Australian claims islands ‘drowning’ in Chinese debt, but Tonga grateful says gov’t

‘Oku fakamālō ‘a Tonga he tokoni fakapa’anga kuo ne ma’u mei Siaina, ko e fakamatala ia mei he ‘Ōfisi ‘o e Palēmia. Ko e tokoni fakatekinikale mo faka’ekonōmika ‘a Siaina kuo hoko ko e konga mahu’inga he ngaahi langa fakafakalakalaka fakafonua ‘a e pule’anga fakatu’i. Ko e tali ‘eni ‘a e pule’anga ‘o fakafepaki’i ha fakamatala ne hā he pepa The Australian ‘i Sanuali ‘aho 29 ‘o ulu’itohi ko e – ‘Melemo e Ngaahi Fonua Pasifiki he Mo’ua ki Siaina’ ‘Oku hulu pea ope e hounga’ia ‘a e pule’anga he ngaahi tokoni ‘oku fakafou mei Siaina mo ‘Aositelēlia ‘i he no pe ko e tokoni ‘ofa, ko e fakamatala ia mei he ‘Ōfisi ‘o e Palēmia.

0
St George Palace in Nuku'aofa. Photo/Kaniva Tonga

Tonga was grateful for financial aid it had received from China, the Prime Minister’s office said today.

It said Chinese technical and economic assistance had played an important part in the kingdom’s national development.

The government was responding to an article in The Australian on January 29 entitled ‘Pacific nations drowning in Chinese debt.’

“The Government of Tonga is exceedingly grateful and very appreciative of all aid funds conceded either by loan or grant to Tonga by the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Australia,” the Prime Minister’s office said.

“In the wake of the riots in 2006, the Government of Tonga had no choice but to welcome the assistance offered promptly by the People’s Republic of China with the rebuilding of the Nuku’alofa Central Business District in our road to recovery.

“The Kingdom of Tonga continues to value deeply and mutually its friendly and strong ties and cordial relations with both the Government of Australia and the Government of the People’s Republic of China.”

As Kaniva News reported last month, Australian International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells claimed that China was funding “roads to nowhere” and “useless buildings.”

Tonga’s Minister of Justice Hon. Sione Fa’otusia  described the claims as “sad.”

Hon. Fa’otusia  said China was filling the gap left by Australia which was not helping the countries of the Pacific.

In 2013, when he was opposition leader, Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva told an Auckland audience that Tonga was lost to China.

“Our hands and feet have already been tied,” he said at the time.

He said China might agree to write off the loan, but at the cost of having a naval base in Tonga.

The Australian report

According to the latest report in the Australian newspaper, Tonga owes China $143.7m.

Journalist Anthony Klan reported that in 2008 and 2010, Tonga took out two loans from the Export-Import Bank of China, totalling $311m.

The first tranche of $146m was to fund the rebuilding of the centre of Nuku’alofa the 2006 riots. The second loan was supposed to be spent on road building and rehabilitation.

However,  Klan claimed much of the second loan was spent on constructing Vuna wharf and renovating the Royal Palace.

“In 2013, when the repayments on the first loan became due after a five-year grace period expired, Tonga called on China to convert the loans to “grants” but those requests were rejected,” Klan wrote.

“After intervention by the International Monetary Fund, China agreed to postpone payments for five years. But the term of the loans remained the same, meaning when principal and interest payments are required to be paid again  in 2018-2019  they will be even higher than in 2013.”

Klan said a representative of the Tongan Chamber of Commerce and Industry had described  the issue of debt to China as a “red hot topic.” He said the Tongan government had declined to comment.

Klan wrote that many business owners said local people felt “helpless” and held to ransom by China.

He said one man claimed the Chinese government was loading up the nation with unserviceable debt, while Chinese nationals were putting locals out of work.

The main points

  • Tonga was grateful for financial aid it had received from China, the Prime Minister’s office said today.
  • It said Chinese technical and economic assistance had played an important part in the kingdom’s national development.
  • The government was responding to an article in The Australian on January 29 entitled ‘Pacific nations drowning in Chinese debt.’
  • “The Government of Tonga is exceedingly grateful and very appreciative of all aid funds conceded either by loan or grant to Tonga by the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Australia,” the Prime Minister’s office said.

For more information  

Pacific nations drowning in Chinese debt.

Australian attacks on China “sad” says Tongan Minister of Justice

‘Akilisi Pohiva: Tonga is lost to China (2013)

Reports China won’t forgive huge Tongan debt (2015)

Comments / Tālanga

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments