Millions in aid to Tonga from China
China gives Tonga a multi million dollar aid grant.
China has given Tonga an aid grant of just over 16 million US dollars with the new government to decide how it will be spent.
The grant was organised in Fiji when China's leader Xi Jinping met a number of Pacific leaders, including the prime minister, Lord Tu'ivakano.
Tongan publisher Kalafi Moala told Don Wiseman the grant will be useful for Tonga but the administration of such funds has to improve.
KALAFI MOALA: Our need right now in the country is not so much how much money we get given or loaned. The big need here is good management of whatever we get. So, to me, that's what's more critical and people out there in the streets are calling for that. So the news that there is some money given to us is OK, but the question is, how is it going to affect the man on the street? How is it going to affect our poor families and those who are having difficulties? And, that depends on good management, it doesn't depend on how much money we get.
DON WISEMAN: For a country of 100-odd-thousand people, it is a lot of money. If you were running the fund, where would you direct it?
KM: I believe it needs to start with the productive sectors of the country because that's where our future and economic development would be and those productive sectors; tourism, agriculture and fisheries - we need to start there. What kind of assistance these sectors need to be able to see development so that it starts turning over revenue and a good income, that's one thing. The other thing is there needs to be work done right now for those that are really in need. Poverty has been getting worse and worse over the past 10-15 years and there are families in Tonga that are in great need. Electricity has been cut off, or water has been cut off, so there needs to be some kind of programme to identify where those very, very urgent needs for basic needs of living,
that there needs to be some help there.
DW: For some time, going back I think to about 2008, hanging over the heads of parliamentarians in Tonga has been a very large loan -- and a loan, not a grant -- from China that started to come due a year ago, and then China allowed a delay, but that remains in place. There must have been a number hoping that this grant would've replaced that loan, but that hasn't happened.
KM: No it hasn't happened and I don't think it will happen. The issue again with the loan was Chinese help to rebuild Nuku'alofa, the issue again, as I have mentioned before, has been management. There's been all kinds of allegations of the use and the abuse of money that was given in that loan, and a lot of those questions still haven't been answered by the previous government of Sevele or the current government of Tu'ivakano and now we're going to have a new government for which we're still waiting to see what happens, but the issue again there was not so much that loan. We don't see any signs or signals that that loan is going to turn over into a grant. But the big question that people are asking is 'how has that loan been spent? Was it spent rightly?' For example, why there are places that were fixed with that loan when they were not burned down, the loan was supposed to rebuild Nuku'alofa places that were burned down. There are houses and there are things that are being fixed by that loan that were not burned down in the Nuku'alofa riots.
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