Please allow me to join Viliami Afeaki in congratulating you Pesi and your news media for showing good balanced news and information to the public and I think there is not much difference from listening to the BBC and the Matangi Tonga. The balanced news and articles should constructively assist the overall development. Keep up! with the good work and I am looking forward for a revolution in all the news media in Tonga, and your country will certainly reap optimum benefits from media rather than more destruction to the public.
Updating us on the progress of Parliamentary sessions in Tonga is very important to capture complete information to keep us with the actual reality of what is really going on in Tonga. I could understand that the Parliament is now working on the government budget for the next financial year. To us here in New Zealand, Parliamentary sessions on government budget is very important for the politicians and government to project or predict precisely the way forward of the economic and social development of the country including proposed policies, bills etc. and their impacts to the country as a whole. I know that Tonga cannot be compared to NZ and other developed countries but seeing the statistics of the spear heading of Tongans in regional and international organizations worldwide and in the South Pacific and high qualified candidates from tertiary education is a very positive indication for the government to follow the economic frameworks that are currently implemented in NZ and other more developed countries.
A classic example of this is the implementation of the Consumption Tax and I noted the march from the farmers, and you should see the same thing that happened here in NZ way back in the late 70s and 80s. A few farmers showed their disappointment in the NZ government by slaughtering a few sheep outside the front door of the Parliament building in Wellington and of course a few Farmers sadly committed suicide when the government started withdrawing subsidies to the agricultural sector. The NZ government was almost bankrupt. The introduction of “user pays” to education and health sectors was another big change to the country and a few marches took place to show discontent of students and people for these new policies that the government introduced. What is important here, the government remains confident with their policies and lately acceptable by the public.
As mentioned above the importance of discussing National Budget in Parliament, I insist once again that the politicians and the policy makers must do their home work in analyzing the annual budget. If the time given to discuss the budget is not adequate, I suggest that the Parliament could demand the government to table budgets for 3 consecutive financial years for discussion and the Parliament can approve one financial year estimates at a time with more information on the proposed budget for the upcoming 2 financial years. This is very important to follow up closely what the government achieved each financial year and the roll over activities to the following financial years. This is only an idea for the Parliament to think about.
One of my other concerns is the capabilities of the politicians and the House generally to analyze the budget statement including social and economic policies and the distributions of estimates. I believe the Parliament should start thinking of enhancing its capacity by introducing more advisors if they need to cross-check the government policies and objectives in the budget statement. This will certainly improve efficiency of the public services if the PRs and NRs start questioning government policies given if these two tables in Parliament are institutionally strengthened by recruiting good advisors, and this is a common practices in many countries in the World. My fellow Politicians, you have a lot to offer in Parliament if you seek advice from the right sources and the right people too. You have disrupted enough the barrier of inferiority by confronting the government with their shortfalls but this is not the end and enough, we must also continue on with more valid suggestions and start advising the government what ought to be done. While pushing the government to act promptly on a few allegations, what can we offer right away to solve the high inflation rate that the country is facing right now? How feasible for Tonga to implement economic monetary policies versus economic fiscal policies? What can be done to reduce inflation while closing the gap of trade deficit in Tonga? What are the real impacts of devaluing of the Tongan Pa’anga to stimulate export and tourism earnings against high local prices and inflation and its impact in slowing down domestic trade and the adverse effect on overseas payments, considering high overseas public debts to ADB, World Bank etc.? Does this monetary policy of exchange rate close the gap of trade deficit and increase reserving of domestic savings in-country or not? How about if the government increases interest rates to encourage domestic savings and investment, and likewise to loan interest rates to discourage personal and company loans? With all the above questions, we tend to be convinced that if we could live in a homeostasis and perfect environment and I believe this is the challenge for the Politicians and Policy Makers to implement policies that will serve balance in social and economic development.
In conclusion, I congratulate everyone in Tonga for the efforts, remember the proverb “Kumaa si’i toe vela hono hiku” if resources are scarce, you must work together. For the PRs, you should know the status of your economic development and the gaps in government infrastructures; you should not take advantage of this and keep launching allegations to the poor government, give good advices and focus more on potentials but not too much on weaknesses. I apologize for any statements in this article that may offend anyone, my heart is still in Tonga and I am always proud of being a Tongan, claiming that we are the ancient Polynesians and we are all grateful of being a Tongan with the only Treasure “God and Tonga is our Heritage” Jesus is the Answer.
Auckland, New Zealand
henry_alexanda [at] yahoo [dot] com
(abridged for length -ed)