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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (May 6, 2000 – Cook Islands Star)---The Cook Islands population has dropped from 20,000 in 1994 to just over 15,000 now.

Chamber President Don Beer said the key to maintaining the population is providing good health care and education.

Beer said health and education is key to a vibrant and prosperous economy.

Staff shortages are being experienced in the commercial sector, particularly in the hospitality industry, he said.

He noted that the free access Cook Islanders have to New Zealand and Australia for employment is affecting population growth in this country. Trends show that too many never come back home to settle permanently.

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

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