In December 2014, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) coordinated an independent private sector assessment of the Cook Islands.
There are 39 recommendations in the final report, grouped under eight broad areas.
In a release, MFEM said the Cook Islands government remained committed to the development of a vibrant and sustainable private sector and had already progressed many of the recommendations outlined by the ADB.
In relation to the business environment, the Business Trade and Investment Board (BTIB) has begun work on the World Bank Doing Business Indicators, which is an ongoing tool for evaluating the ease of doing business in the Cook Islands, benchmarking the country’s performance internationally, and providing a list of smaller changes the Government can make to improve the overall business environment.
The Cook Islands has also become a member of the International Labour Organisation, and will be using technical assistance to improve the regulation of the local labour market.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration is trialling an online system that streamlines visa application processes. The new system is currently in an offline pilot stage and is receiving positive feedback.
The feasibility stage is already underway to automate the banking payments system and once implemented, the new system should reduce the cost of banking in the Cook Islands.
In terms of public administration, MFEM has initiated several reviews of the public financial management system, with favourable results from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability assessment and ADB Macroeconomic Assessment. MFEM continues to work with the IMF on further improvements to public financial management.
The Cook Islands National Infrastructure Investment Plan, also released today, prioritises economic and environmental infrastructure and provides a pipeline of projects for the private sector to participate in.
The Cook Islands Investment Corporation has already registered national infrastructure assets on a new asset management system (Asset Finder), with the new system becoming a core part of Government asset management.
The Public Sector Strategy is in draft and is being discussed among senior public sector officials.
A full government response to the recommendations will be circulated for public comment before the end of 2015.