The Minister told Matangi Tonga on 23 July that he was optimistic that Tonga will be ready to host the 2019 Pacific Games.
However, the construction of venues and facilities has been delayed while the government has been looking for ways to raise more than $133 million pa’anga (US$62 million) required.
Under the 2015-16 National Budget passed by parliament in June, government proposed to raise money for the Pacific Games by increasing airport Departure Tax from $65 to $165 (US$30 – (US$77) and imposing a two seniti levy on foreign currency exchange transactions.
But now the measures have been deferred. ‘Aisake said there had been a petition by the business community to the King in Privy Council over the levy on foreign currency exchange transactions, and so the levy and the increase in departure tax were suspended for amendment and are to be reintroduced into parliament.
In the meantime, it appears that Tonga has no financial allocation designated for the construction of facilities for the 2019 Pacific Games.
‘Aisake said that Ministry of Finance officials and members of Tonga’s Pacific Games Organizing Committee would meet during the next few days to finalise the Master Plan of the Committee and to confirm their estimated costs of the facilities to be constructed.
He said so far the total cost for the construction and the equipping of facilities that has been presented by the committee was estimated at $133 million pa’anga (US$62 million).
But proposed new facilities, such as to move the Police Training Centre, have been rejected and the Police will remain where they are.
They will also need to provide a bigger golf course, which is a problem on a small island, but he said that the only option that they are looking into it at the moment is to extend the existing golf course into the Fanga‘uta Lagoon.
To finance the $133 million project, the Minister of Finance was optimistic that Tonga can raise about $40 million (US$18 million). He said that the proposed $100 increase in Departure Tax and the two seniti levy on foreign exchange transaction should bring in about $8 million (US$3.7 million) a year. Over five years starting this year, “that is $40 million, but where are we going to get the other $93 million (US$43.8 million)?”
20 years of taxes
‘Aisake said they have been talking to Aid Donors, and they also have been exploring the possibility of raising a Concessional Loan.
They are also looking at another option to keep the Departure Tax and the two seniti Levy on foreign currency transaction going for at least two decades. “Reduce the tax and the levy but keep them going for another 20 years,” he said
‘Aisake was optimistic that hosting the Games and the construction of high standard sporting facilities would enable Tonga to attract international sporting events, “increase the number of foreign visitors and raise the standard of sports in the country.”