NZ community leader lambasts Tongan budget
A community leader in New Zealand says the Tonga government's decision to raise departure tax by almost US$50 is an unreasonable burden on overseas-based Tongans.
A community leader in New Zealand says the Tonga government's decision to raise departure tax by almost 50 US dollars is an unreasonable burden on overseas-based Tongans.
The government's first budget includes charges on foreign exchange and the increase to raise funds for the 2019 Pacific Games.
The Chair of the Tonga Advisory Council Melino Maka told Koro Vaka'uta Tongans don't mind helping the government but the moves go too far.
MELINO MAKA: We don't mind helping out, obviously because they are short on cash and they are looking to fund the South Pacific Games with some measures. I was privy to have some discussions with some people in Tonga last year and the amount was to round up to about 100 pa'anga but I think the Minister of Finance was now given the opportunity but it's been a bit unreasonable. Very unreasonable for him to just pluck out a figure from the air and put this tax on people who actually travel back and forward to Tonga. There is no thinking about it or even have some wider consultation with Tongans overseas. We don't mind helping but really lumping us with a huge increase like that, there is no thinking. The other stuff they were talking about was put some levy on foreign exchange. There's a lack of detail in that. I think they are just trying to ram through this new levy coming in. People don't realise the impact in terms of the families. Not only that we support families back over there but to really have a huge increase is very, very unreasonable.
KORO VAKA'UTA: How will it impact? I know people will have to for church conferences and family events and so on and so forth, but will there be some impact with such a large rise in the departure tax because that will obviously be put on the tickets or the cost of travelling?
MM: It will. They're still going to clip a few who have to go to Tonga but the volume will reduce. I think they will also put off a few tourists. Tonga desperately needs tourists now to go to Tonga. They should be looking at other ways of growing the economy before they start making some of those huge expensive commitments like the 2019 Pacific Games. It's not only that but there is other stuff like they're giving the public servants some sweetener just to keep them happy. The overall package is not something that will help Tonga to the future but will drag Tonga backward. The Tongan government, in the past couple of years, they've just spent and hoped development partners from overseas will help top up the balance. It is not a way to run a country.
KV: It seems at this stage the budget is going to be about 6 million US dollars more than the previous year. Are you surprised about that?
MM: I am because given the country's current financial situation. You don't borrow to make something you can't afford. I don't know where the Finance Minister's head-space was at when he made those, they are really under pressure to make some headway because it's been six months since they came into government and they haven't actually produced any documents that you can see that Tonga is actually moving forward.
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