PM Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa. Photo/Tonga Parliament

The government has set aside TP$107.32 million in its 2018/19 budget to help the country recover fully from the effects of Cyclone Gita.

The money will be spent over the next three years. The government will spend TP$59.56 million in the 2018 – 19 fiscal year; TP$33.88 million between 2019-20 and TP$13.88 million in 2020-21.

The Minister of Finance, Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa, said in a summary of the budget statement written in Tongan, the money was part of the government’s TP$659.3 million allocation, which included TP$476.8 million cash and in-kind donations of TP$182.5 million.

Hon Tu’i’onetoa said the budget had been created based on the idea that the recovery process after the Category 4 tropical cyclone would be pushed until it reached an acceptable level.

The estimated cost of damages caused by tropical cyclone Gita reached $328.8 million.

In other budget news, foreign remittances were TP$332.5 in February 2018, a rise on the  TP$284.2 million reported for 2016-17.

There was an increase in the number of tourists coming to Tonga, with a 16.4 percent rise reported by the Minister to the House yesterday. It was recommended that the Ministry of Tourism look for more cruise ships to come to Tonga.

According to the Minister’s statement, salaries and wages of civil servants account for 52 percent of the budget.

The Ministry of Education take the biggest share from the budget. The government subsidy to non-government schools will be increased by TP$7 million.

The Ministry of Health had the next highest share of the budget.

Government debt is mostly to overseas lenders. It said the expected changes to the money exchanges rates threatened the situation, especially because payments were made in US dollars.

To resolve this situation the government undertook to only borrow money for the government’s big projects, with loans that could be repaid at very low interest rates.

The House is expected to discuss the budget statement and approved it before the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1.

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