30 Apr 2019

Tonga economy getting a small lift from cyclone rebuild

12:06 pm on 30 April 2019

Tonga's economy is expected to improve with reconstruction and infrastructure projects underpinning the recovery from Cyclone Gita, according to the Asian Development Bank.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The bank's flagship economic publication, the Asian Development Outlook 2019, says Tonga's economy is set to grow by 2.1 percent in 2019, dropping to 1.9 percent in 2020.

The report said the contribution of tourism to Tonga's gross domestic product has grown steadily, although from a small base of just 7.0 percent of GDP in 2010, reaching 11.5 percent in 2017.

A chief economist with the bank, Yasuyuki Sawada, said "Tonga, like other South Pacific countries, depends on tourism to drive the economy."

He said the government needs to give priority to policies that fully utilize infrastructure development to encourage the private sector.

The report said there is a need to improve infrastructure to ensure the benefits of tourism are spread across the country.

It says it is also important that any new infrastructure is built with resilience in mind and designed to promote environmentally friendly and sustainable tourism.

The report also notes Cyclone Gita pushed Tonga's inflation rate in 2018 up to 5.3 percent, with food prices increasing substantially that year.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller