24 Nov 2006

Tongan government faced with reconstruction problems after riots

4:29 pm on 24 November 2006

The Tongan government spokesperson, Attorney General 'Alisi Taumoepeau, says no decisions have been made about how the rebuilding of the country will be funded.

In his speech from the throne yesterday, King George Tupou V said it would cost 200 million US dollars to rebuild Nuku'alofa after last week's destructive riots.

Ms Taumoepeau says discussions are still at a preliminary stage.

"That is being looked at by the ministry of finance and everything is at a preliminary stage now. They will definitely be looking to donors, where and who can help us - there is nothing definite yet."

Tonga's Reserve Bank has placed restrictions on the removal of cash from the Kingdom

The bank says people travelling overseas can only carry local and foreign currency notes to a total value of 10,000 Tongan Pa'anga, or 5,000 US dollars.

The governor, Joyce Mafi, says the measure had been part of proposed legislative amendments but after the rioting, she recommended it be accelerated to protect the economy from any attempts to rush cash out of the country.

She says people could forfeit to the government any excess if they ignore this new restriction.

Ms Mafi says the measures are consistent with the objective of the Emergency Powers Regulations in preserving public order and the stability of the financial system.

Businesses in Tonga caught in the riots of a week ago have announced that workers will be laid off from next week.

Our reporter, Mateni Tapueluelu, says those who'll go are staff from five shopping centres that have been operating from temporary premises this week.

They are now forced to run from their warehouses - the wholesaling warehouse - and they are saying with a small operation because their retailing operations have been burned down, they will be forced next week to start laying off workers.

Mateni Tapueluelu says some workers had been on reduced hours while others had had to take unpaid leave.