Tonga prioritising development goals – ‘Government can’t balance its budget’

Tonga is assessing how it can cut costs on development projects through scientific analysis of what development areas should be prioritised.

This analysis was presented in the capital Nuku’alofa last week, with a report published by US based think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, in collaboration with Tonga’s Royal Oceania Institute.

Titled, A New Approach to Prioritising for Tonga, the report identifies initiatives that would spur the changes needed to improve Tonga’s economy and standard of living.

Copenhagen Consensus Center analyst Bjorn Lessmann, who authored the report, said many development projects are determined by foreign governments and banks.

“A lot of development obviously comes with outsiders saying what they would like to fund. What this document does is it makes it possible for Tonga to ask these donors if they can’t from things they would like to fund,” Lessmann said.

Copenhagen Consensus Center analyst Bjorn Lessmann

Over the last two decades, Tonga has been overly dependent on foreign donors to fund its national development, with millions poured into infrastructure projects by the governments of China, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the US, the World Bank, and the IMF among others.

The Kingdom’s 2022-2023 Budget revealed that it relied on foreign donors for over 46 percent its finances, which covered all of the governments development projects.

The country is still rebuilding and recovering from the destruction caused by the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption in 2022, which destroyed many resorts and left hundreds homeless. In 2022, the country recorded an external debt of over US$195m.

Tonga’s Legislative Speaker Lord Fakafanua, who has been involved in the creation of the reports, said the report aims to help the government financially support itself.

“We are currently living beyond our means”, Lord Fakafanua said.

“The government can’t balance its budget so reports like this would be instrumental in ensuring the government gets the highest outcome for social and economic benefits for the people from Government interventions.”

The Speaker of the Tonga's Parliament, Lord Fakafanua.

Key priorities identified include the digitisation of tendering processes, early warning systems, the building of a sea wall, establishing more health clinics and diversifying exports.

The digitalising was one area which caught the attention of Lessmann and Lord Fakafanua. According to the reports analysis, digitisation would improve government’s savings.

“If all public procurements were to be digitised, it would cost the government an estimate of $10 million, but the benefit is that it would save the government $3.7 million a year,” Lord Fakafanua said.

Lessmann said the government is typically the biggest single purchaser of goods and services in an economy.

“It is easy to imagine you can get corruption. If you put the purchasing online, corruption becomes harder because everything is transparent.”

The report was presented at a public event last Friday and attended by Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku.

Hu’akavameiliku said that a comprehensive system of prioritising its development would help Tonga meet its pledges.

“It’s a key a responsibility to ensure that regional and global development frameworks…to which the government has signed up are effectively and consistently mainstreamed,” he said, adding “a new approach to prioritising for Tonga would be valuable”.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button