He goes even further to say he thinks Pa Enua viability became obsolete several years ago.
“Even Aitutaki would be a going concern for less than six months of the year. Rarotonga, too, is fast becoming a boom-and-bust economic monoculture.”
What’s needed, says Beer is the same as most businesses – ‘a good plan and hard work’ to turn the islands around.
“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to approach the hard work part, as we have yet to see a plan that involves stakeholders and an analysis of start-up costs, end-user or consumer pricing, or incentives.”
Beer says a good conversation has to be had with the outer islands explaining that ‘…as much as government assistance may be available now, it is primarily paid for by Rarotonga taxpayers, also an endangered species’.
He says the high cost of parliamentary representation interferes with the country’s ability to help the outer islands achieve self-sufficiency.
“The amount each representative costs, properly redirected, could easily help with some wonderful reforms.”
He says there’s a long held belief that Te Maeva Nui celebrations indirectly contribute to depopulation of the Pa Enua and anecdotal evidence would suggest that to be true.
And the Aroa MP says he’s been told checks of shipping manifests in previous years show fewer people returning to their home island than those who arrived in Rarotonga. It has to be noted, however, that the difference may be nothing more than outer islanders taking extended leave on Rarotonga or overseas, says Beer.
The MP has been told that Te Maeva Nui should not be an annual event and certainly not in its current format.
“This isn’t just because of its possible contribution to depopulation, but because of its overall cost to taxpayers and the participants: hours practicing and weeks making costumes for a 10- minute stage presentation with a few prizes and free food isn’t going to be viewed as particularly financially positive.”
Beer would like to see a true profit-and-loss analysis of Te Maeva Nui by the ministry of Finance and Economic Management.
He believes the annual celebration could be a major annual attraction for tourism but the government “…is a little one-dimensional in its thinking, since tourism spending can sometimes generate revenue, therefore tourism is the only place to seek revenue.”
“But in truth, careful thinking would suggest that opportunistic, short-term policies and spending aren’t the only way. Perhaps not even the best way to generate revenue.”
Beer says he’d like to think that money invested directly in the Cook Islands people, ‘…can be done properly, with foresight, including the underlying principles of economic diversity and local production.’
This he says will have much-better long-term benefits such as jobs, self-sufficiency, increased security, and repopulation.
“ But incredibly, this administration’s concept for encouragement is continued increases in welfare and increased public service patronage with no plan to incentivise the outer islands economies nor ways to decrease the cost of living; food price controls on staple foods as one example.
“The Cook Islands people desperately want the means to be self-reliant.”
And if they cannot have it, “they will only wait so long before seeking it elsewhere. Who can blame them?”