Samoa keen to share experiences with Tonga

[Nuku’alofa, Tonga] The Samoan member of the Tonga Peer Review team says he is keen to take back with him lessons from Tonga, such as their experiences in the agriculture industry.

Mr Oscar Malielegaoi, Assistant CEO Budget of Samoa’s Ministry of Finance, was in Nuku’alofa last week as part of a Peer Review of development coordination in the Kingdom of Tonga.

Other members of the Tonga Peer Review team were Mr Colin Tavi, Manager of Vanuatu’s Monitoring and Evaluation Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister and Mr Garry Wiseman, Manager of the UNDP Pacific Centre in Fiji. The Peer Review team was supported by a team from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

“I see a lot of developments here in Tonga,” said Mr Malielegaoi. “In agriculture for instance, there seems to be a drive from the private sector collaborating with the Government. That’s what I would like to take back with me to Samoa to get our Ministry of Agriculture look into ways of assisting our agriculture sector, learning from Tonga’s experience.”

Mr Malielegaoi added that he was very impressed with some of the reforms he had witnessed in Tonga during the Peer Review process.

“I know that in 2006 Tonga went through some tough times, but they have come a long way.”

Tonga is less than two years into profound constitutional electoral changes that extended democratic rule.

“The Government is seeking to be responsive to people’s needs while maintaining fiscal responsibility in difficult times,” said Mr Malielegaoi. “Meeting with the Prime Minister of Tonga, Lord Tu’ivakano, was an excellent experience to hear from the Prime Minister himself who is driving these reforms.”

Mr Malielegaoi added that Samoa was facing some of the same challenges as Tonga in areas of planning, budgeting and development coordination.

“We have very good planning, but we have very limited resources. This Peer Review exercise is very important for us to assist our colleagues here in Tonga to move things forward from another perspective.”

Mr Malielegaoi highlighted that not very long ago Samoa undertook a number of reforms that greatly assisted in placing them as one of the top economies in the region.

“For Tonga to move ahead with their reforms, moving from output-based budgeting to outcomes-based budgeting is the way to go, as we did in Samoa some years back. I think that building on our relationship with not only our donors, but also members of the community, we’ll be in a better position to overcome some of our shared challenges.”

Mr Malielegaoi said he had noticed challenges in Tonga between their budgeting and planning processes.

“For Samoa to move ahead when we began our reforms, we knew we had to make a significant change in our planning and budgeting systems,” he said.

“So now our budget is closely linked with our planning. That one of the things I would like to see happen in Tonga in the next few years, and I believe they are moving in this direction.”

Added Mr Malielegaoi: “Peer Reviews are very important for Samoa, given that we’re in the next group of countries taking up this exercise next year. This has been a good opportunity for officials in the region to share their ideas in the spirit of collaboration.”

The purpose of the Peer Review process is for peers from across the region to learn from each other, to assist countries to improve the planning, budgeting and delivery of development programmes. This would consequently improving development outcomes and accelerating the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Peer Reviews are an initiative under the 2009 Cairns Compact for Strengthening Development Coordination (Forum Compact), which is a commitment by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to support the implementation of Pacific Plan priorities, providing the principles and processes for coordinated delivery.

Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting at their annual summit this week in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, will discuss progress of the Forum Compact and Peer Reviews.

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For further information please contact Mue Bentley Fisher at the Forum Secretariat via mueb@forumsec.org.fj or +679 9998677.