KING TAUFA‘AHAU TUPOU IV CLOSES TONGA LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY SESSION WITH COMMENTS ON THE ECONOMY

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KING TAUFA‘AHAU TUPOU IV CLOSES TONGA LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY SESSION WITH COMMENTS ON THE ECONOMY

By Katalina Uili Tohi

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (November 6, 2001 - PIDP/CPIS)---Ailing King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV officially closed the 101st session of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga last Thursday morning at Queen Salote Memorial Hall.

In an address from the throne, the King stressed various initiatives that could invigorate the economy, covering agriculture, shipping and new job opportunities involving Australia and the United States.

The King also noted that the economy seemed to be improving this year compared to last year.

According to Radio Tonga News, the King said the machinery needed to process squash pumpkins into powdered form is now ready for use, adding that other crops, including peppers, also could be processed for export.

King Taufa‘ahau noted that major foreign vessels have been registered under the Tongan Government Ship Registry in Greece.

He then went on to stress the importance of training local seamen at the National Polytechnic Institute -- The Fokololo-e-Hau.

Efforts should be made to train seamen to a world standard, making them employable globally, he said. "I believe their employment could become a new major source of revenue for the Kingdom. I understand that more time and money must be invested in training of seamen to achieve higher ranks such as navigators and engineers."

Also regarding shipping matters, he said, "Tonga will take delivery of two new vessels next year. The MV Fuakavenga II is expected to arrive in Sydney, Australia during the last week of January 2002, before arriving in New Zealand and Tonga. The Fuakavenga will also bring a new 130-foot barge to be used in the outer islands.

"The MV Fuakavenga II, with its extra space and speed capacity, will be able to transport some of the root crops to New Zealand and other island nations, and as far as Australia," the King said in his speech.

"The barge will operate on a new shipping route between the outer islands of Ha‘apai and the two Niuas. It can also transship between Tonga and Samoa crops from the two Niuas, Vava‘u and Ha‘apai. Such a venture will boost the economic livelihood of the outer islands."

He said plans should be worked out now to determine the type of crops, such as taro, plantain, papaya and others, that may be needed by those countries.

The King also revealed a potential labor market in Australia for Tongans. Inquiries have been received from several places there, he said, to employ Tongans to help with the harvesting of fruit. The matter is under consideration, he added.

The King also said discussions are under way with Australia and the United States for Tonga to assist in the manufacture of large nets that would protect coastal area from shark attacks.

This year marks the completion of the current three-year term of the Legislative Assembly. A general election for representatives of the nobility and the people will be held early next year.

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