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AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (November 27 2001 – Cook Islands News)---The Cook Islands could be heading for a record trade deficit this calendar year.

The difference between imports and exports is set to hit the NZ$ 100 million mark (US$ 41,700,000) in 2001.

Recently published statistics from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management reveal that although the value of exports leaving the country is increasing, more and more foreign goods are flooding in.

Although a figure in excess of NZ$ 100 million (US$ 41,700,000) mark would highlight the country’s inability to support itself and the dependence on foreign goods, it also shows that there is money to be spent here.

The large figure is also partly because of an increase in imports of expensive luxury goods, like cars and electrical equipment.

In the first three-quarters of 2001 the total value of goods brought into the country was NZ$ 83 million (US$ 34,611,000).

That is more than the figure for the entire year in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.

So far this year the country has exported goods worth NZ$ 11.7 million (US$ 4,878,900).

The current balance of trade shows a trade deficit of NZ $ 71.2 million (US$ 29,690,400).

With Christmas approaching the gap between imports and exports is expected to widen still further, and that could push the deficit to over NZ $100 million (US$ 41,700,000).

Last year the deficit for the last quarter of the year was NZ$ 33 million (US$ 13,761,000), a similar figure this time would take the balance into nine figures.

"In a way it is a positive even though the balance of trade seems to be going up," a Statistics spokesperson said.

"It may reach NZ$ 100 million (US$ 41,700,000) but we are not sure.

"Economically it means that there is a lot of money circulating in the country. I think it shows that the economy is booming and that people have money to buy things.

"Things like vehicles make a lot of difference. Maybe people are feeling richer compared to last year or 1999."

She said imports were often essentials and few goods that were imported were in competition with locally produced products.

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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