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Business losses hit $123 million pa'anga

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Damage to businesses in Tonga on 16/11 amounted to nearly T$123.5 million, with 153 businesses affected, and 697 job losses, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Labour, Commerce and Industries today.

A survey of businesses by the ministry is continuing and the updated figures cover nine businesses not included in the first survey, including two Chinese enterprises. It also includes some non-government organizations that were affected.

The updated estimated total cost of damage to businesses is now Tongan Pa'anga $123,488,281. This includes:

Stock damage $23,187,384,

Buildings damage $38,230,357,

Inventories damaged $26,674,741,

Trading losses $17,740,550

and other costs $6,109,042.

Although 53 businesses were insured, only eight businesses had insurance coverage for riots, with the total approximate cost of damages to businesses:

Insured against riots T$21,826,461;

Not insured against riots T$91,135,613.

Despite the huge losses, so far 143 businesses had indicated that they are willing to continue business in Tonga, the Ministry of Labour stated.

Wharf clearance

Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour, Commerce and Industries, Hon. Lisiate 'Akolo, has announced that Cabinet has approved for the government to provide assistance for the immediate release of the containers of affected businesses stationed at Queen Salote Wharf.

"This assistance will involve Treasury undertaking to pay the Consumption Tax and Customs Duties owing on your containers and allow you a period of up to six weeks (until 15 January 2007) to repay this amount," he told affected businesses.

"This short-term credit facility assistance is intended to address your immediate needs so as to enable you to re-commence operations."

He said the government was currently not in a position to give greater assistance, "given its tight financial situation and other priority tasks such as the reconstruction of Nuku...’alofa and the development of the economy as a whole."

He added that the Cabinet Business Recovery Sub-Committee and his Ministry would continue to assess other possible forms of assistance available to the business community to aid in reconstruction.