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" Tonga: From monarchy to modernity"

‘Time for a change in Tonga: From monarchy to modernity’

Despite years of generous aid and high education and health expenditure, Tonga has failed to grow substantially in the last thirty years. According to a new report, the royal family and the ‘nobility’ must accept responsibility for this.
In a paper to be released on Tuesday 7 November 2006, Time for a change in Tonga: From monarchy to modernity, Gaurav Sodhi argues that growth generating reforms in Tonga have now become an economic necessity and a political possibility.

‘The potential of the Tongan economy has been wasted by a monarchy and ‘nobility’ who have become wealthy by retaining a feudal social structure while the majority of the population has emigrated into economic exile in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. At least 80% of Tongans now reside overseas.’

‘Popular support for democracy and economic reform has steadily gained momentum, culminating in a public service strike in late 2005 and the appointment of a commoner as Prime Minister. In an act of appeasement, public sector wages were raised by up to 80%, threatening macroeconomic stability. As a result, the Finance Minister claims Tonga “is teetering on the edge of an economic crisis.”

According to Sodhi, this imminent crisis is an opportunity to carry out long neglected political and economic reforms, particularly to the private sector and land..

‘The economy cannot grow without changes to land tenure policy. Squash exports to Japan have been the only agricultural success; a glimpse of what would be possible with private property rights and long term leases.’

‘Tonga could be a Pacific island that works. It has a history of political stability and functional institutions of law, order and government. Agriculture, fishing and tourism all have potential for future growth.’

‘With reform, Tonga could be somewhat of a rarity: a Pacific island country known for its beaches and coconut trees rather than for its economic and political dysfunction.’

Gaurav Sodhi is a Policy Analyst working in economic and foreign policy. He has a Bachelor of Economics and a Bachelor of Arts degree from UNSW, with majors in economics and political science.




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