By Pesi Fonua, Matangi Tonga Online
The Tonga Government is currently negotiating to sell some of its shares in Tonga Cable Ltd. to Digicel to cover a shortfall in the funding it needs to connect Vava’u and Ha'apai to the submarine fibre optic telecommunications cable network that has linked Tongatapu to the rest of the world since 2013.
Hon. Poasi Tei, the Minister for Public Enterprises told the Tongan Parliament yesterday, 22 February, that government, the major shareholder of the Tonga Cable Ltd is currently negotiating with Digital Tonga Ltd. to buy about 20% of its shares in the public enterprise Tonga Cable Ltd. It would have the same number of shares as currently held by TCC, excepting that the shares are now more expensive.
Back in May 2014, the then Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakano made a ground breaking ceremony in Neiafu, with a pledge that Vava’u was to be connected to the submarine fibre optic telecommunication cable network by the end of 2014. It would mean a faster internet service for Vava'u.
It is now 2016, and the new government of Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva needs another USD$5 million to connect Ha’apai and Vava’u to the submarine fibre optic cable network that has connected Tonga to the rest of the world for two years. This is in addition to the funds already allocated by the World Bank.
The extension of the network to Vava'u and Ha'apai is crucial in order to use up about $5 million pa'anga that was left over from the World Bank allocation to bring the submarine fibre cable to Tongatapu – or else the World Bank will take the funding surplus back.