Always appreciate Jason Faletau’s contribution on Tonga’s economy and would like to seek his and other economists in our midst, their views on the following: How sustainable would Tonga’s economy be if the government were to actively moderate local demand than what they’re doing at present?
One of the advantages, of running a country such as ours is that government at its whim can apply a more extreme economic regime and all things being equal, everyone will fall into line. You can easily compile a long list of the number of imports which are economically and socially suspect ie they add no value or take value off our economy and the country’s social fabric. From tariffs to total prohibition (and supporters of the WTO plse take note), the government can put an end or slowly ease many of these imports out of the country and help our balance of payments.
Just how many 4WD and similar tank guzzlers do we need just to make an impression in Nuku’alofa? Is that impression worth the blight on our foreign reserves, the environment and the gridlock in Nuku’alofa? At what point do we say this doesn’t make social and economic sense and take the bold measures required?
And as for tobacco products and alcohol, well one can only wonder. It may sound like the Taleban taking over the economy but doesn’t rationalisation mean exactly that? Some economic rationalisation makes social sense as well so what’s to stop us?
If I were to do PR for our government and tasked with taking the heat off their backs, I would look to this area in order to provide some unchallenged social leadership and vision on issues outside of pure politics. For a change, they may be seen in a positive light locally and internationally. To make Tonga the first tobacco-free country in the Pacific - if not the world - may give us something real and substantive to brag about. The global PR value may also be matched by our ability to attract more international health funding for other socially desireable programmes. The economic benefits are already positive on paper and easily quantifiable. What are we waiting for then?
Can someone from Treasury put a value on the imports of tobacco products per annum and the government’s tax take on the same? And can the Minister of Health or anyone from the health sector put a conservative dollar value on the potential health gains through reduction of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions for the next two generations for instance.