He says if both were to happen, people would happier, there would be more money circulating in the country and fewer would choose to go after better paying jobs overseas.
Normally low-key, Ama has been more outspoken in his first CINews interview than several supposedly more seasoned current politicians during their entire years in parliament.
Recently confirmed as the Ngatangiia Cook Islands Party candidate in next year’s general elections, Ama gives the impression he won’t be satisfied sitting quietly on a backbench with little contribution to national issues.
“I’ve manned up, put the gloves on, and now I’m going out there to show people what I’m made of.”
He says the country’s taxpayers deserve more than what they’re presently getting and things need to be done to improve lives.
“The struggle is real for so many, working two jobs to make ends meet. I’m not an economist, but I don’t need to be told that when you pay people more, they will spend more. Making that difference in their pay packet is what needs to be done, that will give them a reason to stay here.”
Says Ama: “If there’s anything that will help curb the outflow of people its money, money will make people move and money will make people stay.”
Ama says he can’t understand why the Bank of the Cook Islands cannot have lower interest rates – “it promotes itself as the people’s bank.”
He talks about the number of young people and families who have left Ngatangiia for New Zealand and Australia to get jobs, saying many were struggling to pay mortgages and raise their families.
“A lot of my friends have left simply because they can’t afford their mortgages and I’ve been through it with my property in Matavera.
“I’ve experienced it and I understand the burden of paying a mortgage at the interest rates we have…I barely hung on.”
Ama recalls 1996 when the country went bankrupt: “We came through transition, our pay was cut back and we got only $80 (a fortnight) and we pulled through.
“Then the economy came right and still it’s so difficult for our people.”
He says a challenge needs to be put to BCI and its board to offer something better to their Cook Islands customers.
It’s the customers who own the bank that’s a state owned enterprise (SOE) and governed by legislation. The Bank of the Cook Islands is an SOE in Finance minister Mark Brown’s portfolio.
In the last four years, interest rates on homes loans have dropped just 1.01 per cent, while business loans interest came down 1.25 per cent. Currently BCI homes loans are at 8.5 per cent interest and business loans at 7.70 per cent.
CINews has been told that if BCI were to revise its current interest rates, the bank would have to undergo restructuring. However, a review of the current structure and the affordability of lowering interest could be possible if there was a will on the part of the government, say sources.
In addition, the bank has invested considerable funds in ATM technology to maintain competitiveness with the two other commercial banks here, and those funds have to be repaid.