NEW COOK ISLANDS NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL PARTICIPATES IN GOVERNMENT

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BUDGETING PROCESS

RAROTONGA (June 22, 1997 - PIDP/CPIS) ---The new Cook Islands National Development Council --whose eleven members represent the private business sector, non-government organizations, and churches-- has recommended a reduced Cook Islands government operating budget for next year, after hearing detailed budget proposals from each government ministry head.

Deputy Prime Minister Inatio Akaruru, who chairs the Council, says the recommendations were assembled into a final report and submitted to Cabinet last week.

The Cooks anticipate operating revenues --in the next financial year, beginning July 1-- of just over NZ$ 40 million, a significant decline compared to several prior years.

Fixed items in the Cook Islands government's budget include expenditures of over $7 million in welfare payments and over $5 million in debt servicing.

Akaruru says the Council, in considering 34 expenditure items, recommended increases in only two, fiscal audits and Outer Islands development. The Council also recommended that still additional Cook Islands government functions be privatized.

The National Development Council's recommendations, together with the specific budgetary requests submitted by each Ministry, now are being considered by Cabinet. A final decision regarding next fiscal year's approved Cook Islands government budget is expected to be announced shortly.

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