Other than residue colonials Australia and New Zealand, the richest country in the Pacific is the Kingdom of Tonga.
Global Finance magazine just released a 2013 study and ranking of the “Richest Countries in the World”, according to data from the World Bank, IMF, figures from OECD, and Eurostat.
(Find the full GF study here).
The study compares not size of the economy, but the overall domestic receipts divided per head of the population with no Pacific country scoring in the first rich 100, but top place is held by Qatar where people earn an average $105,091 a year.
However, just at number 101 is Tonga, where people earn on average, $7,753 a year. (The only exception is US Territory of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, yet, only at number 96).
The next Pacific countries up to Tonga is: the Federated States of Micronesia at rank 106 (average of 7,532), Samoa at 113 (at $6,282), Vanuatu at 123 ($5,093), Fiji at 124 ($4,947), and Solomon Islands and Tuvalu at 135 and 136 respectively.
PNG sits the furthest out at 139, yet no Pacific country dwells at the poorest 30 countries in the world.
Australia sits well at number 10, with Australians earning an average of $44,073, and New Zealand at number 30 with New Zealanders’ average of $30,803; both countries’ activity heavily fueled by the raging consumer and technology markets of China and Asia.
Generally, the countries populating the top 100 are European, Caribbean, American, or the behemoths of East and South East Asia.
In fact three of the top five rich countries are from Asia, other than Qatar, including Singapore (no. 3) and Brunnei (no. 5), along with Luxembourg (no. 2) and Norway (no. 4) from Europe.
The US sits at number 7 behind Hong Kong, while the UK occupies 23 behind Japan at 22, and China back at number 90.
Although GDP and GDP per capita are too broad for measuring internal distribution of wealth, Tonga still caps most on other instruments like the UNDP’s Human Development Index and the MDGs.
Challenges are political and limits country’s growth
The common rhetoric of Tonga as the poorest country in the world is intended to undermine the rule of Tonga’s monarchy, under the rubric of “democratisation”.
But the new democracy reforms are ailing due to underdeveloped democratic culture, fragmentation and factionalisation, and unethical institutional management leading to greater corruption.
All it has done, is drain optimism and hope in the economy, and such failure is to be blamed on the monarchy.
While political and foreign sponsored, it ultimately hinders and consequently undermines local Tongans opportunity to realise development goals, even though Tonga has consistently been the best performer in human development indices in the region and abroad. Those successes are the result of previous administrations.
But a failing Tongan economy is not good for the region, nor for neighbours.
Tonga’s actual economic challenges can be boiled down to just a single problem: size, and isolation! At 100,000 people, interspersed over a wide area over several archipelagoes, conventional businesses are typically wary.
However, the new administration is contemplating a jump into a new paradigm energy level to enrich the economy with a new type of industry, that it will add bulk and fuel growth and optimism.