By Pesi Fonua
"The Chinese will take over the running of the country in a few years time," Tonga’s Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva told a Press Conference he called yesterday, 11 May at Popua.
He was commenting on the low-productivity rate of Tongan workers, after he was asked why so few Tongans were employed by Chinese construction companies in Tonga.
But the PM was so convinced that the Chinese will take over Tonga, and he blamed the low productivity rate of Tonga’s Civil Servants, saying it was only 20%, comparing with 80% of Chinese workers.
The Prime Minister envisages the building a recreational centre and a golf course throughout the site of the heritage area.
But, unfortunately, his plan is incoherent.
At yesterday's press conference answers given by the Prime Minister contradicted those of the Minister of Finance, Hon. Tevita Lavemaau.
For a start, the PM introduced the Cabinet Ministers who were present as, Hon. Penisimani Fifita, the Minister of Education; Hon. Mateni Tapueluelu, the Minister of Police; Hon. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, the Minister of Labour, Commerce, Trade, and the Acting Minister of Finance; and the Minister of Finance Hon. Tevita Lavemaau.
The fact that we had both an Acting Minister of Finance as well as a Minister of Finance at the Press Conference seemed odd.
If that was not confusing, the response from the PM when he was questioned if there is a working committee and who was managing the project, was bizarre.
Hon. 'Akilisi Pohiva said there is no working committee. He is managing the project himself, and the former member of parliament 'Etuate Lavulavu is the supervisor. The project started with $10,000 that was donated from "outside".
“There is no plan, no working committee. We just work outside," he said.
“You are the Boss?” I asked.
“Me and volunteers. No committee – nothing is written. If you ask me if there is a plan, I will tell you, no plan was written down.”
The Prime Minister said that the reason why there is no written information was because there are times government operation is very difficult because of the Procurement Procedure. “It slows down the progress of work. So there is no plan, no committee, we just work outside.”
He said that besides the $10,000 contribution from "outside", there were financial contributions from Public Enterprises, the Harbour Board Authority, the Water Board and the Power Board.
Meanwhile over half a kilometres of canals have been dug into the low lying area.
"So Public Enterprises can contribute to project outside of government without the approval of government?" I asked.
The Prime Minister said he didn't know.
"I don’t know anything about their rule of operation. But there is a good reason for why they come and help. The legal correctness is something to ask them. Nothing is written down, I am sure.”
Hon. Tevita Lavemaau, the Minister of Finance, however, gave a different version of the operation.
“There is a Trust Account for the project in Treasury where we keep the contributions from High Commissioners and others,” he said.
Hon. Lavemaau explained that contributions from Public Enterprises were approved by their Boards of Directors.
He said that with regards to the Golf Course, overseas designers were here for two weeks. They have left and another designer will arrive soon from New Zealand. At the completion of their work, they will present them to a committee to select which plan to use. “We will then follow the government procurement process. It has to be tendered.”
With deepest concern I have
With deepest concern I have read your article about the canal project in Popua. From my point of view there is no benefit for the people living in this area. Instead there will be an unnecessary health risk: as you have stated correctly, the water will not flow. Therefore it will be a dangerous breeding ground for mosquitoes - in a country that is already struggling with dangerous diseases (Dengue, Zika fever, etc.) being spread by mosquitoes. I cannot understand that it is possible to start construction works without plan. Did Mr. Pohiva tell anything to the public health officials? What would they answer?
Mr. Pohiva must realize that he can not always recognize what is best for his country and the people living there!
I hope that being woken up by your article, somebody will stand up and stop building this canal.
Bjoern Heinemann, Physician
If Tonga is serious about
If Tonga is serious about creating canals they need to look at countries such as Holland and England and see how they have used locks to combat the flat terrain of their countries. Rather than being negative look for the positives!
This is highly irresponsible
This is highly irresponsible for a Prime Minister of a country to say that "The Chinese will take over the running of the country in a few years time," and to add further that "Chinese Businesses in Tonga did not pay any tax at all". He's inciting a culture of fear and of hatred using language of discrimination for his own political purpose. This is the kind of propaganda he has been using over the years. I would challenge Prime Minister 'Akilisi to provide evidence as this is an insult to all the Chinese businesses in Tonga who pay their tax. But quite apart from these, what about coming up with novel ideas for policies that will turn the country’s economy around? Where has 'Akilisi been in all these years? He's the longest serving member of parliament becoming the Prime Minister in recent years but where are his policies to create employment, and to increase workers’ productivity? He has been behind the pay increase of government workers in the past, increases that saw Tonga giving one of the highest pay increases without a return in productivity gains. He's the Prime Minister but he is criticizing and complaining as if he's not the leader of the Government. He’s actually pointing his finger at himself. His reply that there is no plan and no working party for this recreation park and that he doesn't know the rule of operation at the Public Enterprises is indicative of how he's running the Government. He has no plans, at odds and has no working relation with his ministers and he comes across as having no idea whatsoever of how to run the country apart from his intransigent ideological views that have isolated him from people that could have helped him to turn things around. I think that he’s getting on in years and it’s time to retire.