Tonga’s Minister for Sport Feʻao Vakatā said Tonga’s sport players overseas brought about TP$14 million into Tonga every year.
Hon. Vakatā said the money was more than what the government collected from sales of crops and seafood overseas.
He was responding to a call from Democratic Party MP Veivosa Taka for the government to cancel Tonga’s hosting of the 2019 South Pacific Games.
Hon. Taka said the money earmarked for the games should be spent on the needy.
The Minister said hosting the South Pacific Games would boost income from sport, which was already one of the kingdom’s most significant financial resources.
Until now fisheries and agriculture have been regarded as two of Tonga’s major sources of income.
Hon. Vakatā said Tonga had more than just one hundred of sports players overseas but they brought a great deal of money to the nation.
Critics have said the Games are too costly for Tonga and there have been protests against the government’s plans to raise money for the games in the new budget.
Plans include a TP$100 hike in the airport departure tax, which is expected to bring in TP$5 million a year for the next five years leading up to the Games, after which it will be removed.
The hike provoked a stir on social media with many accusing the government of penalising Tongans living overseas by making them pay higher fees every time they travel to and from Tonga.
The government has justified the hike by saying Tonga had one of the lowest airport departure taxes in the South Pacific.
Last week Tonga’s former Finance Minister Lisiate ‘Akolo, met with Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva and asked the government to withdraw its hosting of the South Pacific Games.
Hon. ‘Ākolo said the Games were very expensive for Tonga.
Tonga plans to spend about TP$138 million on building facilities and hosting the Pacific Games in four years’ time.
Hon. ‘Ākolo said the money should be given to education and health sectors as Tonga’s economic viability was weak.
Meanwhile, the government has confirmed that most of the money needed to fund the Games will come from overseas donors.
The former government when it bid to win hosting of the Games told SPG committee it would donate TP$70 million for the sport.
Taka asked how the country could afford to maintain the facilities after the Games.
The Minister of Finance said the facilities would be used to host the Games for 10 days, but after that they would become national facilities to cater for local players.
The main points
- Tonga’s Minister for Sport Feʻao Vakatā said Tonga’s sport players overseas brought about TP$14 million into Tonga every year.
- Vakatā said the money was more than the government collected from sales of crops and seafood overseas.
- He was responding to a call from Democratic Party MP Veivosa Taka for the government to cancel Tonga’s hosting of the 2019 South Pacific Games.
- Vakatā told Parliament the government had estimated that for every pa’anga it spent spend on the Games, it would collect TP15 in return.
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