Tonga defend pacific games hosting amid criticisms

PNG, Pacific Games Venue, Sir John Guise stadium set for magnificent Opening. Photo credit: Hon. Justin Tkatchenko

The Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva is defending the kingdom’s hosting the 2019 Pacific Games saying his Minister of Finance is optimistic about Tonga’s capability to host the games and a cabinet decision has confirmed it this week.

Tonga won the right to host the 2019 Pacific Games over Tahiti in 2012,  winning 16 votes to six.

The Finance Minister Dr. ‘Aisake Eke proposed in his projected budget 2015/16 TP$133 million for the infrastructural construction alone.

The money would be collected from an increase of the airport departure tax by $100 pa’anga, and the application of a 2 cents levy on foreign currency exchange.

The tax hikes were  strongly rejected by local business owners saying that “raising taxes for consumers to pay for the Pacific Games would be bad policy considering the fragile state of Tonga’s economy, and despite any short term boosts from tourism, it would not be worth the long-term cost”.

The statement

In a statement today by Hon. Pohiva, he said the 2019 Games will be hosted in Tonga despite the difficulties in raising the necessary funds to finance the Games.

“The main concern has been the lack of funding for the needed infrastructural construction of facilities and the provision of equipment for the Games.

“Doubt was cast on whether Tonga will go ahead with stated of the Games when the Prime Minister had earlier given media interviews that the financial position of the country was not adequate to host the Games.

“Sporting facilities such as a golf course and a swimming pool do not exist in Tonga. These two facilities alone will take up half of the budget claimed to be needed for the 2019 Games.

“In addition, the existing venue facilities in Tonga are extremely inadequate for the Games. That includes an outdoor stadium, and an indoor stadium that would host basketball, volleyball, netball, and other events.

“But Minister for Finance and National Planning, Dr. Hon. ‘Aisake Eke has announced that he is upbeat about Tonga’s ability to host the Games, and construction could begin in 2016.

“In the meantime, the Oceania Sports Association has spoken out that preparation for the 2019 Games in Tonga is late by almost two years.

“The projected budget for the infrastructural construction alone stands at $133 million pa’anga.

Tonga hosted a Pacific Mini-Games in 1989, but has never hosted a full Pacific Games in its 52-year history”.

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