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Aid budget to increase from $29 to 33.8 million

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 19, 2011) - The Government of Australia has increased its Official Development Assistance to Tonga by AU$4.2 million [US$4.4 million] and will also inject funds for teachers and nurses salaries, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs, Hon Richard Marles announced in Nuku΄alofa this morning, May 17.

The aid budget will increase from AU$27.8 [US$29] during the 2010-11 financial year, to AU$32 million [US$33.8 million] in the coming 2011-12 financial year.

Hon Marles also announced that Australia would be injecting an additional AU$1 million dollars in the form of budget support to Tonga, particularly to finance the payment of salaries for teachers and nurses salaries.

A revised Memorandum of Understanding, a general agreement on Australia’s development assistance to Tonga, was signed between the Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano and Hon Richard Marles at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office.

The MOU outlines Australia’s commitment to assisting areas of development in which the Government of Tonga has prioritized, including an efficient and effective public sector, the improving of the health management systems, a police development program, a technical and vocational training program and an infrastructure development program.

Hon Marles said that from their AU$32 million development assistance to Tonga, $19 million is committed under their bilateral assistance to health, education, police development and infrastructure development. The remaining balance would come through multilateral assistance programs, he said.

In the 2010-2011 financial year, Australia�s AU$27.8 million Development Assistance, included $17 million in direct bilateral assistance and AU$10.8 million under multilateral assistance programs.

Hon Marles congratulated Tonga for the excellent progress it had made in meeting agreed public financial management reforms, including strengthening public sector procurement practices.

Lord Tu’ivakano in his address expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the Government and people of Australia for their continued assistance to Tonga that was not limited to financial assistance but also for other technical assistance that has helped in the development of Tonga.

While in Tonga, Hon Marles attended a clinic at Vaiola Hospital and met patients having follow-up treatment and screening for heart conditions using echo-cardiology equipment provided with Australian assistance.

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