21 Jun 2011

Tonga considers China offer to turn US$60 million loan into grant

8:06 pm on 21 June 2011

Tonga is considering an offer from China to change a huge loan into a grant.

China provided more than 60 million US dollars three years ago to help pay for the rebuild of the capital, Nuku'alofa, which had been destroyed by riots in 2006.

MPs are now trying to trim the budget as Tonga confronts a multi-million dollar deficit while also contemplating how to meet annual repayments of nearly six million US dollars from 2013.

The deputy prime minister Samiu Vaipulu, has told parliament China has offered to make the loan a grant.

Our correspondent Mateni Tapueluelu says many Tongans fear the trade-off will be easier access for Chinese wanting to settle in Tonga.

"That is not a very beautiful option given the fact we have had complaints from local Tongan communities being overcrowded by Chinese competitors, so either way it is not going to be an easy decision for Tonga."

Mateni Tapueluelu