Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Economics and Information Systems - Faculty of Commerce


Achieving good progress towards sustainable socio-economic development is a major issue for all developing countries, but it presents special challenges for small island economies. Tonga, a small island kingdom in the Pacific, is no exception. While Tonga is blessed with many human and physical resources, its remoteness, small size, and uneven progress have hampered sustainable socio-economic development.

There are also internal attributes, which, while manageable, constrain the country’s socio-economic development. The thesis sought to provide answers to two important questions. Firstly, what has hindered or limited the sustainable socio-economic development of Tonga? Secondly, how can these challenges be addressed? These questions were identified in this thesis to be important, especially in light of the sluggish socioeconomic performance of the Tongan economy in recent years.

In order to identify the most important factors, a comprehensive study of the barriers to entrepreneurship development in Tonga (published by Deacon Ritterbush in 1986) was reviewed, and compared with the barriers and problems that are still evident or recently identified in the 21st century.

Three important issues were found to have considerable impact on the process of sustainable socio-economic development in Tonga. Drawing on qualitative research methods, the prime issues investigated were ‘weak governance’ in family-run businesses and public enterprises, ‘market deficiencies’, and thirdly, the lack of an employment relations framework, and concomitant lack of ‘decent work’.

If Tonga is to reach its potential, commitment is needed from the Tongan government, as well as from Tongan citizens, to give priority to good governance, to reduce marketing problems, and to ensure wide availability of ‘decent work’ and effective employment relations legislation. This is not to undermine the policies already put in place by the government. Rather the findings of this thesis emphasise the importance of adopting appropriate and affordable policies and strategies in a coherent and timely manner for the benefit of the current and future generations of the people of Tonga.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.