20 Jun 2006

Tonga People's Reps say government has other options to meet budget shortfall

8:16 pm on 20 June 2006

Tonga's popularly elected MPs say the Government has other options before it sells off its share of a local bank to meet a budget shortfall.

The Government has outlined in a supplementary budget what it might need to do to meet its increased wages bill after public servants last year won big pay increases.

The Minister of Finance, Siosiua 'Utoikamanu, has told Parliament the Government needs another 16 million US dollars and this could come from the sale of its 40 percent share in the Westpac Bank of Tonga.

But our correspondent in Nuku'alofa, Mateni Tapueluelu, says the People's Representatives says the homes provided for ministers and senior public servants should be sold off first.

"For Ministers and heads of departments who rent out their private homes and reside in the government quarters for free, and some of them very cheaply, they believe they should start selling them and get the money for them instead of selling the shares in the bank."