21 Jun 2006

Ministerial houses in Tonga could be sold as redundancies strain finances

1:34 pm on 21 June 2006

The Tonga Government, which is bringing in a supplementary budget to finance the redundancies of hundreds of government workers, is considering selling off houses used by ministers and senior public servants.

The Government is hoping for a quick sale of its 40 percent stake in the Westpac Bank of Tonga to partLy finance the redundancies, but has been criticised by the People's Representatives for not selling the houses first.

The secretary for finance, Aisake Eke, says the Government is close to concluding a deal with Westpac to buy its bank stake, but he says the Ministry of Works has also been directed to assess the possibility of selling the houses.

"For this particular undertaking we need money straight away. The other option of selling the asset will take time - that will be a month or so to complete the process and then to get the money. The option we would like to have now is to have the money immediately."

Aisake Eke