Prime Minister tells listeners kingdom’s economy and finances are fine, praises road project and says government’s airline is making money

    Na’e me’a ‘Eiki Palēmia’ ‘o pehē ‘oku fakafiemālie pe tu’unga fakapa’anga mo e koloa ‘a e fonua’. Na’a’ ne fakahikihiki’i ‘a e kautaha vakapuna Lulutai pea ne pehē tokua kuo lele tupu neongo ne 'ikai ke ne talanoa fika mai ke fakamahino. Na’a’ ne toe fakahikihiki’i foki ‘a ‘ene polokalama tanuhala’ ‘o pehē ‘oku lele lelei mo ia pea ‘oku fakahoko ‘i he founga ke tolonga. Ne lipooti atu foki ‘e he Kaniva’ ‘a e maumau lahi ne hoko ki he ngaahi hala fo’ou ne toki tanu ‘i Vava’u’ pea mahino e pikisia ‘a e ngaahi loli lalahi he uike kuo hili' he ngaahi hala' ni. Kaekehe, fakatatau ki he lipooti ‘a e Pangikē ia ‘a Māmani’ ko e ‘ekonōmika ‘a Tonga’ ne osi uesia kovi he kamata'anga 'oe 2020 tu'unga he maumau lahi ne fai e Saikolone Kita’. Ko hono tāpuni ‘o e kau’āfonua’ tu’unga he Koviti-19, ko e holo ‘i he pa’anga hū atu mei he kau ngāue toli Tonga ‘i muli’ pea mo e holo ‘a e koloa hū ki tu’a pule’anga’ ne ‘osi ‘amanaki pe ‘e ‘i ai ‘a e faingata’a fakapa’anga lahi heni ki Tonga. Kuo hanga ‘e he International Monetary Fund ‘a e Pangikē ‘a Māmani’ ai pe ‘o vavalo’i ‘e faingata’a’ia ‘a e ‘ekonōmika ‘a e Pasifiki’ kotoa he ‘uhinga ne ne fakalea ko e ngaahi lavea kuo loloto ange ia ha toe me'a a'u ki he faingata’a fakanatula kovi taha” ‘o fakatupunga ‘i ha mole ‘a e pa’anga hū mai’ 'i ha taimi lōloa.

    Prime Minister Tu’i’onetoa has told a radio audience that Tonga’s economic and financial status was fine – “faingamālie pe.”

    Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa. Photo/Broadcom (Screenshot)

    The Prime Minister, who holds a Doctorate of Christian Ministry from Faith Evangelical Lutheran Seminary in the United States, said the kingdom’s budget relied heavily on God.

    Hon. Tu’i’onetoa made the claim in his New Year’s address, which was transmitted by Broadcom.

    He said the projected budget deficit would be less than the forecast TP$60 million.

    The nation’s financial status would be better, he said.

    Tonga’s financial status had already been badly affected by the damage caused to the tourism industry by Cyclone Gita at the beginning of 2020. The closure of Tonga’s borders, the reduction in income from Tongans working on farms in Australia and New Zealand and the drop in exports were all expected to lead to financial hardship.

    The International Monetary Fund has predicted that Pacific Island economies as a whole would suffer from what it termed “deeper wounds than even the worst natural disaster” caused by prolonged loss of revenue.

    As a sign of Tonga’s financial health, the Prime Minister said the government-owned Lulutai airline was making money, although he did not provide any figures to show the level of profit being generated.

    Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said there were times when the company’s aircraft were full.

    Lulutai was created by the government after the kingdom’s previous airline, Real Tonga, shut down its operations after becoming mired in debt. The privately-owned airline had sought government assistance.

    Even before Lulutai got off the ground there was considerable controversy over attempts to undermine its first CEO, Captain Maikolo Faasolo, an internationally experienced pilot with a Masters degree in Air Transport Management from City University, London.

    The Prime Minister attributed the success of Lulutai to a new economic model he said was recently approved by his Cabinet.

    Lulutai is using the same fleet as Real Tonga, including the Saab S340B and the Harbin Y-12. Aircraft. The Saab had to be heavily repaired after a bird strike while flying out of Vava’u in early May last year.

    Hon. Tu’i’onetoa, praised his government’s multi-million pa’anga road project and said it was running well. He said the roads were built solidly so they would function for a long time. Roads in Vava’u and Tongatapu have been badly affected by recent heavy rain.

    Finally, the Prime Minister said the government was planning to continue repatriating Tongans stranded overseas. A flight from New Zealand was expected on January 14.

    More than 5000 Tongans are still stranded overseas including about 1475 RSE workers in New Zealand.

    The Tongan government said recently it had to give a fair chance for all Tongans to return to Tonga.

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