Tonga PM To Trim Expenditures Starting At The Top

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Pohiva: ‘Government in a critical financial condition’

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 9, 2015) – Trimming expenditures of Cabinet and high ranking officials will be part of refashioning the Tongan civil service to become effective, Tonga’s new Prime Minister Hon ‘Akilisi Pohiva, said in his inaugural address to civil servants this afternoon at the Queen Salote Memorial Hall.

"My government will take the lead in trimming excesses and living within our means," he said.

The Prime Minister, accompanied by the new Cabinet Ministers with Crown Prince Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala as guest of honour, noted that his government faced the biggest challenge of economic management than any other administration before.

He said the economy "is at its lowest performance state" and his government had placed, as a matter of urgency, to conduct a full review of the current situation, assessing the options for the nation and establishing a consistent policy that was sustainable.

"The emphasis today is that there is a pressing need to re-fashion the civil service to become effective instruments for delivering services on an ongoing basis," he said.

"My Cabinet will take action first on matters relating to minimizing the costs of transportation, official travel and any other expenditures that can be reduced or are avoidable."

He noted that the government was in a critical financial condition exacerbated by an extremely worrisome debt burden.

The government had been unable to carry its own recurrent budget costs, the bulk of which were for salaries, as the government remained the biggest employer in Tonga.

In the current budget for 2014/15 the Government of Tonga was grateful to receive budgetary support from aid donors.

But to live within its means would require the government to make the difficult choices that would allow the civil service "to become the driver of the solution to restoring our national pride in our own ability to operate recurrent budgets which are financed solely through domestic funds."

Upcoming budget

They would propose an upcoming recurrent budget for 2015/16 to the Legislative Assembly that reflected the reality of the country’s fiscal situation.

"The governance budget which involves the functions of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet will be the first to be scrutinized," he said.

This would be followed by a review of performance of the civil service and the cost of the services provided by each ministry.

Cultural change

‘Akilisi said that we would be able to measure success when we saw a cultural change in the civil service, saying it currently had a reputation that "is appalling, representing waywardness, lack of moral courage to withstand the pressures and temptations of the calling to public service."

However, he was also encouraged to find this week that "the systems and structures which are currently in place, do in fact promote an efficient bureaucracy."

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