The Cook Islands Herald

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (April 26) - The Prime Minister is reducing the Cook Islands to beggar status.

On yet another State junket to China, Dr. Woonton has admittedly gone cap in hand for more financial handouts. This begging bowl mentality of our political leaders is all up the shoot.

The Cook Islands will be forever dependent on others and tied to whatever demands get placed on the country because of so-called ‘goodwill’ aid from larger countries, like the People’s Republic of China. It’s time we made it clear to these donors: ‘Don’t give us any more handouts’.

Years ago, during the economic reforms of the mid-1990s, the then Government of Sir Geoffrey Henry instituted the "Path to Recovery". It was a five-point plan to get the country out of the doldrums of economic collapse. It was tough but it gave the country purpose and focus. It had to be done whether we liked it or not. And to make sure it did get done, we paid Lloyd Powell and a whole host of consultants to do it.

A key part of the five point plan was to wean the country off overseas aid by 2005. That time is almost upon us but the Cook Islands is no closer to the goal than it was back in 1995 – almost ten years ago.

Our annual aid appropriation has been hovering around the $10 million mark for the past few years and now that we have China on board, it seems like Government wants to keep the begging bowl hanging out there.

China has paid for the new courthouse – a $4 million project, which the Government could have taken on board itself. In fact, Government has consistently ignored the window of opportunity it has each year to fund its own major development project – and in the process make this country proud of at least one achievement under its own steam.

China is now going to hand out $3 million for the new police station. Remember these were the same people that handed over six brand new police motorbikes back in 1997. What happened to those? The Police let them clap out.

Dr. Woonton is now going begging for another handout for the country to host the South Pacific Mini Games in 2009. This is bad. It’s beyond ridiculous to think that we can’t even do this without a handout from China.

If we had had real visionaries in Parliament since 1995, this country would have been well on the way to reaching that key goal in the "Path to Recovery".

All we have witnessed is an expanding spending programme driven by the climbing tax revenues. But it soon became abundantly clear (especially to those in the Finance Ministry) that the expansionary fiscal policy of recent years needed to be halted. The country simply cannot afford to slip back into that old mindset of ‘make more money, spend more money’.

This Government under Dr. Woonton is just being wasteful and narrow-minded in focusing on the expanding operations of Government departments instead of looking ahead at how we should be investing in our own future – without the begging bowl.

If the Cook Islands continues to reach out to China and other donors, the Prime Minister will only succeed in leaving this country in a permanent state of dependency and exposing us to even bigger demands further down the track.

April 28, 2004

The Cook Islands Herald: http://www.ciherald.co.ck/


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