Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Evaluating a Regional Approach to a National Problem: The 'Pacific Plan' and Poverty Reduction in the Kingdom of Tonga

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posted on 2021-11-11, 23:06 authored by Cocker, Chesna

Many national governments today insist that poverty reduction is the central objective of all development initiatives and policies. Increasingly however, poverty reduction initiatives have shifted away from a people-centered approach towards a focus on macroeconomic growth via a neo-liberal agenda, often promoted through regional agreements, in an attempt to meet the development needs of nations. This research seeks to explore the effectiveness of a regional approach to poverty reduction within the Pacific, using the Pacific Plan and the Kingdom of Tonga's 'Strategic Development Plan Eight' (2006/7-2008/9) as a case study, to examine the extent to which regional initiatives meet national goals for poverty reduction and development. As an interpretive study, semistructured interviews, literature analysis and focus groups were utilized in the research process in which the contributions of policy-influencers in Nuku'Alofa, and youth and villagers in Vava'u were sought. This research found that Tonga's national development plan had been heavily influenced by the dominant approach to development as exercised by the Pacific Plan in adopting a neo-liberal framework for development, seeking economic growth via the liberalization of trade and markets. Additionally this research sought to examine the perceptions of living standards in Tonga by those interviewed and the extent to which the government addressed these. What emerged was a clear indication that while the villagers felt they were coping, basic infrastructure was lacking which would aid their ability to go about their daily livelihood activities and to offer further opportunities for livelihood diversification. The overriding theme of 'self-help' seemingly adopted by the citizens and perpetuated by the policy-influencers was a clear indication that the Tongan government saw solutions to the reduction of hardship as lying with the citizens themselves. This also pointed to a possible requirement for the government to utilize their resources towards meeting the restructuring efforts needed in facilitating the regional frameworks and processes of the Pacific Plan as well as adhering to donor requirements rather than in directing these towards much needed social spending. An awareness of Tonga's place in the world as a unique nation, but one experiencing change at a rapid pace, which at times resulted in hardship, was evident. The research also suggests that although a dominant neo-liberal approach is adopted in both the SDP8 and the Pacific Plan, it may not be a best fit to effectively address poverty alleviation and the reduction of hardship for Tonga. Key words: regionalism, Tonga, poverty, Pacific Plan, development.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Overton, John; Naidu, Vijay