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By Alex Sword

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (October 21, 1999 – Cook Islands News)---The Cabinet has approved the formation of a remuneration and cost of living committee, to look at wages and the cost of living in the Cook Islands.

The four pay committee members are Tupui Ariki Henry, a former Cabinet Minister who worked for the Higher Salaries Commission; Teariki Simiona who has experience in commerce; Tepaeru Opo, who has experience in education and the bakery business; and Rena Ariki Jonassen, who has experience in customs and audit work.

Prime Minister Dr. Joe Williams said the committee was formed yesterday, and he will be meeting with them today Friday to discuss the terms of reference, so they can start work immediately.

Dr. Williams say he hopes their work will be finished by the end of the year.


Cook Islands News reported on October 1 that, according to Dr. Williams, such a committee would look at what degree of disparity exists in people's wages and that "This committee will make the necessary recommendations to Cabinet for the correction of this disparity."

Prior to the Cook Islands Party taking over government in 1989, there was in place a system of wages and salaries review every six months.

Dr. Williams said, "This was suspended about ten years ago, and since that suspension the wage structure has fallen way behind the cost of living. If that had been continued, the basic pay packet would be about $250 a week."

He told CINews that the Cabinet was aware of the "peanuts" for wages that workers were getting, citing the basic hourly rate and how it could be wiped out in a two-minute phone call to family members in New Zealand.

Williams said the wage adjustment process would be gradual, "because you can't hike wages from something like five dollars to say $30, otherwise you're going to destroy the economy. So the committee will come up with recommendations of how we can bridge the disparity."

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

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