Kiribati President Anote Tong has brushed aside criticism of his government’s decision to buy the Natoavatu Estate land in Fiji at a price of AU$9.3 million. Despite popular belief. Tong says the 5461 acres of freehold land won’t be used to relocate I-Kiribati who have lost their homes due to rising sea levels. Instead the property would transformed into vegetable and root crop farms as part of his government’s food security strategy. Tong said the purchase is an important investment for his country. “Property is a good investment we lost a lot of money on the stock market,” Tong said. “My own belief is that the real estate is a much more stable investment but beyond that we are facing the realities of the climate change challenge and food security is an issue. Hopefully that will be the purpose but it is an investment. You will ask me the question are you going to relocate your people? My answer today no we hadn’t planned to do that.”
Land deal criticised: In Kiribati however, Tong has been criticised for spending millions of dollars on the land deal. Former Kiribati President Teburoro Tito said the land purchase was a publicity stunt to show how serious Tong was about rising sea levels. Tito said apart from paying such an excessive amount for the acquisition, the government has no idea on what it is going to do with the property. “Well in politics sometimes we are not rational,” was Tong’s response to Tito’s accusations. “It’s important that we put aside our differences. It is important that we think ahead in a constructive manner and I think the analysis is not because who does it that it becomes good or bad.
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