The Tongan Chamber of Commerce seeks improved relations
The Tongan Chamber of Commerce seeks improved relations with the government.
The Tongan Chamber of Commerce says politics is the biggest challenge for businesses in Tonga.
The new Chamber President, John Paul Chapman, says better public-private partnerships are key to progress in Tonga.
He spoke with Koroi Hawkins about his aim as head of the Chamber.
JOHN PAUL CHAPMAN: I think, I would like chamber, specifically to be more responsible for members. We have had, we have had a lot of our larger members become disillusioned with the way chamber operates and we need to come back and get those members to come and support, chamber, get them to support the process and the engagement of Government. Tonga is going through a politically challenging time at the moment so that has affected the way Chamber has been able to operate. I am sure that we just need more engagement from members and we really need to be that forum to of how to get members to conduct business with government and get government to see that way that business member groups are thinking at the moment.
KOROI HAWKINS: So what is it that you would like to achieve in the term you have now?
JPC: I think, specifically, one of my immediate goals is to get a proper CEO in for the Chamber of Commerce. I think we need one who is constantly on the ball, constantly engaging with government, speaking to our members. One of the key things I would like to see is the Dateline Hotel be done by the government, that has got to be taken up by government. I know there is people like Tatafu Moeaki, who, he is the CEO of finance and he really feels the same, to getting the Dateline Hotel up and running. But you know, if we have opened the Dateline within the next twelve months in Tonga that is going to show a real commitment by the government towards the business sector and I would also like to promote the Agricultural Industry in Tonga. I think if that is booming, the whole economy in Tonga booms and I think a lot of our members would benefit from it.
KH: What are the challenges for that sector, that you see?
JPC: Politics, we are coming to an election in November and you know that creates uncertainty. You don't know what kind of government we are going to get but all I am hoping is that we will get a government that is responsive, they are aware of the challenges the economy is facing and they are willing to be receptive to debates and opinions from business groups and actually talking about what the problems are going to be and how we are going to address them.
KH: What is your view of state owned enterprises or government businesses?
JPC: I know in Tongan culture there is probably a bit of scare that they think people are going to lose their jobs I dont believe that is the case, I believe we have some inefficient government enterprises and they just need to be privatised. Allowed by good managers to come in and run them and we have got some great entrepreneurs in Tonga and I know if that is put out to the public you will see some of these enterprises get run very very well.
KH: Are there any new developments in the Tongan private sector that has come in, in the last couple of years?
JPC: Well, I think if you look at the the Tonga cable, which is the cable which comes from Fiji into Tonga, that has been a great initiative by the Tongan government. The Ports Authority are going to be doing a new development. You have had a lot of infrastructure works by the ADB on roadworks, which has kind off created a construction boom in Tonga at the moment. You have also got the Haapai reconstruction program coming on board but I think one of the key things that we are going to face is how do we get Agricultural back as a key Industry in Tonga and I am just hoping that the new government will really, really take that on as a key challenge and really focus on Tourism.
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