HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 601: 01 February 2012

Development Partners Roundtable 2012
The Development Partners Roundtable took place on Tuesday at the Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa, following a networking event on the previous evening for all invited participants and observers. Participating in the Round Table talks were Cook Island government officials and development partners. The development partners included government representatives from countries in close cooperation with the Cook Islands such as China and New Zealand, but also included regional and international organisations like the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organisation. Representatives from various non-government organisations and community-based organisations, the Chamber of Commerce and the media were invited to observe the talks.
The first session, chaired by Mac Mokoroa, provided a look at the second National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP) 2011-2015. The first NSDP was reviewed to begin with and a picture of how the Cook Islands has progressed in relation to the plan, as well as a measure of that progress against Millennium Development Goals was relayed. This was followed by a summary of the eight priority areas for the National Goals 2011-2015, which provides the roadmap for development in the Cook Islands. Presentations were made by representatives of the key sectors of Education, Health, Tourism and Marine Resources. The presentations provided details of development plans for each of the sectors as well as noting key achievements to date. Gail Townsend spoke for education, Tupou Faireka for health, Carmel Beattie for tourism and Ben Ponia for Marine Resources. During the discussions that followed the Cook Islands was praised by many of the participants for the National Sustainable Development Plan 2011-2015, but it was also identified that the Cook Islands economic position, whilst stable, remained vulnerable due to a lack of diversification in the economy, noted as being “natural” for a small economy. Conservative fiscal policy and picking the “right” investments were suggested by Adrian Ruthenberg, the Regional Director of the Asian Development Bank, as being key to being ready for harder economic times.
The second session was dedicated to an update of the Public Sector from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) as well as an update on the Public Sector Functional Review by Priscilla Maruariki. Financial Secretary Richard Neves opened the session with an overview of the current economic situation in the Cook Islands, as well as highlighting the intended direction for the public financial management system within the Cook Islands. He commented that the Cook Islands public financial management systems were “broadly sound”, although there were “gaps” that the ministry was looking to address. Neves said they were aiming for the Cook Islands to be a “pillar” in the wider Pacific Island community as a leading example of public financial management, adding, “People can look to us as a best practice of how public finances should be managed.” Peter Tierney followed this address with a detailed overview of the Official Development Assistance Policy, currently being drafted. The main goal of the policy, according to Tierney, is to ensure “aid effectiveness in achieving national development outcomes”. The three objectives set out in the policy are strengthening governance and management of aid at all levels, strengthening partnerships and assuring accountability. He noted that the monitoring and evaluation of the NSDP was an area that needed work. Monitoring of the first NSDP was acknowledged as being “difficult” and Tierney noted that more regular reporting about progress made against the latest NSDP was needed going forward. The first draft of the policy will be presented to cabinet in March. Priscilla Maruariki gave a detailed overview of the Public Sector Functional Review for participants, saying that the purpose for this review was not to cut the size of the public service and that it was not a “financially driven exercise”. Minister Mark Brown added that the government would be taking a “very cautious and phased approach” in implementing the recommendations of the report. Additional comments made by the minister highlighted the emphasis on the shift in jargon from the use of the term “aid” to “development assistance”, as well as the reform of systems in the Pa Enua as an important step in unlocking the potential of the sister islands of Rarotonga.
Session three was on the renewable energy sector and its development plans. Tangi Tereapii of the Renewable Energy Division of Te Aponga Uira opened the session and stressed that the key objective of “transforming the nation into energy independence with clean green energy” would not be possible without support of all sectors including development partners, the wider community and the private sector. Tereapii reiterated the Prime Minister’s opening address where he announced renewable energy targets of 50% of energy needs in the Cook Islands derived from renewable energy sources by 2015 and 100% of the Cook Islands energy needs derived from renewable sources by 2020. The drivers of the shift to renewable energy were outlined as addressing the demand for electricity, fulfilling climate obligations under international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the potential economic benefits of the switch. Wind and solar photovoltaic energy were identified as being the most viable technologies for use in the Cook Islands. The cost of implementing the plan looked to be around a total of just under $250 million, however some of the projects included in the tally have already been earmarked for funding. Reaction to the presentation was positive and it remains to be seen which of the development partners will come forward to offer support to the initiative.
The final session was around how the government planned to achieve improved water services in Rarotonga. Donye Numa of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning (MOIP) presented a snapshot of the current situation in Rarotonga and outlined the goals for MOIP under the NSDP 2011-2015. Numa outlined the challenges faced by the water sector as well as a timeline for achieving objectives. She clearly stated that over $50 million would be needed to implement the full plan. Following the presentation comments were made questioning how the government plans to recover costs on infrastructure upgrades and it was suggested that the government consider a user-pays system. Minister Mark Brown responded by saying the government was considering such a system where all residents would be entitled to a certain allowance of water and usage above the allowance would be paid for.
The talks concluded on a positive note and New Zealand High commissioner John Carter addressed the meeting. Carter challenged development partners to consider that since the Cook Islands has the opportunity to “stand on its own feet” economically in the next 20 years, it should be considered that a larger share of funding be given to the Cook Islands than normally would, in order to get the country “across the line”. He added that he saw potential going forward for a “great opportunity to actually make something happen that hasn’t been achieved before... we can say ‘here is a flagship where we got it right and we’ve made it.’” -Ngariki Ngatae

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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