Tonga Encouraged To Plan How To Tap Into The ‘Blue Economy’

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Commonwealth official: Future is in marine, not land resources

By Pesi Fonua

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 27, 2015) – Tonga’s future is not on land but in its marine area on the continental shelf, and "we want to help Tonga tap into the Blue Economy," said Deodat Maharaj, the Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, during his one-day stop over in Tonga on 15 September.

Deodat said that getting Tonga to start working on a long term plan on how to develop its Blue Economy, "is a priority area for us in the Commonwealth and for Tonga as well."

He pointed to the fact that most small island states have very little land mass but they have thousands of square kilometres of sea territory and the "Blue Economy" is a marine-based economy.

He said that traditionally in underdeveloped countries when you think economic development you think about agriculture and the building of infrastructure on land.

"When we look at the ocean we think about tourism, but that has changed because of oil, natural gas, deep sea minerals and marine resources.

"We have to think about it in a holistic manner. Countries are now seriously looking into ocean economy."

He said that the Republic of Mauritius had made a definite move by establishing a Ministry of Ocean, and the Republic of the Seychelles had also established a Ministry of Blue Economy.

He suggested for Tonga to start thinking about Blue Economy and to do it properly. "To do it in a rush, that is when you make mistakes," warned Deodat.

During his short visit Deputy Secretary-General made vists related to Tonga’s Youth Development Program and Trade Capacity Development program.

With regards to youth he pointed to the fact that 55% of the population of most island states are under the age of 24, "so when you talk about youth issues, we are not talking about the future, but now," he said.

Following a Youth Ministerial meeting that was held in Samoa recently it was decided to form an alliance for youth entrepenuers in the Pacific. Alliances for youth entrepuneurs had already been formed in Aisa, Caribbean and Africa.

"Youth have to be linked to the decision-making process, and we have to create jobs. If there are no jobs people will leave," said Deodat.

The Commonwealth had a trade adviser in Tonga from 2006 to 2012, and from 2014 to 2015. Deodat said they were currently recruiting a new trade adviser for Tonga. "For Tonga to advance and for its economy to grow, Tonga has to trade more effectively, and a new trade adviser should be here soon," he said.

The Commonwealth also has trade advisers available in Brussels for when trade officials from ACP countries are in Europe to have trade negotiation with members of the European Union. He pointed out the importance for ACP trade officials to have Trade Advisers on their side when they hold trade negotiations with EU member countries.

With regards to Tonga’s economy, Deodat pointed out that there are vulnerabilities, similar to what continually threatening the economies of all Small Islands Development States (SIDS), such as isolation, underdeveloped infrastructure, and Climate Change, "but they are also resilient."

He sincerely believed that development of a "Blue Economy" is the way forward for the economies of Small Islands Developing States.

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