UPDATED: If the Tongan Cabinet can afford a new insurance scheme for ministers, the kingdom’s 3000 public servants should get a cost of living allowance, the Tongan Public Service Association said this week.
The PSA said it would not be fair if the government could not also fund the 40% cost of living allowance for the kingdom’s 3000 public servants that has been in the news this week.
An exchange of e-mails between the Tongan Treasury and the PSA shows Cabinet has approved funding for the ministers’ insurance policy.
According to a reliable source, Cabinet has approved an insurance scheme worth TP$400,000 for cabinet members.
A request to the Finance Minister Hon. Lisiate 'Akolo and the Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano to confirm the figure had not been answered at the time of writing.
Kaniva News has been unable to confirm whether the amount is for an individual insurance policy or whether it was a payment for a package to cover all the ministers and cabinet members.
The PSA has told the government it would not be fair if it could not also fund the 40% cost of living allowance.
PSA secretary Mele ‘Amanaki has asked Finance CEO Tatafu Moeaki to confirm that public servants will receive the 40% pay rise based on the cost of living.
In an e-mail to Moeaki the PSA secretary said: “We understood that this is the accumulated COLA approved thus far by Cabinet and that your Ministry is looking at its affordability and what Government can afford to pay.”
“We also understood that your Ministry may be recommending around 5-25% to Cabinet.
“If the Government can finance the recently approved medical insurance for the Cabinet Members, we are sure that Government can finance the maximum limit of the recommended range for COLA for the employees.”
‘Amanaki said the Finance Ministry should not recommend a range to Cabinet for consideration, but only the maximum limit of the affordable recommended range.
He said the cost of living allowance should be given to all public servants, including the Police and Defence forces.
Nobody who is paid from the public purse should be omitted unless they had been granted a cost of living allowance recently.
The cost of living allowance should be paid from the same source as the medical insurance for Cabinet Members so that the already limited operational budgets of the Ministries are not cut, ‘Amanaki said.
This is the first time the Tongan Cabinet has considered a pay rise for public servants since 2005.
Public service salaries account for three quarters of the government’s annual budget.
The Asian Development Bank recommended last year that the kingdom’s public service wage bill should be cut by nearly half.
The International Monetary Fund said last year that the Tongan government needed to make sure the public service concentrated on priorities and described a situation where control over departmental finances sometimes became hard to follow.