Unitec and Tonga PM agree need for increased financial literacy

Improving financial literacy is a key outcome called for in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report on Tonga. The report is the findings of Tongan peoples’ perspectives on innovation and entrepreneurship. Tonga is the first pacific nation to participate in the GEM survey.

Prime Minister Dr. Feleti Sevele, in accepting the report from Dr. Leon Foure, Dean of the Faculty of Creative Industries and Business, UNITEC, Auckland, endorsed the call for financial literacy to be expanded in Tonga. He commended the work the banks have begun in targeting small businesses and other customers with financial literacy training opportunities. But he emphasised more can be done.

Financial literacy is also a position supported by members of the Unitec delegation who were in Tonga to present the report.

The release of this report is a key input into the voyage Tonga is travelling on. The GEM Pacific Team wants Pacific people to benefit from sustainable economic development.

The GEM Report was released on the 26 of July, 2010 in Nuku`alofa on the eve of the Prime Minister’s departure to the Pacific Island Forum in Vanuatu. The report is available at www.pmo.gov.to/tongastats.

“Government and non government organisations in Tonga should review the report, and see how they can assist implement the key recommendations” says Associate Professor Robert Davis, Head of Unitec GEM Pacific Team.

The GEM Pacific Team supports the current initiatives to foster entrepreneurship. These include the agreement between the New Zealand Aid Programme and the Tongan government to set up the Tongan Business Entrepreneurship Centre (TBEC).

Furthermore, the GEM Pacific Team recognises the Business Opportunity Support Scheme (BOSS), a programme also supported by the New Zealand Aid Programme. BOSS is a practical offering for the private sector of Tonga to explore the feasibility of growth businesses.

Unitec looks forward to exploring common interests with the Tongan government to expand the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector. Expanding the sector is a programme which the Tonga, New Zealand, and Australia Governments are committed to over the next 5 years.

The GEM Report has highlighted the importance of improving business education in schools. The findings should contribute to the current discussion by the government on the primary and secondary schools curriculum. It is hoped that business as a curriculum subject will be considered in the review says Associate Professor Robert Davis.

Unitec hopes to continue its work with the Kingdom of Tonga through a second implementation of the GEM research in 2012 in collaboration with the government.

Unitec currently has a relationship with the Tupou Tertiary Institute.

Associate Professor Robert Davis also said that “we hope that the GEM research will contribute to the discussion about innovation and entrepreneurship in the Pacific region as a whole.”

Malia Talakai from the GEM Team is also the Acting Head of the Unitec Pacific Centre. She says that “it was not surprising to find that Tonga has a very strong commitment to entrepreneurship and innovation. The government of Tonga should continue to develop an enabling environment for entrepreneurs.”

Associate Professor Robert Davis also said we “look forward to constructive conversations for taking forward these recommendations that the Unitec delegation has brought to Tonga.

Destinations Tonga, a joint venture of DecisionMaker Publications and Pasefika Solutions, played the entrepreneurial role in bringing the UNITEC Tonga event together. The BOSS scheme is supporting their feasibility study – and they hope they can in turn foster more tourism entrepreneurs to invest and trade in Tonga.

Find out more: Dr Robert Davis on +64 21 303 743 (rdavis@unitec.ac.nz).

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