This comes from Cook Islands’ Workers Association (CIWA) president Anthony Turua in response to Ministry of Finance and Economic Management financial secretary Richard Neves, who said the Cook Islands cannot accommodate increasing public sector wages on the basis of cost of living adjustments as CIWA is demanding.
Turua said that the bigger picture for inflation is, as the cost of goods and services rises, the buying power of a dollar falls.
“We have already seen strong evidence happening in the last 10 years with increase in fuel, rent, transport, communication and basic food commodities,” he said.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is being measured by the Statistics Office on a quarterly and annual basis that averages the cost of a representative basket of goods and services around the Cook Islands and provides results as a percentage rise or fall, and in our instance, an average 2 – 3 per cent rise annually, he said.
“In real terms our income today buys substantially less than it did in 2011/12.”
There are members of CIWA advising that they have not had any increase in their pay for the last five to ten years, he said.
“I do accept from the Financial Secretary [Richard Neves] that the tax base for the Cook Islands is unable to cater for COLA annually but we cannot continue to deteriorate purchasing power of our workers,” he said. “I am not convinced that COLA is a bygone system however we need a system that is fair, affordable and can manage the risk of losing more of our professional Cook Islands workers overseas.”
Parts of public service is now moving towards user pay system to cover budget shortfalls, however that also adds extra burden to an already reduced buying power for the workers, he said.
“I know of one widow family with children leaving for overseas soon because she is from the Pa Enua and cannot afford to support her children as the only bread winner of the family.”
Turua said the government should invest in a household census to gauge the impact of living standards throughout the Cook Islands, and find the best economic solution.