HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 446 : 11 February 2009

Economic Summits – Talking the Talk or Walking the Talk!

While those responsible for facilitating and co-ordinating the 2 recent summits held in Rarotonga are applauding their initiatives, there still remains many unanswered questions as to how government intends to address emerging issues surrounding an inevitable economic crisis or were they just simply a waste of time?
Unfortunately, the platform that appears to have been the overarching factor for stimulating potential solutions was the National Sustainable Development Plan NSDP as this was the focus and driving force behind some of the solutions submitted to the 2 summits.
Somehow, government appears to have lost its focus and the drivel regurgitated by government advisers is clear evidence that government doesn’t know where it is heading. Sadly, the PM, DPM and Cabinet seem to be burying their heads in the sand because even after 2 summits, there is still no clear direction from government as to what it is going to do.
There is a certain degree of dependence from government towards the private sector and similarly from the private sector towards government but collectively, they seem to have missed the boat altogether.
Ideally, government must step up to the mark and start setting directions as to where it will be heading in the next 12 months or so. Forget the recession, it’s too late, it’s already here! But what is government and its band of merry advisers and officials going to do about it to avert an even bigger crisis occurring.
Has the government even looked at its own performance and suggested cautionary approaches to assist during the lean times or is it precariously protecting its own backside by not mentioning cuts to its own operating budgets! Sadly, there has been no mention of it at all during either of the 2 summits and even if it was, there appears little debate or mention of it in the media.
In 1995/96, the CIP government initiated what it called a 5 Point Plan which set the direction for economic recovery for this country during the bad times. 3 examples from memory included debt reduction, putting money into reserves for a rainy day and for government not to compete with the private sector on development initiatives or something similar along those lines.
That was an excellent strategy because government set the direction it wanted to achieve, both major political parties including the private sector bought into it and the people of this nation knew what to expect although some disagreed and left permanently. Nevertheless, setting this type of direction shows courage, optimism and confidence that government is committed to addressing these critical issues and is prepared to make the hard decisions. More importantly, there was a “buy in” by everyone because this crisis affected everyone, not just government or the private sector alone.
The lack of leadership and decision making by this government including the Opposition will not change therefore once again, the ordinary Joe Bloggs may have to come up with the solutions in order to help themselves.
Perhaps the guy in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office should also wake up and take some responsibility to recommend to government the following suggestions;
• Any new policy initiative effective as of 1 March 2009 should be undertaken on a “bi-partisan approach’ whereas both political parties shall convene round table discussions to address all new economic activities that affect the people of the Cook Islands
• A moratorium imposed on all external travel for ALL government officials (including MP’s and Ministers) for up to 6 months during these uncertain times unless considered urgent or in the best interests of the nation as aligned to any economic activity that will improve the status or add value to government economic activities. Exceptions to this would be MFEM related activities that are linked to the economic recession and Foreign Affairs.
• That a moratorium be imposed on all major development works for up to 12 months that have not been appropriated in this current or incoming fiscal period. This will allow for any buffer against international economic downturns which could adversely affect the Cook Islands
• That all government Ministries identify within their existing budgets initial savings of 5% prior to 30 June 2009 and up to 10% by end October 2009. If potential savings are not realized, then mandatory budget reductions will be introduced when necessary.
• That the use of government vehicles be restricted in order to implement fuel efficiency and cost savings. Car pooling on a sector basis may be a way to minimize costs and overuse during these cautious times
• That government call all the commercial banks in to discuss a “vested interest approach” to all borrowers and potential borrowers should the economic situation deteriorate. It is important that there are “no surprises” sprung on government by the banking sector in the event of global market downturns
• This crisis affects everyone in the Cook Islands therefore it is important government and the Opposition alike Depoliticize their commitment to work together rather than score political points.
So, how difficult was that? At least this way, government is showing leadership and demonstrating its willingness and commitment to doing what is right. Finally, perhaps those who attended the economic summits should also visit the primary schools each morning and observe how many children are going to school without lunches and in some cases, not had any breakfast. It’s time to stop the talk and walk the talk!

Herald Issue 439 11 February
- ‘I wanted to finish 3 years ago’ - Sam Pera Jnr?
- Government hangs Ruaau out to dry
- Flies reach epidemic level in Arorangi
- Economic Summits – Talking the Talk or Walking the Talk
- Parliament: Deregistration, Fuel farm and OIA amendment

Herald Issue 445 04 February
- The third political party: Why?
- Christmas message
- New Party will offer decisive leadership
- 2008 Kokonati Oscars of the year !
- Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

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