7 June 2022
Nuku’alofa – The Prime Minister, Honourable Hu’akavameiliku presented an overview of the 2022/2023 Appropriation Bill or Budget to the Legislative Assembly in Nuku’alofa, in the first sitting of the House on Thursday, June 2, 2022.
Hon Hu’akavameiliku said the Budget, the first for the new government, is based on the theme ‘Accelerating Tonga’s Climate and Disaster Resilience through COVID-19 Recovery’.
Hon Hu’akavameiliku stated that the National Impact of the Tonga Strategic Development Framework 2015-2025: “A more progressive Tonga supports higher quality of life for all” implies a vision that is about lives and livelihoods, it is about inclusive national development for all. This necessitates stronger collaborations and genuine partnership at all levels of Tongan society, including government, non-governmental organizations, churches, private businesses, and the community at large.
“Tonga faced some difficult challenges in the last few months of this year, including the volcano eruption and tsunami, COVID-19, illicit drugs, climate change realities, and sustaining macroeconomic sustainability, and prevailed.”
This demonstrates that, with God’s grace, wisdom, knowledge, and talents, the resilient people of Tonga triumphed, and we are now in the recovery phase. As a result, the theme of the Budget is ‘Accelerating Tonga’s Climate and Disaster Resilience through COVID-19 Recovery.’
Hon Hu’akavameiliku stated that Tonga’s motto, “God and Tonga are my inheritance,” underpins the goals of Tonga’s national development, ensuring that no one is left behind.
Against this backdrop, he stated that the government has identified nine (9) government priority areas to highlight key focus areas to address over the next year.
He stated that Government believes the 2022/2023 proposed Budget will help in meeting the needs of the people of Tonga, set in place the right path for development and meet the key issues that His Majesty King Tupou VI had raised in his address to the House.
Hon Hu’akavameiliku said the Budget is based on three key focus areas – 1. National Resilience, 2. Quality Services and Affordability and 3. Progressive Economic Growth.
Budget allocations are as follows:
A. National Resilience
1. Building resilience and safer platforms to natural disasters and meeting the ongoing challenges of climate change (tropical cyclones, sea level rising, tsunamis), global pandemic, and address economic crisis.
Government has set aside $77.6 million in the budget for this priority area. That is a contribution of $1.5 million from Government and $76.1 million from development partners. A total of 42 percent (%) of that allocation will go to resilience development and the build back better recovery program for the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano eruption and tsunami on January 15, 2022.
2. Reducing Relative Poverty and increasing quality of social protection.
A total of $21.4 million for projects that also includes payment of allowances for the elderlies, payment of electricity bills for families who use more than 150 Kilowatts of power supply monthly and allowances or support for children’s education.
3. Mobilizing National and International response to effectively reduce supply and the use of Illicit Drugs, and address harms reduction processes.
Government has increased the budget from $5 million ion 2021/2022 to $7 million in the 2022/2023 financial year.
B. Quality Services and Affordability
4. Improving education for all, focusing on safer schools, addressing drop-outs, gender equality and increase employable trainings for both local and overseas opportunities.
Budget allocation is $118.8 million. This will fund different projects, including the setting up of the National University of Tonga, development of technical education focused on employment and the betterment of classrooms and learning environments, which will be funded by the World Bank.
5. Improving access to quality and affordable healthcare system focusing COVID-19, NonCommunicable Diseases (NCDs) and preventative measures.
An allocation of $54.9 million has been allocated for this, to cover projects such as the improvements planned for the Prince Ngu hospital in Vava’u, renovation to the Queen Salote Nursing School in Tonagatapu, prevention programs for sicknesses such as COVID-19 and the setting up of the Dialysis service.
6. Building quality and easy access to government services, public enterprises focusing on increased access to high-speed broadband technology and more affordable energy, communication, drinking water and clean environment for Tonga to support inclusive growth.
Public enterprise services have been allocated $244.60 million. Key projects that will be funded under this allocation include the development of e-government service, construction of solar farms in ‘Eua, Vava’u and Ha’apai, support for water supplies for all, the re-connecting of the fibre cables to outer islands and the construction of evacuation centres in areas that need those.
C. Progressive Economic Growth
7. Creation of trade opportunities from regional and international trade agreements focusing on agriculture, fisheries, handicrafts, tourism and promoting of value addition and product diversification and simultaneously reduce technical barriers to private sector development and heavy reliance on imports.
Allocation for this is $92.7 million. This allocation will include funding to boost the agriculture, fisheries, informal or small business and tourism sectors.
8. Improving quality and access to public infrastructures focusing on efficiency of land transport for evacuation, marine and air to support national resilience and inclusive growth.
An allocation of $67.8 million to cover projects earmarked, including the expansion of the Queen Salote Wharf, construction of the Fanga’uta evacuation bridge, the setting up of a body to oversee the improvements to main public roads in the country and the setting up of an insurance program for government infrastructure projects.
9. Strengthen bilateral engagement with accredited partner countries; optimize cooperation with regional and international intergovernmental institutions; strengthen partnerships with development partners, private sector, non-government actors, focusing on sound economic investment, to sustain progressive equitable and vibrant socioeconomic growth
Government has allocated $17.5 million for this key priority area.
Parliament will continue deliberations on the Budget this week.
PC: Hon. Sangster Saulala