UN Membership Aspirations For Cook Islands Raised In Parliament

Finance Minister notes challenges of being left out of many International bodies

By Rashneel Kumar

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, June 8, 2016) – The controversial subject of the Cook Islands becoming part of world organisations such as the United Nations came to the fore at the opening Parliamentary session of the year yesterday.

Finance Minister Mark Brown while reading the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility Bill 2016, highlighted the importance of the country’s partnership with agencies such as the UN and the World Bank.

The Cook Islands, which is part of the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance programme along with four other Pacific countries, has access to a quick injection of cash in the event of a natural disaster.

This is possible through a premium of $143,420 (US$100,000) paid by the government in 2014 to secure catastrophe risk insurance coverage which will provide an immediate payout of up to $4 million in case of major tropical cyclone hitting the major centres of Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

Brown said the country was fortunate to have access to such a programme despite not being a member of the facilitator, the World Bank.

He reiterated the absence of Cook Islands’ from international organisations such as the UN and the World Bank deprived the country of essential funding opportunities that would help build resilience in the event of natural disasters.

In supporting the bill, Prime Minister Henry Puna highlighted its importance and the government’s drive to partner with agencies such as the UN.

He said the Opposition harboured objections on Cook Islands’ entry into the UN without any legitimate grounds.

Puna also attempted to justify his and the other ministers’ overseas tours, adding “that’s how we are making progress; by going out to the world and meeting people.”

He said their frequent travelling was not aimed at seeking help for the Cook Islands, but in rendering support on issues that the world was united in fighting against.

New opposition leader Teina Bishop requested for an in-camera session for details on the bill.

Following the in-camera session, MPs from both government and opposition supported the bill before the parliament was adjourned until 1pm today.

PM Puna in his opening ministerial statement highlighted the progress made by the tourism industry in bolstering the country’s economy.

He said while political leaders would play their part; it would take everyone’s support to showcase the country effectively to the international market.

Puna, who is also the minister responsible for tourism, ensured the government’s support towards the industry and commended the Cook Islands Tourism on their drive to boost the local economy.

Puna said considering the countries and the budgets they were up against in the international market, the Cook Islands was doing well in terms of revenues generated from tourism.

Meanwhile the major agenda of this parliamentary sitting is the 2016-17 budget.

Brown is expected to present the proposed budget to the parliament for debate later this week.

The government has outlined some new initiatives for the upcoming financial year across various ministries including infrastructure, tourism and health.

Cook Islands News
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