Tongan Lord: Tonga Can Afford To Host 2019 Pacific Games

Fundamental question was what was the basis of government withdrawal to host the games when the budget will not be released until May 25

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga May 21, 2017) – “We have the money let's get on with the games!” Lord Feleti Sevele told Tongan media on Friday, 19 May. The former Prime Minister wants to turn around a decision announced by the Tonga government to cancel hosting of the games

Lord Sevele the Chairman and the CEO of the 2019 Pacific Games Organising Committee and Lord Vaea, the Acting President of the Tonga Amateur Sports Association and National Olympic Committee TASANOC called a press conference to respond to the announcement by Tonga's Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva last week that he was withdrawing the Tonga Government support for Tonga to host the 2019 Pacific Games. The Prime Minister's decision was apprently based on warnings in an International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2013 report on Tonga.

But Lord Sevele however pointed out that the IMF 2013-2014 report was three years old.

He said Cabinet Ministers the day before the decision to cancel Tonga's hosting, were seeking the support of TASANOC  and the Organising Committee to support the move by the Prime Minister.

Lord Sevele pointed out two important messages in the IMF Report:

  • If the Tonga government decides to take  ‘Non Debt Financing’. If you can manage that then go ahead.
  • Be aware of possible Cost Over-run; when expenses exceed the budget.

At a meeting on 19 October 2012 the General Assembly of Pacific Games Council approved for Tonga to host the 2019 Pacific Games.

Tonga enacted the Pacific Games Organization Act 2013 and Lord Feleti Sevele became the Chairman and the CEO of the 2019 Pacific Games Organising Committee.

The two other bodies that were formed to oversee the preparation for Tonga to host the 2019 games were a Government Facilities Committee and the Audit and Governance Authority.

 Lord Sevele said that their involvement in the building of sporting facilities for the 2019 Games, came after they were approached by the former Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano “to help and carry out the work which was the responsibility of the Facility Committee, and for us to prepare Master Plans and a budget. “We completed that task in December 2015.”

He said that the reconstruction of Teufaiva Stadium was to start at the beginning of 2016. It was to be completed by March 2017, in time for the International Rugby Test between Wales and the ‘Ikale Tahi, scheduled for June 2017.

"However, construction work on sporting facilities came to a halt when the Prime Minister [Pohiva] moved in and took over as the chairman of our Working Group from the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni and all construction work come to a stop."

Lord Sevele said that five weeks ago they met the Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva and presented their budget, including their Operational Expenditure from 1 July 2017 to 30 Sept 2019.

During the same meeting they asked the PM for the government budget for the construction of facilities for the Games and the answer was “not ready.”

Budget expected May 25

The latest on the government budget from the Ministry of Infrastructure is that it will be completed by May 25.

"So that was the fundamental question that was asked – what was the basis of government withdrawal to host the game, when they have not got a budget?"

Figures from estimated costs of 2019 Pacific Games Venues and Facilities that Lord Sevele and Lord Vaea presented at the press conference included:

  • $104.3 million pa’anga for venue facilities plus 15% contingency.
  • $105 million pa’anga total non government funding, i.e. $63m from aid donors, $55m from China, $5m from Australia and $3 from New Zealand. Plus $40m from FX Levy and Departure Tax, and $2.08m from grant and others.
  • $46.1 million for Games delivery and Operations.
  • $34.1 million estimated non government income 
  • $12 million government funding 

Lord Sevele believed that the government's $12 million contribution was not a burden and that it would be good for government to make a contribution.

Both Lord Sevele and Lord Vaea will attend a meeting this week with the Pacific Games Council in Brisbane, Australia to decide on how the Tonga Government, TASANOC and the Pacific Game Organising Committee can proceed forward and host the 2019 Pacific Games.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
Copyright © 2017 Matangi Tonga. All Rights Reserved

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