The Prime Minister Hon. Hu’akavameiliku announced a total of TOP$22 million (Tongan Pa’anga) in financial assistance to businesses, informal sectors, and members of the public in response to the current COVID-19 lockdowns.
Hon Hu’akavameiliku said Cabinet approved the allocations at its meeting Tuesday, March 30th, 2022, and the funds will be disbursed through the different ministries, departments and constituency offices around the country.
Cabinet approved an allocation of $1.5 million pa’anga for education which includes payment of fees for students in all secondary schools around the country for term one and all primary school level outside of the government, mostly operated by the church education system or privately.
The assistance is separate from the $700 grant per student that government allocates to schools each academic year. “This assistance will also help non-government education systems meet the salary cost of their teachers whilst most of the schools are under lockdown orders.
The Prime Minister also announced that $1 million was approved to support TOP$500 assistance for the purchase of laptops for each Form 6 and Form 7 students who do not have access to laptops to facilitate the home school programs.
The Minister of Finance, Hon Tatafu Moeaki confirmed that Government will also be paying out an extra $200 for elderlies and special needs through the National Retirement Fund, with the first $100 to be paid out in early April and the second $100 in early June, which will be on top of the normal allowances they are receiving.
This will total to an approved amount of $1.3 million.
Constituency Offices have also been allocated a second round of assistance totaling $0.4 million where the constituency offices were considered best placed to support those more vulnerable in the
Government will subsidize 6.9 seniti proposed increase from April to June for all consumers, including businesses, and will also expand coverage of the 11 seniti government lifeline tariff to increase from the previous limit of up to 100Kilowatts (KWs) users to 150 KWs consumers, with an allocated budget of $1.7 million.
That is additional to the $100 paid two months ago for registered power users.
Government has also allocated over $2 million to the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development to assist businesses with Occupational Health Safety (OHS standards). Another $2.2 million was also approved to assist those formal employees in the private sector who were affected by the lockdown and businesses that had difficulties in providing normal weekly pay for their staff.
There is an allocation for $0.5 million for the informal sector which will be distributed through the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Fisheries and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
Government has allocated $11.5 million to be given out in targeted sectors (agriculture, fisheries, tourism, retail and wholesale, large businesses) as soft loan at an interest rate of one percent (1%) over a five-year period to support businesses recovery.
That assistance will be given through the Tonga Development Bank.
Government had also approved that all tax filing due at the end of March 2022 will be further extended to 30 May, 2022 to provide financial space for all businesses.
This move will cost a $6 million decrease in budgeted revenue for the current financial year.
The government has also exempted the equivalent of around $14 million in tax exemptions to support the inflow of personal food items, building materials and recovery imports.
The Minister of Health, Hon Dr Saia Piukala said daily COVID-19 cases have averaged around 200 plus in the last four days, with Health staff on their daily surveillance work in Tongatapu, Vava’u and those in Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ) in Ha’apai.
Members of the public who use the different medical clinics at Vaiola Hospital here on Tongatapu and Prince Ngu Hospital in Vava’u will be able to attend these clinics in the new week, following guidelines set up by the Ministry.
Vaccination for children from 5 year to 11-year-old should be arriving from New Zealand by the second week of April before vaccination for children in this age group is rolled out.
There were 279 new cases recorded on March 30, with 3,249 active cases and 3,160 recoveries.
Source: Media Release from the Prime Minister’s Office