THE Tonga Cable Ltd (TCL) Board was given two options in efforts to extend the existing fibre optic cable to provide broadband communication services in Vava’u and Ha’apai.
The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank suggested that TCL Board makes a loan to fund such extension to the outer islands.
The second alternative is for TCL to sell its share to an investor to help generate money for the construction of the cable.
Up to TOP$13 million or more is needed for upgrading of the existing project to the two outer islands.
In 2013, the Tonga Cable Limited was responsible for the construction of the submarine fibre optic cable linking Tonga to Fiji via the Southern Cross Cable to create cheaper and faster internet connection in Tonga.
The Public Enterprise Minister, Hon. Poasi Tei reveals this in Parliament this morning when ‘Eua Noble Representative raises concern about reports that the Government intends to sell TCL’s to Digicel Tonga.
Lord Nuku questions the processes and procedures taken about the proposed sale. He also reckons Government should have tabled a report on the proposed sale to Parliament since Digicel is a foreign company.
Hon. Tei says Government is working closely with the World Bank and the Asian Development and they advised it’s best for TCL Board to sell its share to an investor than undertaking loan repayment at very high costs in the future.
For that reason, Cabinet believes for the best interest of Tonga and its people, it’s better to opt for the second option.
Government owns about 80 percent of TCL’s shares, while Tonga Communication Corporation (TCC) has 18.1 percent. According to Hon. Tei Government is considering giving the same amount of shares to Digicel Tonga.
He also confirms Cabinet’s only intention with the proposed project is to extend the fibre optic cable to Vava’u and Ha’apai.
“This is to enable the people of Ha’apai and Vava’u to have access to cheaper and faster internet connection,” explains the Minister for Public Enterprises.
Tei adds Government would have opted for option one that is for TCL Board to make a loan. But it cannot confirm at this stage whether the price of the internet service would be cheaper and affordable for the islanders.
Hon. Tei says one advantage of selling the TCL’s share to Digicel is to help lower the price of broadband communication services for the two islands.
Meanwhile the Niuas Noble Representative Lord Fusitu’a also had reservation about transferring of local profit from Digicel Tonga to Digicel Group since it is a subsidiary branch of this worldwide company.
He says according to the Public Enterprises Act, if the Government approves such sale, then shareholders can automatically become Board Members of TCL.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni refuted such claims, saying Digicel Tonga is a Tongan registered company.
On the other hand, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Fe’ao Vakata also denied claims by Lord Fusitu’a that shareholders can become TCL Board should a sale takes place.
“It is totally up to TCL Board and the Government to decide on who will become Board Members, so this claim is wrong,” explained Hon. Vakata.
Both the Public Enterprise Minister and the Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva also confirm that Government has yet to finalise the deal as talks is still underway between Cabinet and the concerned party.
According to Hon. Tei Cabinet is likely to finalise the deal on TPL in three weeks time.