King Of Tonga Opens Parliamentary Session; Stresses Urgent Need To Address Health Issues

Without healthy population there is no future: King Tupou VI

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, June 2, 2016) – The most serious challenge confronting the Tongan society today is the physical health of our people, HM King Tupou VI said, when he opened the 2016-17 session of parliament this morning, 2 June.

King Tupou VI warned that if Tongans do not solve their serious health problems “in a logical measured and holistic way, we will not have a future for our children or their children.”

“The challenge of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is a growing and serious risk to our society.”

He said that it is not just a matter of committing more funding to counter Non-Communicable Diseases, as there will come a time when we will be robbing our future to pay for our past mistakes.

“In other words, we may be jeopardizing money that could have been better spent on our children’s education, on our aging and largely preventable health problems.”

NCDs in Tonga accounted for an estimated 74% of all mortality in 2008, according to Commonwealth Health Online. The most prevalent NCDs in Tonga are cardiovascular diseases, which accounted for 38% of total deaths across all age groups in 2008. Cancers, non-communicable variants of respiratory diseases and diabetes contributed nine per cent, seven per cent and five per cent to total mortality respectively in 2008.

King Tupou VI suggested that a solution “must be partly avoidance of the NCDs problem through education of the younger generation and prevention.

“Part of the solution may be the extension of a National Retirement Fund for all citizens. Then individuals have a choice in healthcare to follow the guidelines of healthy living or pay for their vices.”

Education

The other two challenges which are facing Tonga at the moment, the King stressed, are the status of education for our children and the state of our economy.

He reminded Tongans that at the turn of the last century Tonga was the envy of the Pacific in the field of Education, but we have slipped behind.

He urged government not to forget the aims of Tonga’s education system.

“We require international standards of education, recognized internationally.

“It should be the responsibility of Government to ensure that those educated in accordance with the Constitution are employable internationally. We should not limit our children’s employability to only the South Pacific.

“With 2,000 odd school leavers annually, we must seriously consider their gainful employment.”

Economic stimulation

King Tupou VI stressed that Government must constantly engage with all stake holders in the economy to encourage growth and “not unilaterally change operating conditions, that may stifle growth”.

“To have enough money for all the challenges ahead, it is imperative that we grow the economy.”

“Stimulation of the economy through national projects is imperative. For example, development of a slipway and shipping works to complement our current port facilities, will support local and overseas fishing fleets.”

“With the expansion of the airport, wider-bodied jets can play a crucial export role. Government together with other stakeholders should discuss and take competitive advantage of these advances.”

King Tupou VI said that one of the best things we can do for our economy as well as physical health is to “minimize our imports and maximize exports.

“At the same time careful consideration must be given to protecting our own infant industries.

“We have let our fisheries and agricultural exports stagnate. We should encourage their revival,” said the king.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
Copyright © 2016 Matangi Tonga. All Rights Reserved

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