Finance Minister Tēvita Lavemaau. Photo/Kalino Lātū

Each of the nine members of the nobility in Parliament is expected to begin distributing TP$50,000 among their constituents in the next parliamentary visit.

The Minister of Finance Tevita Lavemaau has revealed the $1,260,000 package to support the community saying it was an excellent move by the government.

Speaker Lord Fakafanua has described the funding as a “new initiative” and said this was part of a budget allocation the government had submitted to Parliament for approval.

Within the budget an additional TP$306,000 funding has been allocated for the 17 people’s MPs to pay their office staff. This gave each of the MPs another TP$18,000 each, the Speaker said.

Another TP$850,000 to be equally distributed among the people’s MPs as an addition to their constituency funding brings each MPs share to a total of TP$250,000.

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An increase of TP$15,000 to the town wardens’ (polisi fakakolo) budget will put their shares from the package at an annual TP$40,000 for each village and town warden.

Opposition 

The revelation in the House comes after heated debates erupted in Parliament last year after the nobility pleaded with the late ‘Akilisi Pōhiva’s government to allow them a budget of TP$900,000 from the constituency fund.

The Late Hon. Pōhiva did not believe the Noble MPs should be allowed to access the funding. He said in the House if the nobles were given the money it could cause problems.

He said not every constituency in Tonga had a noble MP to make sure they would have a share of this taxpayers money.

Hon. Pohiva said the distribution of the money among the 17 people’s MPs was fair as every constituency in Tonga would have the same opportunity to benefit from the funding through their MPs.

He said if the nine Nobles in Parliament were given an allowance, this would set them apart from other Nobles who were not in the House and would not get the same benefit for their estates.

The pleas

Three of MPs who were instrumental in moving for the former government to approve the budget were Lord Nuku, who is now the Minister of Police, MP Samiu Vaipulu who is now the Minister of Trade and Economic Development and Lord Tu’ilakepa who is now the Minister of MAFF.