CI News sat down with Finance Secretary Richard Neves to discuss what the department has planned for the year.
Cabinet has been busy discussing the latest policy statement, says Neves.
“They are looking at the party manifesto and seeing where the policy fits in. We have been busy with budget planning here as the latest budget was not passed until November last year.”
This year the department also plans to focus on improving residents’ understanding of taxes and their repayment obligations. “We have established a new outreach officer because we acknowledge that more work needs to be done to educate people about their tax obligations,” Neves says.
“People are generally aware that they have obligations, but it is about knowing the processes.”
This year will also see modernisation of the tax system, making it more efficient, using less paper and align it more with systems used in New Zealand and Australia.
But the major event of the year will be the 5th Development Partner’s meeting with the theme ‘Journey to Development’. It will be held at the National Auditorium from February 9 to 12 and side events will be hosted in the surrounding hostels.
This theme is intended to set the scene for weaving different stories about the country’s past and future challenges and contributing to a greater understanding of the opportunities before the Cook Islands.
It was initially hoped UNDP head and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark would attend, however she has other commitments, said Neves.
“We are hoping she can visit at some point during the year.”
Also on the agenda is a trip to Canberra in March by Minister of Finance Mark Brown as the Royal Australian Mint begins making new Cook Islands Coins.
“We have a great new design for the $5 coin and will have more information about this closer to the time,” Neves says.
A tender is also out to ship heavy machinery donated by China to the Outer Islands. The Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand will be handing the equipment over in the ceremony at the end of the month.
Neves said the equipment was of good quality and similar machines had been used worldwide.
“We also have the spare parts for it and will be getting operators over from the outer islands to learn how to use it.”