga has its own airline, to which it has invested.  Government has thus subsidized this industry.


There are no incentives at present to encourage non-motorized transportation.  It is only along the main road of Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga, that footpaths have been constructed thus, there is no infrastructure to support or promote a non-motorized system of transport.

The provision of transport services to the public and private appears adequate in Tonga.  However, for commercial purposes, there is scope for growth and improvement.  For example, there is a commercial need for adequate airfreight space to facilitate Tonga's export of fresh produce, such as fish and other perishables.

Transport uses all petrol (98%) is imported.  Electricity generation is the single largest consumer of diesel (45%), followed by road transport (36%).

Leaded gasoline has been totally phased out of Tonga.


There is no data on vehicle emissions in Tonga and there are no policies or programmes at present to reduce it.

The present transport system in Tonga appears efficient.  However, the greatest challenge facing this country is the ability to maintain and to sustain ably manage these assets.  This is indeed a great challenge that Tonga is at present unable to undertake.

There has been some efforts to promote car-pooling but, it was not successful.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

Environmental awareness campaigns are run to inform the public on specific issues.  The impact of transport on the environment is not a very pressing issue for Tonga today hence, this topic has not been given much attention in public awareness campaigns.  However, Tonga has recognized that there is a growing traffic and vehicle problem in the country and will address the issue in the next Strategic Plan.

Road safety issues are aired on public and police radio programmes which inform the public about weekly traffic violations and accidents.  These are sponsored by the Traffic Section of the Ministry of Police.

Environmental issues are a part of the syllabus for primary and secondary schools.  However, relationship between transport and the environment is not specifically covered.  To facilitate the exploration of specific issues, the schools run posters, organize competitions on essay and poetry and these cover a wide range of issues for students to learn in depth about transport and the environment.

Tonga has not had much training on the issues of transport and the environment, it is anticipated that the Road Safety Project which is to commence soon will address it.


Traffic information is gathered and maintained through a manual system with the Traffic Section of the Ministry of Police.  One of the objectives of the upcoming Road Safety Project is to computerize this system which will facilitate better traffic management.

Research and Technologies   

Other than using traffic policy to facilitate the flow of traffic, there are no other schemes at present.  The upcoming Road Safety Project to be funded by Australia aims to address these issues.


The supply of fuel is solely with the private sector.


Tonga has relied on the assistance of bilateral and multilateral partners.  These mechanisms are used to date.  Donors have traditionally funded infrastructure construction.  Major donors to infrastructure development in Tonga include: Japan; ADB; AusAID; and the EU.  New Zealand also assists with the construction of rural and agricultural roads.

A study undertaken by the Asian Development Bank suggested that Tonga move towards a policy of cost recovery for infrastructure, and specifically for road transport.  This is perceived to be the only way that infrastructure in Tonga can be managed at a sustainable manner.  This is also a policy position that the government is considering in its next plan, Strategic Development Plan  7 (2001-2003).

Presently, a Road Safety Project (RSP) is about to commence and is to be sponsored by AusAID.  RSP funded by AusAID aims to address and reduce traffic-related accidents and damages, it will also assist in the design of transport and traffic system in Tonga.

Sea transport: The Prevention of Marine Pollution Bill was developed and drafted by South Pacific Commission and to some degree South Pacific Regional Environment Programme.  

Tonga is a member of IMO.  The country has acceded and adopted numerous marine environment and safety of ships Conventions.


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This information was provided by the Government of Tonga to the 9th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update:  April 2001.


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