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International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
Tonga’s nascent economic recovery following Tropical Cyclone Harold and border closures in early 2020 has been severely disrupted by a double blow from the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai volcanic eruption and the first local outbreak of COVID-19 at the start of 2022. The authorities are augmenting reconstruction and restoration efforts, with support from the international community. Real GDP is projected to contract by 1.9 percent in FY2022 (July 2021–June 2022), before rebounding by 3.2 percent in FY2023 with a gradual reopening of international borders.
Hidetaka Nishizawa, Mr. Scott Roger, and Huan Zhang
Pacific island countries (PICs) are vulnerable severe natural disasters, especially cyclones, inflicting large losses on their economies. In the aftermath of disasters, PIC governments face revenue losses and spending pressures to address post-disaster relief and recovery efforts. This paper estimates the effects of severe natural disasters on fiscal revenues and expenditure in PICs. These are combined with information on the frequency of large disasters to calculate the rate of budgetary savings needed to build appropriate fiscal buffers. Fiscal buffers provide self-insurance against natural disaster shocks and facilitate quick disbursement for recovery and relief efforts, and protection of spending on essential services and infrastructure. The estimates can provide a benchmark for policymakers, and should be adjusted to take into account other sources of financing, as well as budget risks from less severe as well as more frequent disasters.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights that over recent years, Tonga has enjoyed robust growth and macroeconomic stability. Growth continued to be strong at 2.7 percent in FY2017 following 3.4 percent in FY2016, supported by construction, agriculture, tourism, strong remittances, and strong private credit growth. Inflation spiked in FY2017 because of a new import tax and an increase in domestic food prices. The country’s external position weakened slightly owing to construction-related imports, with reserves supported by strong remittances and donor aid. The outlook for the Tongan economy is favorable, despite external headwinds. Real GDP growth is projected at 3.4 percent in FY2018, driven by construction, agriculture, and tourism.
Hoe Ee Khor, Mr. Roger P. Kronenberg, and Ms. Patrizia Tumbarello

Abstract

Pacific island countries face unique challenges to realizing their growth potential and raising living standards. This book discusses ongoing challenges facing Pacific island countries and policy options to address them. Regional cooperation and solutions tailored to their unique challenges, as well as further integration with the Asia and Pacific region will each play a role. With concerted efforts, Pacific island countries can boost potential growth, increase resilience, and improve the welfare of their citizens.

International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
This paper discusses recent economic developments, economic outlook, risks, and challenges in Tonga. The Tongan economy has been rebounding since a contraction in FY2013. Growth accelerated from 2.1 percent in FY2014 to 3.7 percent in FY2015, supported by construction, tourism, strong remittances, and strong private credit, notwithstanding weather-related disruptions to agricultural production. The FY2016 real GDP growth is projected to remain relatively strong at 3.1 percent, driven by a recovery in agriculture and an increase in construction activity in preparation for the South Pacific Games. However, a protracted period of slower growth in advanced and emerging market economies, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, could weigh on Tonga via aid, remittances, and tourism channels.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
This 2015 Article IV Consultation highlights that Tonga’s economy is estimated to have grown by about 2 percent in FY2013/14 (year ending June) driven by agriculture and construction, following a contraction in 2012/13 mainly caused by the completion of a large capital project. The external position has strengthened, following large grants and remittance inflows, which have bolstered international reserves. Real GDP growth is expected to average 2–3 percent in FY2014/15–FY2019/20. Although the progress of reconstruction in the aftermath of 2014 Cyclone Ian is slower than expected, the coronation scheduled for July 2015 and preparations for the 2019 South Pacific Games will support economic activity over the next few years.
Mr. Christian H Ebeke, Mr. Boileau Loko, and Arina Viseth
This paper analyzes the link between remittances inflows and nonperforming loans (NPLs) in a large sample of developing countries. Theoretical transmission channels include risk coping, exchange rate and growth impacts. Panel data estimates uncover the significant role of remittance inflows in reducing the size of NPLs in recipient economies. Econometric results also indicate a stronger marginal impact of remittances in a context of high macroeconomic instability, suggesting a significant effect of remittances on the likelihood of the private sector’s credit default during shocks. These results hold even after factoring in: (i) the endogeneity of remittance inflows and, (ii) the use of an alternative estimator (panel fractional logit) aimed at dealing with bounded dependent variables.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
KEY ISSUES Context: Tonga’s economy is rebounding, partially owing to a recovery in agricultural exports. The outlook for tourism is also improving. The reconstruction from a recent cyclone is expected to lead to both a temporary boost to growth and additional financing needs. Risks to the inflation outlook and the external position are low. Fiscal Policy: The projected fiscal cost relating to the cyclone will be largely met by confirmed funding mainly from donor agencies. In the near term, the authorities should focus on reconstruction activities, while a medium-term fiscal strategy should aim at gradually stabilizing and then reducing the debt-to-GDP ratio, in order to improve Tonga’s moderate risk of debt distress. This will require careful execution of investments related to the 2019 South Pacific Games. Monetary Policy: The deleveraging cycle of the Tongan banks appears to be ending, and thus National Reserve Bank of Tonga should prepare to gradually withdraw liquidity and tighten monetary conditions once the current signs of a recovery of credit growth are confirmed. The authorities plan to lower the cost of credit through supportive credit policies, including by commercializing the Tonga Development Bank. The successful implementation of such plan requires sound safeguards, including a robust governance structure and firm risk management and accountability frameworks. Structural Policy: Structural reforms to facilitate the functioning of credit markets need to be implemented with renewed vigor. The authorities’ intention to gradually phase out existing ad hoc tax incentives is well placed. The promotion of foreign direct investments should focus on business-enabling structural reforms, while the use of tax incentives should be minimized and well targeted.
Mr. Christian Mumssen, Yasemin Bal Gunduz, Mr. Christian H Ebeke, and Ms. Linda Kaltani
This paper studies the short and longer-term impact of IMF engagement in Low-Income Countries (LICs) over nearly three decades. In contrast to earlier studies, we focus on a sample composed exclusively of LICs and disentangle the different effects of IMF longer-term engagement and short-term financing using a propensity score matching approach to control for selection bias. Our results indicate that longer-term IMF support (at least five years of program engagement per decade) helped LICs sustain economic growth and boost resilience by building fiscal buffers. Interestingly, the size of IMF financing has no significant impact on economic growth, possibly pointing to the prominent role of IMF policy advice and institutional capacity building in the context of longer-term engagement. We also present evidence that the short-term IMF engagement through augmentations of existing programs or short-term and emergency facilities is positively associated with a wide range of macroeconomic outcomes. Notably, the IMF financial support has the greatest impact on short-term growth when LICs are faced with substantial macroeconomic imbalances or exogenous shocks.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
This staff report on Tonga’s 2013 Article IV Consultation discusses the economic development and policies. Banks in Tonga have been fixing their balance sheets since late 2008. Shrinking the loan books and increasing holdings of reserve assets have prompted negative macro-financial linkages, and reduced business confidence. In response, the National Reserve Bank of Tonga has aggressively infused liquidity into the system, and stepped up risk-based supervision. Progress in improving the regulatory and institutional infrastructure has also continued, including inauguration of a credit bureau. Major gains have been made in budget transparency, the establishment of a Treasury Single Account system, and better prioritization of the budget.