“We have already experienced these natural disasters; work was done to build our capacity, to build up our systems, so access is available,” he said.
There are regional programmes such as the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative, so that in the event of a disaster, Cook Islands has access to an immediate payment. Also, he emphasised the importance of putting aside financial resources and better building standards.
In July, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development promoted Cook Islands to the category of a high income country, meaning the country will be entitled to less Overseas Development Assistance from countries like Australia from next year.
The Cook Islands is the first Pacific Island to achieve this status. But the reality is gross national income measures the performance of the economy, not the vulnerability of the economy, Henderson says.
Now Cook Islands is a developed nation, it loses access to concessionary finance and grants. “We need to be more self-resilient – plan, prioritise, better at working together, more coordinated, more efficient. Not only government agencies, also the private sectors and non-governmental organisations.
“We have to plan better,” Henderson says. “Good fiscal strategy, good economic development strategy and better budget process, better execution…
“A stabilisation facility is set aside, specifically for disaster responses, if we are hit with a cyclone, the money can be accessed immediately.”
The economic development strategy conference was held last week, with first draft expected February.