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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (April 22, 1999 - PACNEWS/Radio Australia)---New Zealand has committed $NZ 5.6 million ($US 3 million) to the Tongan Government as part of its annual financial assistance for the Polynesian kingdom.

The two countries signed the agreement in the Tongan capital, Nuku‘alofa, yesterday.

Radio Tonga reports that New Zealand’s contribution is for the 1999/2000 cycle and is in line with the level of assistance provided in previous years.

The funds will be used for human resource development, assistance to the Tonga Development Bank and medical evacuations to New Zealand.

Some funding is earmarked especially for projects on ‘Eua and the Niuas.

A Tongan Government official said $NZ 3 million ($US 1.6 million) would be used to fund various educational and training programs for Tongans, both in Tonga and overseas.

Officials from the two countries also discussed changes in the selection procedures for New Zealand Overseas Development Assistance (NZODA) scholarships. No details were announced.

After the signing, a senior official in the New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Office, Colin Bell, said Tonga will continue to benefit from NZODA regional programs, including additional assistance for private sector and government health, tourism and environment initiatives.

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