THE Legislative Assembly today unanimously passed the biggest national budget ever proposed for Tonga in the Legislative Assembly.
19 MPs voted in favour of the proposed estimates of about TOP$500 million..This year’s budget includes in-kind budget support and a total cash appropriation of TOP$329.7 million.
After three weeks of heated and robust debate in the first budget delivered by the administration under the government of the Hon. PM,. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, the House finally passed all the government votes last night.
Budget Estimates is a key process for government accountability and transparency. Therefore much of the opposition from the MPs especially the Noble Representatives were concerned with the 17.5 percent increase in the current Government budget of TOP$483.7 million.
According to the Budget Statement 2015/16, the rationale behind the big hike relates to Tonga’s efforts to host the Pacific Game in 2019, further low interest loan opportunities for the agricultural, fisheries and tourism sectors managed by the Tonga Development Bank.
It is also attributed to Government’s commitment to pay out pension scheme to the elderlies among others.
In his budget statement, Hon. Minister of Finance Dr. ‘Aisake Eke said that governance is among top priority agenda of Government. Government also asserted the focus is to provide quality service to people, especially the most unfortunate ones.
“Good Governance is building a public service known for its efficient and effective service, delivered with honesty, transparency and accountability and promoting public trust.”
Other top priority agenda of Government includes inclusive and sustainable growth, poverty alleviation, safer and better public infrastructure.
Dr. Eke also maintained that the new administration elected in November 2014 builds on the focus of honesty, transparency and accountable, public service that is delivering improved services to the people.
Based on these priorities, the 2015/2016 Government budget theme is improved government delivery and accountability to support the Tonga Strategic Development Framework 2015-2015. It is aimed for a more progressive Tonga - supporting a higher quality of life for all.
Meanwhile speaking shortly after the Whole House Committee passed all government votes Hon. Prime Minister, ‘Akilisi Pohiva thanked the House for the positive and constructive criticisms that would help to work on challenges that the 2015/2016 national budget implementation has experienced.
Prior to that, the PM always reminded the House that since his new Government takes office they had prioritized on unplugging holes and challenges that faced by the previous governments.