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.”