Tonga announces ‘Covid-19’ stimulus package

Tonga’s government has announced an economic and social stimulus package worth $US25.5 million to help the country through the impacts of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

In making the announcement, the government pointed out the economy had suffered losses worth nearly $US15 million due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus.

The government said the package could change over the next three months depending on the course Covid-19 took in Tonga.

There were currently no confirmed cases in the country but the regional situation led to the government implementing a State of Emergency, a closure of the borders, restrictions on gatherings and a temporary lockdown, including a nightly curfew.

Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa said the new package had been established to aid vulnerable groups and people most affected by the current crisis.

The Ministry of Customs and Revenue Chief Executive Kelemete Vahe said every tax imposed on goods and services within Tonga would be deferred until 30 June, except for PAYEE.

Mr Vahe said goods imported to Tonga in order to revive the tourism sector as well as fisheries and agriculture would also be duty free until 30 June.

Around $US426,000 would be used to strengthen food stock, while the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture received around $US937,000 from the emergency package.

Over $US2 million had also been allocated to the Ministry of Health, while the Ministry of Education had been given $US1.6 million.

The Reserve Bank put over $US2 million towards Tonga Development Bank soft loans for micro businesses and other groups.

The government also allocated over $US21,000 to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to assist community patrol officers and other community related services.

Retirees will receive over $US42 each along with their monthly allowance for March and April.

Meanwhile, people with disabilities will be offered over $US85 each alongside their allowances, from next week.

Employees who had been laid off from work due to the Covid-19 situation were eligible to receive an allowance which would also be made available next week.

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