UNINSURED TONGA BUSINESSES SUFFER $42 MILLION LOSS

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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, November 30) – Damage estimated at TOP85.53 million [US$42 million] dollars was incurred by Nuku'alofa businesses who were not insured against riots, while some 678 jobs had been lost, Tonga's Minister of Labour, Commerce and Industries stated today.

Reporting the results of an Assessment Survey of 144 businesses whose business premises were damaged during the November 16 riot, the minister, Hon. LIsiate 'Akolo, said that while the total estimated costs of damaged businesses amounted to TOP117,325,248 [US$57.5 million], only a few had insurance coverage for riots.

The report stated that 96 businesses or 75 percent were either not insured against riots, or not insured at all. Only eight businesses or 6 percent had riot coverage, while the rest were uncertain of their insurance status.

Of the 144 businesses damaged, 33 enterprises were owned by Chinese or naturalized Tongans of Chinese origin.

The minister pointed out that the millions of pa'anga property losses and 678 job losses would impact heavily on Tonga's future.

He said that 15 businesses had not provided information for the survey, and the survey did not include, "the cost of losses to other businesses whose premises were not damaged but are affected by the incident, and the value of imported inventory that are yet to be cleared by damaged businesses from the wharf."

The survey was made during consultative meetings with affected businesses between November 20-23. It also identified the significant immediate needs for the recovery of businesses. This included the need for assistance with insurance assessment, a reconstruction plan, wharf protection and security, ensuring a flow of food items and necessary stocks, assistance with clearance of containers currently at the wharf owned by companies made insolvent in the riot, safety and security of businesses, access to businesses within the proclaimed area, financial assistance and tax relief, and other things.

The Minister also said other needs were identified. "There is a need for government to consider the consequential distortions to the upcoming population census, and there is a need for government to consider hardship relief for employees who have lost their jobs due to the riot and the general public who will also be ultimately affected.

"These consequential job losses are predicted to significantly affect the future national employment rate, unemployment rate and the national labour force participation rate," Hon. Lisiate 'Akolo said.

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