NO PLANS TO STOP NEW ZEALAND-COOK ISLANDS BILATERAL AID

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By Moana Moeka'a

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (August 28, 1999 – Cook Islands News)---There are certainly no plans to stop bilateral aid from New Zealand to the Cooks -- despite talks earlier in the decade about gradually phasing out aid in the new millennium.

New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, Rob Moore-Jones, says it is his understanding that the Cook Islands government would like to reduce its dependency on overseas aid but it is certainly not the policy of his government to curtail aid to the Cooks.

"I don't think there are any plans by New Zealand to stop bilateral aid. But of course if there is a desire to reduce the economic dependency from overseas in the form of aid then we'd be only too happy to use the taxpayers' money somewhere else. But it's not a policy or an approach of the New Zealand government."

Moore-Jones comments were supported by New Zealand Official Development Assistance (NZODA) Deputy Director, Development Program (Pacific), Caroline McDonald, at a media conference yesterday, announcing that country's bilateral aid package to the Cooks.

McDonald says the Pacific is a priority area for New Zealand, which is committed to the region as a whole, and that the aid program to the Cooks forms a part of the special relationship between the two countries.

REVIEW

A review of both the health and education sector, a strategic study to identify future projects, as well as the launch of an Outer Island Development fund are new areas announced at Te Atukura yesterday.

However, education and human resource development, public sector reform, private sector support and the Manihiki Island rehabilitation program appear to be the big winners in New Zealand's bilateral aid package to the Cook Islands.

New Zealand will provide just over NZ $ 6 million (US$ 3.11 million) in bilateral aid to the Cooks in the 12 months up to June 2000 - about the same which was provided in the last financial year. McDonald and Cook Islands Financial Secretary Kevin Carr signed documents relating to the aid talks which were conducted earlier this week. The record of those talks will be presented to both governments for their final approval.

EDUCATIONAL

Almost one-third of the aid will go towards providing educational opportunities, technical and apprentice training, as well as teacher education support and up-skilling. Funding will also be provided to train middle management personnel in government to study for a Diploma in Public Sector management.

Ongoing assistance with the country's economic reform, especially in the public sector, remains a key feature of the program and New Zealand will continue to assist the development of the private sector through the Small Business Enterprise Center and providing marketing support for the tourism industry.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands New Online.

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