Home / SPEECHES / Statement: Prime Minister / Address by the Honourable Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakanō on the occasion of addressing a Seminar on “Business Leadership” At Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

Address by the Honourable Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakanō on the occasion of addressing a Seminar on “Business Leadership” At Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

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28 April 2014

Jointly Hosted by the Nanyang Executive Education – UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence 9:00 AM, 29 April, 2014

Professor Ravi Kumar – Dean of Nanyang Business School;

Professor Nilanjan Sen, Associate Dean of Nanyang Executive Education; Ms Nicole Tee, Programme Director of the Nanyang Fellows Programme; Associate Deans and members of the Deanery;

Faculty Staff and Students, Business Associates and Alumni, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning everyone.

Thank you for inviting me to visit your University and prestigious School and attend this Business Leadership Seminar.

I am especially pleased with the opportunity to address you today, particularly that today; Tonga will highlight a new milestone in its educational programme, as the Government of Tonga endeavours to sign with the Nanyang Business School on the margin of today’s Seminar, a Memorandum of Understanding that reaffirms our goodwill and commitment to provide Nanyang Fellows MBA scholarships to Tongan candidates.

Indeed this is an honour for me and an exceptional opportunity for Tonga’s public and government enterprise officials to benefit from the prestigious MBA courses and Fellow Programme offered by the Nanyang Business School and University.

Apart from that, today marks the start of a long and meaningful partnership and relationship between the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga and the Nanyang Business School, as Tonga officially joins 20 other countries from around the world in the Nanyang MBA leadership experience.

As small island states in the Pacific, the Government of Singapore and the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga share warm and friendly relations which are underpinned by strong political goodwill. For over two decades now, Singapore has worked with Tonga in the area of technical cooperation under the auspices of the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP), which provides technical assistance through training and enhancing the skills of participants in various fields such as civil aviation, port management and civil service matters. To date, over 4000 officials from the South Pacific region including Tonga have participated in training courses. About 400 Tongans have been selected to participate in this technical training.

The MBA fellowship and study opportunities offered at Nanyang Business School is another door of endless opportunities for Tonga’s people. It will complement the ongoing assistance of the Government of Singapore through its Singapore Cooperation Programme.


May I take this opportunity to convey the greatest appreciation of His Majesty’s Government of the Kingdom of Tonga to the Nanyang Business School for acknowledging the training need of Tonga and accepting the proposal to work together in providing training opportunities for Tonga’s public officials.

And to all Deanery and Faculty Staff of Nanyang Business School – I wish to congratulate the instrumental contributions of Professor Ravi KUMAR, Professor Nilanjan SEN and Ms. Nicole TEE, the School’s Programme Director for Fellowship Programme, for all their due diligence and commitment to making this scholarship agreement a reality today.

I would also like to commend on the hard work of all the officials from the Nanyang Executive Education and the Global Centre for Public Service Excellence for their joint efforts in organizing today’s special Seminar.


Before I continue this morning’s address, I wish to also congratulate all the MBA programme students and alumni who are here with us today.

Coming from various backgrounds, industries and countries of the world, your outstanding talents, calibre and dynamic individuality is what brings you together under this elite programme. With aspirations to lead and make your mark in society, you are the leaders of the future.

The Nanyang MBA attracts a diverse cohort of talented individuals from many parts of the world – and the demand and competition for the Nanyang MBA experience has become even more challenging.

With its leading position and ranking as one of the top MBA schools in the world in training senior officials, business leaders and future government leaders, the MBA elite programme is an opportunity for you to take charge of your education, grow in your own professional development, taking the lead to stand-out from the rest, and ultimately, equip you to better serve as leaders and make a difference in the world!

In this morning’s Seminar, you will gain privileged insights from the experiences of top Asian and international CEOs, business and government leaders.

As you all know, the very ethos that underpins the mission of this School is to ‘groom Leaders of today for a Sustainable World – by nurturing them to understand the balance between the interests of people, businesses and the environment’.

This Business School does not only provide you with academic excellence but it teaches you industry relevance ideas and encouraging you to take a global business perspective.

As Government leaders, the role and strategic approach of Government in encouraging dynamic business leadership and sustainable development is not so different.

This morning I would like to take a few minutes to reflect on the leadership experience of my country.

As some of you may have heard of, the Kingdom of Tonga is a small developing island country located in the South Pacific.

What is unique about Tonga is that it is the only remaining Polynesian sovereign state in the Pacific. It is a country that has never been colonized by a foreign power and has one of the oldest written constitutions in the world which to this day is nearly 139 years old.

To date, Tonga has undergone historic and fundamental changes from an executive monarchy to a modern parliamentary democracy. The first democratic elections were held in November 2010.

Since then, Tonga has made good progress towards its achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with relatively high levels of life expectancy and universal access to basic education. The Tongan economy is based on agriculture and fisheries, which contributes 30% to GDP, whilst the industrial sector accounts for only 10% of the GDP. The country remains dependent on sizable external aid and remittances from half of the country's population that lives abroad, chiefly in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

Today, two emerging sectors - tourism and public infrastructure are continuing to drive economic growth in the South Pacific. My Government’s vision is that the Kingdom’s economic and social development benefits are to be equally distributed to its people and communities for a better society. Furthermore, the government has emphasized a set of outcome objectives to achieve this vision.

This includes two leadership areas of which I would like to mention in this morning’s seminar – that is, the encouragement of dynamic public and private sector partnership for growth and the promotion of appropriate skilled workforce to meet the available opportunities in Tonga and overseas.

The first of these two - partnerships between the public and private sector is aimed at promoting better collaboration between Government and businesses to streamline rules and regulation and develop appropriate incentives.

Government uses various policies strategies to create an enabling environment for the private sector to flourish, and to improve the output of the productive sectors.

Apart from promoting financial sector development, and maintaining macroeconomic stability, the Government involves the private sector more closely in policy formulation and implementation but perhaps the most important focus is on fostering technological development, and promoting regional and international trade.

In order to improve the output of its productive sectors, such as tourism, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, seabed minerals and seasonal labour, the Government is relentlessly pursuing this development priority with every practical effort possible.

The second leadership objective is based on upgrading trainings and the professional skilled workforce to work the country and to embrace opportunities available overseas for the benefit of the Kingdom.

Government has a programme called TVET or Technical and Vocational Educational and Training framework that is tailored to expand the development of domestic training institutions and provide sector-focused training to increase productivity of the workforce of Tonga. The primary objective is that if Tonga has the skilled labour to grow the economy, boost productivity, improve the standards of living in families and communities, Tonga may be able to meet the niche labour markets overseas.

And today, I am happy to say that such opportunities to send our students and public officials to study at the Nanyang Business School is a strong way forward for this leadership objective.


Despite these business incentives, there are always significant development challenges that stand in the way of sustainable development.

These challenges are to do with Tonga’s small domestic market, skill shortages, high cost of power and variable domestic transport services, high costs of doing business and at global level; the country is vulnerable to natural disasters.

As you all know, due to globalization, nations around the world have become interconnected and interdependent, and no country can escape the impacts of global environmental and economic changes.

And if we consider the economy as the solid power that affects the public’s lives, then culture is the soft power that molds the people’s hearts and character. The content and quality of a culture can influence a nation’s economic, industrial and business environment. An excellent culture encompasses education, traditional values, beliefs systems and other aspects of life. A culture shapes people’s hearts and character, influence their families and businesses, and thus becomes the nation’s fundamental drive force of economic growth.

So in Tonga’s case, its culture and economy are the two important pillars of our nation’s wealth and strength. And it has been one of Tonga’s key strengths for survival – because it maintains our strong individuality and sustainability and this embedded in our traditional political and cultural system.

If we look at Singapore and Tonga, but no means to compare the two, we can see that there are some similarities– in terms of climate, location and size of small island states.

However, there are contrasting features of the geographical location of Singapore and Tonga in the world, which determines their economic potential.

Singapore is nicely situated in the Malay Peninsula and Southern Asia, having the advantage of accessibility between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, making Singapore the largest, busiest port in the region in international trade with Asia and the world.

Tonga on the other hand, is located in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, surrounded by other small Pacific islands of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. Although our island kingdom is scattered across the Pacific and isolated from major developed countries which is a major bottleneck to our economic activities, the only advantage is, that Tonga is at the centre of the Pacific

But I strongly believe that Tonga can take advantage of its geographic location too as Singapore has done with its South-East Asian neighbours and translate this vulnerability into benefits- and to do this, it requires strong leadership through unity with other small islands economies to speak one voice and strengthen collaboration to increase economic influence at the international level.

For instance, if we learn from Singapore’s leading example of maintaining its strive for individuality and its efforts to continually reconstruct itself and keep its relevance to the world – to create an economic and political spare – this is the key for survival of small island countries who have little power to alter the region or the world.

Just like the business world - The world arena itself is the centre stage of business - where big and small nations compete for economic survival, for political independence, armed with their best resources and uniqueness for a competitive edge, looking for niche markets for survival. And similarly as island countries, we as a country must make ourselves relevant so that other countries have an interest in our continued survival and prosperity as a sovereign and independent nation.

And there are many ways to achieve this.

We have to be different from others in our neighbourhood and have a competitive edge. We earn our living by attracting foreign investments and producing goods and services useful to the world. Tonga has to rise above its geographical and resources constraints, to be accepted as a serious player in regional and international fora. We must always have the ability to be ourselves and be different from others in the wider region of the South Pacific and the World – for instance, had we disported ourselves like our better endowed neighbors, like Hawaii, Aotearoa, Cook Islands and other colonised smaller islands states, we would have failed.-For Tonga, unlike others in our neighbourhood, is of no intrinsic interest to our developing nation when they can invest in our larger neighbors endowed with more land, labour and natural resources like in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia.

At the same time, we must never delude ourselves that we are a part of the Pacific countries that is being indented by bigger islands of Australia and New Zealand as prominent representatives of Ocean and the Pacific. Our region has its own complexity through diversity of its own special features, island paradise, culture and people, which remains our identifying assets.


As Head of Government, a leader may have a broad vision, a big heart, and be willing to help others – but only through a well-balanced environment can we nurture a healthy and sustainable economy.

So in concluding this short remark, I would like to leave you with five easy policy pointers to add on to your own business and leadership aspirations.

Firstly, small islands states will always be vulnerable to the global business environment and economic crisis. The opportunities will always be out there within their reach – but it is up to us to take matters into our own hands to build our own resilience.

As you all know, this is about boldness in business, taking initiative and proactivity, yes – there will be some level of calculated risk-taking - but just like small businesses and companies, small island nations need a strong drive and commitment within themselves to survive in a challenging business environment.

And as I have mentioned before, my second point is that there is need for collaboration.

“Small Island economies need to speak with one voice and strengthen collaboration to increase influence at the international level”

This is exactly the same solution for smaller companies who wish to expand beyond the comfort of their home countries – they need to collaborate, form consortia and work together with other similar companies in order to capture international markets.

My third point is that small islands nations need to diversify its economy through sound policies designed … to exploit inter-linkages between key sectors of agriculture, tourism, ICT and finance”

The key message from this policy pointer is that a business needs to diversify its revenue sources in order to survive the ups and downs of sector-specific business cycles.

At the same time, you must remember that diversification needs to be well thought-through and be balanced by a key focus area, otherwise there is a risk of being a ‘jack of all trades and a master of none’ – this is relevant for a small island state as well as for a business.

And a good alternative would be to mainstream a key focus area as backup to your business’s survival.

In small island nations, agriculture plays a very important role in the economic stability of the country. It ensures food security, enhance nutrition and healthy lifestyles and reduce heavy dependence of costly imported goods. Similarly, if you focus on the development of an area of strength in your business, it can still guarantee that your business will yield some added value benefits.

Lastly, the fifth policy pointer is capacity building. Tonga’s Government takes this very seriously. It also takes the lead in investing in its most valuable asset – its people. Capacity training and professional development in public administration is at the core of running an effective and efficient administration, at the same time, Government’s investments in sectors of infrastructure, ICT and public-private sector businesses is opening up employment opportunities for more skilled expertise to stay in Tonga to work and build the economy than ever before.

As in business, it all comes down to the investment in our best assets and resources – and that is our people – training and capacity building go hand in hand with delivering results and bringing in revenue.


I do hope that with this morning’s short presentation, you will all be able to derive some of the key messages being highlighted here for your own management and professional transformations.

I thank you for your attention and wishing you all the best in your study endeavours and future careers.

Thank you.



Issued by the : The Prime Minister's Office, P.O. Box 62, Nuku'alofa, Tonga. Tel: (676) 24 644 Fax: (676) 23 888; Media enquiries: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 30 April 2014 17:25 )  

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