How we are helping
2014/15 Bilateral Outcome
2015/16 Bilateral Budget Estimate
2015/16 Total Australian ODA Estimate
The Australian Government will provide an estimated $30.2 million in total Official Development Assistance to Tonga in 2015–16. This will include an estimated $17.6 million in bilateral funding to Tonga managed by DFAT.
Australia has a longstanding, cooperative relationship with Tonga. Australia implements an integrated set of foreign, trade and development policies to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and enhance stability across the Pacific. It is in Australia’s interest to support Tonga’s development and help strengthen its economic and environmental resilience.
Tonga graduated to upper middle-income status in 2012. However it continues to face development challenges. In 2014, Tonga was ranked third on the World Risk Index due to its exposure to natural hazards and its capacity to respond1. Tonga has a geographically isolated population of around 100,000 people, significant subsistence agriculture and a narrow resource, production and export base. It imports substantially more than it exports and has a relatively low level of private sector activity. Approximately one quarter of Tongan households, especially those on outer islands and those who are not in receipt of overseas remittances2. Remittances from Tongans working overseas are an important element of the economy representing an estimated 21 per cent of gross national disposable income in 20123.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are endemic in Tonga and will present an increasing economic drain over coming years. With support from Australia, Tonga has successfully accelerated action on combatting NCD risk factors but this remains a key challenge to Tonga’s development.
Gender inequality in Tonga undermines economic growth, human development and poverty reduction. Women in the Pacific continue to be under-represented in Parliament—Tonga currently has no female parliamentarians compared to the global average of 21.7 per cent4. Rates of domestic violence are particularly concerning.
Australia will continue to work with Tonga and its development partners to address these challenges, building on important reforms and investments made to date. In line with Australia’s aid policy and Tonga’s Strategic Development Framework II, Australia is working with the Tongan Government and other development partners to pursue the following strategic priorities.
Objective 1: Governance, economic and private sector development
Australia and other donors are jointly supporting the Tonga Economic Reform Program, which drives reforms to strengthen revenue, effectively manage government expenditure, manage debt and promote private sector growth. Donors link aid payments to agreed reform benchmarks and provide technical assistance to support implementation. Australia is also funding pilot projects to support Tonga’s vanilla industry and supporting regional initiatives that promote Tonga’s private sector, such as the Pacific Horticultural Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA), and the Asian Development Bank’s Private Sector Development Initiative.
Investments for supporting economic, governance and private sector development reforms
Objective 2: More effective, efficient and equitable health system
Australia is promoting a more effective, efficient and equitable health system in Tonga, with a focus on reducing the health and economic burden of NCDs. Our new phase of the Tonga Health Systems Support Program focuses on strengthening the management of NCDs through preventative health services, NCD health promotion, and support for mental health and disability services. This work is complemented by infrastructure investments to improve environmental health through the Nuku’alofa Urban Development Project, which is increasing access to clean water supply, sanitation and solid waste services, particularly in low income residential areas.
Investments for promoting a more effective, efficient and equitable health system
Objective 3: Skills development in support of economic opportunities for Tongan workers
Australia is supporting a range of local, regional and international training opportunities to ensure Tongans are skilled to meet priority areas of labour demand. Our Interim Skills Development Facility is providing young Tongans with the skills and qualifications needed by the private sector, both in Tonga and overseas. We are expanding Australia’s investments in technical and vocational skills development, with a particular focus on opportunities for women and those with disability. Through our education assistance, we are improving the quality of basic and early childhood education in Tonga.
Investments for improving economic opportunities for Tongan workers through skills development
Cross cutting issues
Australia is seeking to address the cross-cutting issues of disaster resilience and preparedness, gender equality and supporting the needs of people with a disability across all our investments. Tonga Women Shaping Development is a key initiative by Australia that aims to strengthen the national response to violence against women, research the impacts of the seasonal migrant worker scheme on women and men, strengthen the organisational and technical capacity of women’s organisations and support the Government of Tonga to organise key women’s events. This work is part of the region-wide Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program.
Australia is helping to strengthen fisheries management, disaster resilience, health and education systems across the Pacific and in Tonga. Programs delivered through other Australian government departments enhance local Tongan policing capacity and legal systems. We are working to further enhance the development impacts of the Seasonal Worker Programme and will continue to provide Australia Awards to Tongans to support local skills development.
In 2014–15, Australia's aid program contributed to the following results.
Governance, economic and private sector development
- With assistance from Australia and other donors, Tonga has introduced economic and financial management reforms that returned the budget to balance, reduced new debt, and increased revenue performance.
- Australian assistance for road maintenance helped create locally-owned, private road contracting industry. Between April 2013 and March 2014, 12 Tongan companies bid for and undertook road maintenance activities in Tonga. Approximately 468km of road was maintained by these companies and through the efforts of the project around 200 jobs were created.
- A strong partnership between Australia and Tonga to implement an integrated health program has contributed to a halt in the rise of obesity, a decrease in smoking rates, and a decrease in physical inactivity—all key risk factors of NCDs.
- A 2014 World Health Organization survey indicated approximately one thousand Tongans have reduced their risk of obesity over the last three years.
- Tongans are becoming more active, with close to one-quarter of women (22 per cent) increasing their levels of physical activity.
- Australia has helped to refurbish seven community health centres, developed an innovative ‘Diploma in NCD Nursing Practice’ and trained 20 registered specialist NCD nurses who now work at community health centres to screen, diagnose, treat and support patients.
- Australian support has helped improve Tonga’s environmental health infrastructure. The upgrade of the Nuku’alofa waste facility will add an additional 8-10 years to the lifespan of the waste management site.
- In 2015, 65 Tongans received Australia Award scholarships or fellowships to study at tertiary institutions in Australia and the Pacific. Since 1985, 675 Tongan Australia Award alumni (47 per cent women) have graduated with relevant qualifications to address human resource gaps in the workforce and enhanced the strong people-to-people links between our two countries.
- In 2015, the Interim Skills Development Facility supported 54 places for women in new horticulture courses and a further 25 places for women and men in agriculture courses.
- Since 2008, more than 4,200 Tongans have participated in the Seasonal Worker Programme.
Our changing program
Australia’s proposed aid objectives are guided by shared priorities with the Tongan Government and an assessment of key constraints to economic growth and poverty reduction. They reflect an understanding of where our aid can most effectively support Tonga’s development and strengthen its economic and environmental resilience.
Accordingly, we will work with Government of Tonga to consolidate our aid investments and increase our focus on investments that support economic growth. We will increase the proportion of the program allocated to aid for trade activities. We will look for opportunities for Tonga to fully benefit from the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus, when finalised. Our infrastructure investments will be re-oriented to better enable achievement of our strategic priorities.
We will expand support for technical and vocational skills development, with a particular focus on opportunities for women and those with disability. We will strengthen our focus on our Tonga Women Shaping Development and prevention of violence against women initiatives. We will also improve synergies between Australian-supported bilateral and regional initiatives.