21 Jun 2006

Tonga Government close to finalising sale of its bank stake

8:04 pm on 21 June 2006

A Tongan government official says they are now starting to firm up a plan to sell their 40 percent stake in the Westpac Bank of Tonga.

The possible bank sale is part of a supplementary budget aimed at raising money to pay for hundreds of public servant redundancies.

The sale plan has been criticised by the People's Representatives who say the government should first sell some of the ministerial and public servants homes they provide on Tongatapu.

But the secretary for finance, Aisake Eke, says the government wants the money quickly to ensure the redundancies can be completed this financial year.

He says they hope to soon conclude a sale with Westpac which already owns 60 percent of the Bank.

"We are almost, I think, in a position to - I mean we just received some information from them on their expression of interest and we are working on it now just to firm up what will be the final settlement. But I think we have some focus on it now."