27 Jun 2016

Tonga PM justifies increased education budget

12:39 pm on 27 June 2016

Tongan MPs have debated a huge US$21 million budget for education and training.

Tonga's Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva arrives in PNG with Niue's Premier Toke Talagi for the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in September 2015.

Tonga's prime minister, 'Akilisi Pohiva. Photo: Koro Vaka'uta / RNZ

The Prime Minister, 'Akilisi Pohiva, justified the spending, saying 80 percent of it was for salaries.

Matangi Tonga reports the Prime Minister said he's committed to improving Tonga's education system, which he claimed had suffered over the past 12 years.

The Prime Minister faced questions over the budget deficit, but could only say it would be a hard battle and Tongans needed to increase productivity.

He said the the productivity rate of government ministries was only 18 percent, compared with 80 percent for the Chinese construction companies that were carrying out work in Tonga.

The Minister of Finance, 'Aisake Eke, said he was concerned over talk of a budget deficit when there was US$16 million in the country's foreign reserve.

Critics said there was very little borrowing in Tonga due to loan terms, such as high interest rates and unattractive business laws.