PRESS STATEMENT - 21 August 2012, Nuku'alofa, Tonga - Tonga is pursuing an holistic approach to planning, budgeting and development coordination.

These were the words of the Tongan Prime Minister, Lord Tu'ivakano, in welcoming the team of Pacific experts in Nuku'alofa this week to carry out a Peer Review of development coordination.

Setting the scene for the Peer Review team's consultations over two weeks, Lord Tu'ivakano highlighted that Tonga has transitioned peacefully to electoral and democratic rule.

"This is a significant adjustment after 137 years of a different kind of governance," said the Prime Minister.

Tonga held its first elections under a reformed electoral and constitutional process on 25 November 2010, following constitutional reforms. The King remains the Head of State, but executive authority has transferred to a cabinet nominated by the Prime Minister.

"Although it is the first ever democratically elected government with limited experience in this new way of governance, the Government is determined to ensure better use of all development resources in Tonga to better benefit our people," said the Prime Minister.

"We are determined to pursue equitable development outcomes for Tongans in Nuku'alofa and those in the outer islands and remote areas."

"Tonga has been attempting structural and public sector reforms over the past decade," the Prime Minister added. "As you can see, we are dedicated to consistently moving ahead and implementing these reforms as evidenced by the public sector reforms currently underway."

The Prime Minister added that Tonga Energy Roadmap (TERM) has changed the development paradigm dramatically.

"The TERM places Government in the lead in managing multiple donors in a coherent manner around its national priorities in energy," said the Lord Tu'ivakano.

The TERM, adopted in 2010, is acknowledged as a good development practice across the region and globally.

Said the Prime Minister: "This new development paradigm, not just new for the Tonga and the Pacific, but for the world, involves a developing state working with all its development partners with direct interest in the sector, in this case energy. TERM sets out a single plan for all donors to align their assistance towards, rather than Government realigning its priorities based on development partner interests. "

The Prime Minister added there are considerations of replicating such an approach in other sectors such as tourism and agriculture.

The Peer Review team of Pacific experts in planning, budgeting and development will meet this week with a range of senior Government officials, private sector and civil society representatives and development partners as part of their in-country consultations.

At the invitation of the Government of Tonga, the Peer Review team includes Mr Colin Tavi, Manager of Vanuatu's Monitoring and Evaluation Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr Oscar Malielegaoi, Assistant CEO Budget of Samoa's Ministry of Finance and Mr Garry Wiseman, Manager of UNDP Pacific Centre, Fiji.

The purpose of the Peer Review process is to assist countries to improve the planning, budgeting and delivery of development programmes, 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.