Collaboration will power National Sustainable Development Plan
Cook Islands Herald
Thurs 06 Feb 2009
The State of the Economy loomed large at the Government sponsored conference at the Crown Beach Resort on Wednesday to discuss the National Sustainable Development Plan aka Te Kaveinga Nui. The meeting attracted a very large turnout including the NZ High Commissioner, the President of the Are Ariki, Air NZ, President of the Koutu Nui and more.
The conference is to provide an opportunity for our decisions makers and leaders – whether traditional, government, business or community leaders – to take a closer look at the existing plans to see if they are sufficient to address the issues that have arisen in the wake of the global financial meltdown.
At the conference DPM, Sir Terepai Maoate explained that Te Kaveinga Nui was launched in 2007 amidst doubts that the NDSP would be shelved and gather dust instead of being implemented. Happily, that has not happened and there has been much progress in achieving the Goals within the plan.
For instance, in the social sector, the DPM cited the lifting of the personal tax threshold to $10,000 with Government considering raising the threshold even more. Others are the recent rise in pensions ‘easing the burden on our senior citizens’; the removal of import levies; and as an incentive to returning Cook Islanders, VAT has been removed from their personal and household items.
Nevertheless, the DPM acknowledged that as the plans have been implemented, some of the strategies and targets may have been a ‘bit too ambitious’ in terms of capacity in personnel and finance. He explained that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss what is needed to meet the targets and perhaps be more realistic in planning for the future.
Superannuation board approves investment in Cook Islands
The DPM also made the surprise announcement that the Cook Islands Superannuation Board had approved the proposal to invest 20% of funds with our local banks.
Sir Terepai was enthusiastic about the decision made by the board which will ‘make more funds available in our banks’ that could be used for ‘building homes’ and ‘business investment’.
The Power of Collaboration
The theme is ‘The power of collaboration’ or ‘Mou i-te Mana o Te Taokotai’ with development economist, Vaine Wichman delivering her paper on the State of the Economy being first on the agenda, followed by a panel discussion led by Tou Ariki (House of Ariki), Mark Brown (Chamber) and Nikki Rattle (NGO).
Economic management will also be scrutinized ‘to ensure sound management of the Cook Islands economy’ as stated under goal 3 of the NSDP.
According to the background papers from OPM, the country is tracking reasonably well with MFEM succeeding ‘in maintaining the ratios of operation, debt [and] personnel put into place during the mid 1990s reform programme.
It will be interesting to see the reaction of the participants to that contention considering that Chamber of Commerce is on the record as being concerned about the ever increasing number of public servants. Figures differ with some saying they are approaching the numbers in 1995 just before the collapse of our economy leading to a mass layoffs in the public sector which in turn lead to an exodus of our people to New Zealand and Australia.
The background acknowledges the impact of the 5 cyclones on the economy and that GDP (gross domestic product) in 2006 at only 0.7% and 1.3% in 2007 and the rather optimistic projection that ‘growth will return to a long term growth rate of around 2%’.
The report also notes that ‘tourism by far remains the key driver of the economy’ at 50% of the GDP and the ‘challenges’ of this heavy reliance on the sector and that ‘it is anticipated that this will decline as a result of the global events’.
It is about looking at all the ‘key challenges’ and what needs to be done in each sector, for instance, in Social development or Economic development or Good governance or Infrastructure and Environmental sustainability. For instance, challenges facing Infrastructure are ‘what are our expectations in relation to water?’ or ‘what are our expectations in relation to waste management?’ or ‘how can we better manage our environment?’