7 Nov 2006

Tongan PM's spokesman rejects calls for land reform

2:05 pm on 7 November 2006

A spokesman for the Tongan prime minister has rejected calls by an Australian think tank for reform of the kingdom's land tenure system.

In a report entitled 'Time for a change in Tonga', the conservative think tank the Centre for Independent Studies, identifies ownership of land by nobles and short-term leases as impediments to foreign investment in the Tongan tourism industry.

But Lopeti Senituli, an adviser to the prime minster of Tonga, Dr Feleti Sevele, says that while promoting development of the tourism sector is a priority, land reform is not on the agenda.

"We are well under way with economic and political reform. As to the question of reforming our land tenure system, there is no way that we are going to reform our land tenure systems. We believe that our land tenure system is probably the best in the Pacific."

Lopeti Senituli says the report is outdated since the government is already streamlining regulation and improving the taxation system to promote investment in tourism.