HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Encouraging Cook Island youth to stay home Finance Minister Brown says diversification from tourism-based economy is the key
With much of the focus of the depopulation issue centering on how to ensure an ageing Cook Island population can return home from overseas with access to their pension payments, the Herald asked the Minister of Finance, Hon. Mark Brown, how the government intends to also attract Cook Islands youth to stay and contribute their energy and innovative thinking to the economy of the Cook Islands.
According to Brown, it is vital that the Cook Islands moves from its “primarily tourism-based” economy and diversifies into other areas. He noted he would like to see the Cook Islands tap into and focus development within areas such as the creative, innovative and technology-based industries. Brown also noted that he sees technology-based industries will become a major sector in the future economy of our country. Brown says the Cook Islands needs to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to be part of a global, knowledge-based economy, which he says is “the way the world is moving”. He commented, “We face losing a large track of our youth coming through that can’t do what they want here because we haven’t laid down the groundwork or the infrastructure for them to do it.”
In tandem with establishing a strong infrastructure in innovative industries, Brown says there is a need to look at our education system. “We have to… make sure that what we are teaching our kids and the skills and qualifications that we’re providing for them are not the skills that are needed in the economy today but the skills that are going to be needed in the next five, ten, fifteen years.” Brown acknowledged that there are certain fields in which our school-leavers will have to seek opportunities overseas, as well as the fact that many Cook Islands youth will want to travel and indeed should be encouraged to do so. However he says the key is creating opportunities that encourage the expectation that eventually they should return home, “Because there is far greater opportunity for them in this country than they would [have overseas].” Brown emphasised that right now investment in education is “paramount” and was necessary to ensure that when school-leavers enter the workforce, they have the skills to take advantage of those opportunities.
Brown recently met with members of the National Youth Council to gain their perspective on the issue and says, “We have to understand that we’re going through a change in not just our country, but also globally, in the way that youth think and the way that they see themselves in the world… We have to look at other ways to try and encourage innovation, try and encourage enterprise, try and encourage the thinking of young people coming through now so that they can be captured. Otherwise they’ll go and find it somewhere else.” -Ngariki Ngatae

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

Copyright 2006 Cook Islands Herald online . All rights reserved.