The Minister of Finance has warned Speaker Lord Fakafanua about the financial harm a dissolution of Parliament could bring.
Hon. Tu’i’onetoa made his comment in the House on Monday as part of his statements after his national budget of TP$599.27 million for 2019/20 was tabled on June 10.
The government funded 51 percent or $305 million of the budget while 46 percent was financed by foreign donors. The remaining balance was funded from the sales of government bonds.
Dr Tu’i’onetoa’s warning was a reminder that the former Speaker, the king’s noble Lord Tu’ivakanō advised the king in 2017 to dissolve parliament because he believed the Pōhiva government was attempting to remove some of the king’s powers.
Lord Nuku attempted in the House to defend the nobility by saying it was the king’s prerogative to dissolve Parliament.
Hon. Tu’i’onetoa warned that the 2017 dissolution of parliament by the king had paralysed funding from Tonga’s foreign donors.
He said the government struggled to make ends meet in its 2018/19 budget.
He said the government finally managed to negotiate with these countries and funding was released after they decided to ease their normal funding release procedures.
The Minister was talking about the Budget Support amounting to $35 million (US$16 million) which came from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, the European Union and the Australian Government.
The release of the money forced the government and Parliament to change Tonga’s Foreign Investment Act in February.
The funding helped pay the government’s major expenses, including civil servants, medicines for hospitals and contributions to non-government schools.
The Minister said the government normally paid these expenses from various government allocations and would pay them off when the funding from overseas was paid to the government.
The foreign donations were normally paid between January and June every year, the Minster said.
The king dissolved Parliament in August 2017 and the government was in caretaker mode until January 2018 when Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva was re-appointed.