The Ministry of Trade and Economic Development (MTED), Ministry of Finance & Customs
reached out to the Chamber of Commerce to seek their views and advice on what the imminent and urgent needs are for the Private Sector business community.
Following the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano, the business community met with Tonga Chamber of Commerce and representatives from government at Ancient Tonga on the 27th of January 2022. Discussions covered the immediate short-term recovery and relief initiatives and the government looking at the longer-term recovery plans. Short term immediate relief could include but not limited to financial assistance, waiver of customs duties and charges on specific goods. Government is hoping that such financial assistance handouts to businesses can happen within the first half of 2022.
MTED, in discussion with TCCI, are considering and committed to consider:
1. Additional transactional costs, unbudgeted costs resulting from the volcano eruption experienced by businesses e.g., Cleaning/water blasting expenses exceeding in some cases to $26,000 for a domestic dwelling. There is acknowledgement that all of Tonga experienced volcanic ash fall out however, there is the point in order for businesses to resume offering services to the public need to cover costs of cleaning and renovating etc
2. Waiver of license fees for new businesses and renewal of license fees for a period of up to a year. Request to consider deferring such specific businesses as whale watching, liquor licensing fees
3. Subsidies and where possible exemptions on duties and custom charges for personal effective and emergency relief supplies sent from families abroad
4. Consideration of loan restructure by banks, whether it be subsidising interest or extending loan periods.
1. When distributing financial assistance to businesses, there is a need for transparency and due diligence to be carried out; calculation basis that is fair and equitable
2. Timeliness of government assistance
3. Request that government utilizes all services available equitably i.e., Media services, freighting services; government use only specific services and there is the request that they look to all services to enable them to continue being in business
4. Loan restructuring: extension of loan period is not a solution but would like consideration of subsidization of interests
5. Loss of income/revenue especially retailers; that government considers subsidizing duty and custom charges for importation of assistance to be for personal only and not to be treated as commercial products
6. Subsidy of utilities and communication service providers; TCC as a public enterprise.
7. Consideration of Customs assistance to importers whose goods were damaged at the wharf, subsidy on duties and customs charges
8. Consideration for some business preferring some form of tax credit/benefit versus financial assistance
1. Government’ s willingness to work with Chamber of Commerce seeking a partnering relationship
2. Signed MOU between MTED and Chamber together with financial assistance granted
3. Ongoing collaboration with government which includes public private sector dialogue, economic forum and other platforms for reaching out to the business community