Hon. Eke denies claim government will hike electricity bills to raise money for 2019 Games

Tonga’s Minister of Finance, Hon ʻAisake Eke has denied claims the government plans to increase electricity bills to raise money for the 2019 South Pacific Games.

Hon. Eke made the denial in the wake of claims by former Law Minister Clive Edwards that the government planned to increase electricity charges by imposing a six cents per kilowatt levy.

Kaniva News contacted the Minister for a response to Edwards’ allegations.

In response, Hon. Eke said: “Oku ikai ha mea pe he ia…oku teeki aupito ke omai ha fktuu pe he ia ki he Kapineti. (Translated: There is nothing like that….there was no such proposal submitted to Cabinet”.

In a letter written to Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pohiva on August 28, Edwards said it was obvious the government planned the increase as way of accumulating money for the Games.

Edwards demanded Hon. Pohiva confirm whether his allegation was true or not.

He told Hon. Pohiva the planned electricity rate hike would be a financial burden to the poor people of the nation.

Edwards also asked the Hon. Pohiva about the Democratic Party’s pre-election promise of a 15 percent decrease for electricity charges.

He said it was apparent the Party had not delivered its promise since it came to power eight months ago, nor was the cut included in the government’s 2015/16 budget.

Kaniva News has asked Edwards if he can provide us with the source of his allegations, but we are still waiting for his response.

Kaniva News has reliable information that when the Party won the election and formed the government it sought advice from experts on the possibility of reducing electricity charges as promised.

However, it was advised that a 15 percent cut was impossible as it would cost Tonga Power millions of paʻanga when there were hardly any other sources from which income could be raised.

One source suggested that if the government made its promise Tonga Power would lose up to tens of millions in income.

Before Tonga’s general election last November, the Democratic Party promised to cut rates for water and electricity by 15 percent.

The Party promised the following in its long term goals:

  • Cutting water and power prices by 15%
  • Increasing the provision of solar power to villages
  • Reviewing government board memberships
  • Implementing tax cuts
  • Reducing tax charges on freight from Tongans living overseas
  • Charging taxes on local flea markets to balance the reduction of charges on cargo from Tongan overseas.
  • Paying civil servants’ salary on time
  • Increasing the budget for fisheries by TP$1.3 million (NZ$834,000)
  • Reinstating the Planning Department and bringing it under the Prime Minister’s Office
  • Reviewing laws for subleasing of land by lease holders
  • Mortgaging of land to be limited to 15 years
  • Creating laws to control all government national assets
  • Reviewing the current electoral systems
  • Reviewing Asian immigration policy
  • Forming laws to control Chinese depositing money overseas.

Hon. Pohiva also announced that if the party was elected, within six months of achieving government it would take action in the following areas:

  • All government vehicles would operate only within working hours
  • All public servants and ministers would travel economy class when going overseas.
  • Overseas travel that had already been paid from overseas sources would not be paid for again by the government
  • All payment for government travel would be made by the Treasury
  • Taking control of ministers’ overseas travel to reduce spending
  • Reviewing government board members’ meeting policy that a one-hour meeting deserves payment for a whole day.
  • Banning fishing for sea cucumbers
  • Authorising villagers to look after their coastlines and beaches
  • Establishing a marketing authority to sell local produce and products overseas
  • Ensuring overseas fishing vessels have valid licenses
  • Reviewing government portfolios that come under one ministry

The main points

  • The government has denied claims it plans to increase electricity bills to raise money for the 2019 South Pacific Games.
  • Tonga’s Minister of Finance, Hon ʻAisake Eke, made the denial in the wake of claims by former Law Minister Clive Edwards that the government planned to increase electricity charges by imposing a six cents per kilowatt levy.
  • In a letter written to Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pohiva on August 28, Edwards said it was obvious the government planned the increase to as way of accumulating money for the Games.
  • He told the Prime Minister the planned electricity rate hike would be a financial burden to the poor people of the nation.

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