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Tonga's welfare economy



My friends, we are at a crossroad where the inhabitants of the kingdom must have a “Come to Jesus” huddle and an honest to God assessment of her dire economic situation and look hard for a solution to prevent our kingdom from insolvency. Based on Honorable Matoto’s assessment of our economy, the kingdom is technically on economic welfare (remittance and foreign aid).

I don’t know about the public, but I am baffled by the economic decisions and the direction the Government pursues on our behalf. Since I am not privileged to the decision making process and the strategies behind them, this shallow opinion is only a reflection of a shallow mind, which I will not deny.

We petitioned to join the World Trade Organization and “Free Trade” agreements knowing we do not have much for trade. My GPS Fotua education taught me, trade consists of buying and selling, which is a transaction between two or more people. Each party must have something to trade. Correct me if I am wrong, but at this moment, full containers are coming off ships from overseas and empty ones are sent back. Isn’t trade a two way transaction where they sell us their goods and we sell them ours? I wonder if we should call this Fair trade initiative as Fair Import and Tax them Hard Act, instead. We import goods to the kingdom and then we shamelessly charge a sales tax at Customs where no sales were taken place. Hmmmm!

There will never be a “Fair Trade” between parties as long as one party, the Kingdom of Tonga, has nothing or very little of value to trade with other partners. We will always complain of unfair trading by others, and the “trade deficit” will become a permanent fixture in our economic survival plans. I am crossing my fingers we have a survival plan.

It seems we are pursuing schemes through impulse and opportunities rather than through strategic and calculated planning. It seems we are approaching others to help control the symptoms but let the disease spiral out of control. We all know the disastrous consequences of the “Passport Scheme” championed by then Hon. Clive Edwards. We are now pursuing a Labour Mobility Scheme otherwise known as the Seasonal Workers Scheme. Is there a long-term strategy other than using the “Tongan Power” (ivi lahi) as a trading tool?

Honorable Matoto went on to say, “I think we have to look at other opportunities, services such as plumbing, house painting and other skills, which are in high demand but are not readily available.” I beg your pardon for my ignorance, are we really that unprepared? This is a sad statement at best especially when it comes from a Cabinet member. We knew this problem thirty years ago. Yet, nothing has been done to counter that. We do not have a skilled workforce because we do not have the mechanism or the process to train and educate them.

The Government should include the “having a skilled workforce” as part of their five to ten year strategic plan; a common sense approach to our own economic survival. A skilled workforce is an exportable asset. In return will be more remittances. If we create a vocational training institution where a world class curriculum that is in par with those in Australia and New Zealand is taught, this discussion will be irrelevant in the future. The “Supply and Demand” model will manage the detail.

How ironic, Tonga was “Tuku Ki Langi” in Pouono. On the other hand, Hawaii who has no natural resources like us; was “tuku ki Amelika Lahi.” Hawaii is paradise and Tonga will soon be the dumpsite for Nautilus and company. It seems ‘Etuate Lavulavu is catching on to this dumpsite idea. Nevertheless, I will always proudly declare “God and Tonga are my inheritance.”

“God, I beg you. Help us! Please!”


Tevita [dot] Langi [at] AMEDD [dot] ARMY [dot] MIL