Democratic Party promises shake-up of Ministries to promote growth and development in kingdom

Tonga’s Democratic Party has revealed plans for a dramatic restructuring of government ministries if it is elected on Thursday.

The party is also considering establishing a Tongan Marketing Authority post in Fiji and cutting the kingdom’s diplomatic posts in either Europe or the United States.

The plans are part of the party’s scheme to revitalise the economy, make Tonga less dependent on imports, establish overseas markets and develop the kingdom.

Kulufeinga ‘Anisi Bloomfield, the Party’s Deputy Leader for the Tautahi (outer islands) said the noble-led government’s 2011 Strategic Development Framework had failed.

He said the government’s policies existed on paper, but no action had been taken on them.

If the Democratic Party was elected it would:

  • Restructure ministerial portfolios
  • Promote the use of local resources
  • Promote overseas markets

Bloomfield,  formerly Head of the South Pacific Secretariat in Noumea, said reorganising ministries would provide a strong platform to push its policies.

There would be one ministry to keep an eye on the significant requirements for the people within the next four years.

The party would push strongly for people to use sea food, animals and produce to cut the costs of continually importing products from overseas.

This would help boost the local economy and make life easier for local fishermen and farmers who relied on the local market to make enough money to cover all their kavenga (duties for the church, family and villages).

Bloomfield said local producers suffered because they did not have access to overseas markets.

Ministries

Bloomfield said a Democratic government they would split the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Food into three different ministries and separate the Ministry of Tourism from Ministry of Commerce, Tourism and Labour.

If the party gained power it would bring responsibility for unemployment under Infrastructure and united the Labour and Commerce portfolios with Immigration under the umbrella of Ministry of National Planning.

Business Enterprises would come under Finance and Internal Affairs unites with Prison Departments. Law and the Port Authority would be added to the Marine Department and the Tonga Power Board and Water Power would report directly to Cabinet.

The Environment Department would come under Land, Survey and Natural Resources and Sport and Youth would be returned to the Ministry of Education The Ombudsman would stay under the Ministry of Law or be an independent body, but would not be subject to Cabinet.

A Democratic government would establish a Tongan Marketing authority office on Fiji and close down Tonga’s diplomatic posts in either the United States or the EU.

Bloomfield who is running as the Party’s candidate for Vava’u 15, said the Democratic party’s planned restructuring would help ensure the government could keep an eye on what was most needed for the people.

Imports

One of the party’s chief concerns was Tonga’s heavy reliance on meat imported from New Zealand and Australia.

This raised serious economic and health issues, especially the huge amount of imported mutton flaps and fatty meats. These contributed to the high risk of Tongans becoming obese and suffered other non-communicable related diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.

The Ministry of Agriculture would be responsible for the local animal farming and make sure it can supply the locals’ needs with good fresh meat on sustainable terms and to reduce spending on importing of unhealthy meats.

Local handicraft markets had received a boost from a New Zealand-funded training and marketing programme.

Bloomfield said making the Ministry of Tourism a single body would allow it to concentrate on upgrading the tourism industry, which was one of the main markets for Tongan handicrafts.

He said tourists, particularly those on cruise liners, were vital to Pacific island economies.

According to National Tourism Organisations, National Statistics Offices, Fiji received 77 visits by cruise liners in 2013, Vanuatu received 252 visits, New Caledonia 159 and Tonga 17.

Bloomfield said pulling the different functions of the Ministry of Tourism together would help concentrate on upgrading the tourism industry and making sure overseas tourists visited Tonga.

He said It was claimed that TP$70 million (NZ$44.5 million) was left in Tonga by overseas tourist in the year 2013.

According to international statistic,13 to 18 cents of every tourist dollar stays in the kingdom.

The Democratic party said it would propose a bill to Parliament to ensure the 87 or 82 cents stay in Tonga.

Failure

Bloomfield said the government had not kept its promises and its policies had failed to help the Tongan people.

He said the government had not fulfilled its promise to establish an international shipping network to help export seafood.

It had also turned down requests to subsidise freight charges on imported fishing tools.

He said the kingdom needed to develop its workforce, but it also needed to meet the special needs of local people.

The government’s Strategic Development Framework had promised to invest in what it called a “healthy, well-educated, and skilled workforce.”

The Framework said the private sector could not function without skilled, healthy and committed workers and promised to primary education and vocational training.

But Bloomfield said local producers had specific needs that were not being met.

As an example, he said there was a persistent need to boost pearl farming in Vava’u, one of the best sources of income for the locals and Tonga’s economy.

However, he claimed that until now the pearl industry in Vava’u had been ignored and there was nobody to train local pearl farmers on how to farm and grow the pearls.

The main points

  • Tonga’s Democratic Party has revealed plans for a dramatic restructuring of government ministries if it is elected on Thursday.
  • The plans are part of the party’s scheme to revitalise the economy, make Tonga less dependent on imports, establish overseas markets and develop the kingdom.
  • Kulufeinga ‘Anisi Bloomfield, the Party’s Deputy Leader for the Tautahi (outer islands) said the noble-led government’s 2011 Strategic Development Framework had failed.
  • Bloomfieldm said said the government had not kept its promises and its policies had failed to help the Tongan people.

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