ALOFI, Niue (Pacnews, July 31) - Reports from Niue say Finance Minister Toke Talagi’s budget speech last week indicated the island state’s over reliance on aid from New Zealand.

"Niue News" reports that Niue "is becoming increasingly dependent on New Zealand as the country struggles to retain its resident population and keep the life rafts afloat under a faltering economy."

Talagi’s 2003/2004 budget, with a NZ$1.7 million ($1 million) deficit, highlighted the need for continuing dependency accentuated by previous years of government inefficiency and a string of budget blowouts.

Presenting his second budget to the Assembly, Talagi said he was counting on a wider spread of sustainable revenue earning projects such as fishing, vanilla production and tourism to bolster the NZ$17.8 million ($10.475 million) budget which contained a 3 percent across the board cost of living allowance for government employees, politicians and pensioners.

He promised greater financial support for tourism marketing, village beautification, sporting bodies and encouraging young farmers to grow commercial crops such as taro and vanilla. Talagi added that there would be money available to set up a trust fund, replace capital assets and upgrading roads and government buildings.

The budget received popular support in the House with the only major criticism coming from opposition MP Terry Coe who claimed there was nothing for the private sector and no clear indications of government departments being required to accomplish specific project targets.

He said "only 43 percent of last fiscal year’s project objectives were completed by government departments because of the lack of available funds."

Specifically Coe questioned NZ$50,000 ($29,425) allocated for the Commission of Inquiry into e-mail and Internet services which have already received NZ$100,000 ($58,850) from state funds.

The commission, headed by a New Zealand district court judge, was formed in 2001. It sat in Niue last year and has yet to report on its findings. Absent during this year’s budget delivery were senior MP’s former Premier Sani Lakatani and O’Love Jacobsen who are both residents of Auckland.

July 31, 2003

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