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What's on TV? The Consumption Tax Cry

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Dear Editor,

What’s on TV? Politics, politics and politics. Both Tonga’s local TV stations, TV Tonga (TBC) and OBN TV7 via their evening main shows are either about Democratic Parties or the Consumption Tax Cry.

Looking at “the Consumption Tax Cry” currently (8:00pm Tuesday, May 17, 2005) both TV stations are broadcasting the same TV program by ‘Aisake Tuiono’s Economic Think Tank (ETT) about the Farmers’ Cry to abolish the CT from farmers. No disrespect to the ETT and the panelists but I think the CT is quite fair, to be collected from everyone. What we as Tongans should worry about is how will the government spend it. I remember the Finance Minister stating clearly before April 1st that this CT will be fairer as it will cover wide (goods, services and government) and with the same rate (15%) to everyone. Not like our current duty at the wharf where it all depends on: how you relate to the custom officers, how friendly are the customs to you, are you a hou’eiki…‚ or how well can you compensate their efforts to release your box faster than the Chinaman’s container, and last but not the least going via the channels waiting, waiting and waiting and paying the amount they estimate to be the duty for your box sent freely from relatives in the US.

Consider if we exempt the squash farmers, the fertilizers, the chemicals, the plough, fuels and transport, and all other related services including communication required for the export of squash, and to be justified by “because its Tonga’s main export and it brings a lot of money to the country” where thousands of families depends on.

First of all, what about the other export crops kava, limu, yam, etc, are we going to exclude the CT from them also? And secondly, what about our Fishing sector or the Tourism sector, as it also inputs to the Tongan Economy, we pay the CT from the minute we fuel our boats, order construction material to build a Guest House, and hiring the construction company to build the darn guest house.

I think it’s fair to suggest, let’s all pay the consumption tax, but mark my words, WATCH OUT for how government will spend it. I remember watching one of the TV shows by the farmers suggesting that if government DOES NOT abolish the CT for squash, they encourage the meeting to STOP the squash farming, mmmm very interesting, and yes it will hurt our economy but the direct impact will be on you squash farmer, you won’t have that extra 20k to go out to Tevita Misa Fifita and buy that new van you target for. And for your info, the largest percentage of our import deficit is financed via remittances from families overseas; in approx. only about 17% is via squash receipts.

If you still don’t agree, I know, it’s a pity that we are collecting taxes for a government that you and I have no say in the day to day running of. Let’s just pray and hope that this tax collection will reach the grassroots level and the local industries next year. And very soon the tariffs cut will be introduced; they introduced the CT in an urgent manner within a short period, I bet they can also urgently introduce the lowering of tariffs and duty reductions, say within two months.



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