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The Cook Islands “Peoples’ Budget”, with its social focus on families with children and people on lower levels of income, has been passed into law.
This follows an almost unprecedented 15-day sitting of the Cook Islands parliament.
In winding up the robust debate on the Cook Islands Government Budget Appropriation Bill for 2017/18, sparks flew again between the Minister of Finance Mark Brown and shadow finance minister James Beer, following Beer’s claim that the allocation of funds distributed by the government to Cook Islands Christian Church was “disgraceful”.
Brown explained that the funds were allocated in relation to an ongoing land owners’ dispute over unpaid rent owed by the Government.
He said the Government had since spent much time in reaching a settlement for the land that was previously acquired by the Democrats several years ago.
Brown called Beer “disgraceful” for not having acknowledged the facts.
That was the final deviation in the process of passing the Budget without any compromises or concessions.
Brown was congratulated by many members of parliament as they left the chambers.
In speaking with CI News, Brown explained that Government was “very happy” with the fact that they had spent over 10 days in debate over the Budget, something that has not been done before by any previous government – a first for the country.
Brown said: “I think this budget really sets us up well for the next few years. We’ve got some very good commitment now to implement major infrastructure projects that we’ve been working on the last couple of years, finalising those – the water, the renewable energy, construction of schools, the road programmes – those are all going well”.
“So this particular budget was more focussed around people, the remuneration, adjustments for public servants, minimum wage adjustments and looking at areas of social welfare – and those people that receive child care benefits.”
He said as a government they had done quite a lot in the areas of infrastructure and investment and were now focused on the social and human resource areas of the community.
He said this showed the Government was on track, with no expected deviation from the plans set out in the Budget.
He said the next major project coming up will be in the communications sector – being the Moana undersea internet cable, hand-in-hand with amendments to remove barriers for entry to allow more competitiveness in the sector and afford consumers greater service and lower prices of internet.
He said already there was much improved service compared to three years ago.
“Hopefully the bandwidth that we get through the Moana cable will drop the prices that we are currently getting via satellite. That is something for us to look forward to.”
Parliament resumes tomorrow for further debate over the very important Marae Moana marine reserve project, with a reading to be delivered by Prime Minister Henry Puna.
SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS
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