The Islander Hotel owner Rohan Ellis is a well-known entrepreneur and smart businessman on Rarotonga with an extensive background in what it takes to make a good business tick.
But the former chief executive of the Cook Islands Development Investment Board believes more long-term planning in collaboration with the private sector needs to be done, if the Cook Islands are going to continue to prosper as a tourism hub.
“The public sector is not going to make the government any money, it’s the private sector that they really need to invest in.”
Ellis said it would be about planning policies around what is best for the private sector.
Ellis was open to foreign ownership of businesses, saying there was room for everyone.
“But there are some really entrepreneurial Cook Islanders – you are seeing far more home-vendors than you used to.
“That status barrier of not wanting to be seen as a vendor has gone, which is really good and providing more income.”
Though as a member of the Public Service Strategy panel, Ellis said depopulation was a crucial issue, as was political reform.
Ellis was unsure whether
political reform would happen any time soon; however he believed depopulation was something that needed to be addressed.
“Cook Islanders will return if they get a better quality of life, and are earning more money.”
Ellis also believed education was the key to the future, and hoped young people would be inspired to study abroad before returning home.
“Young people are the future of our country and they need to be inspired and want to give back to the country.”
Ellis said their were some sectors getting it right, but diversifying the economy, growing tourism and inspiring young people would be the key to a prosperous future for the Cook Islands.
But he applauded the government for the development work they had done in the Pa Enua, particularly the northern group solar project.
“This opens the opportunity for development in those islands, particularly around tourism.”
Asked what would happen if nothing changed in the next five to 10 years, Ellis was optimistic.
“We would get there – it’s just going to take a lot longer.”
And Ellis’ dream for the Cook Islands is simple – for every Cook Islander to gain meaningful employment