UN hopes ‘nonsense’: PM

Friday December 01, 2017 Written by Published in Politics
Prime minister Henry Puna clarifies the nation’s development status in parliament’s Question Time on Wednesday afternoon. 17113005 Prime minister Henry Puna clarifies the nation’s development status in parliament’s Question Time on Wednesday afternoon. 17113005

Prime minister Henry Puna has rejected claims made by Rarotonga resident Papa Williams that the Cook Islands government is aspiring to graduate to developed country status for the purpose of gaining a seat at the United Nations as “nonsense”.


His fiery comments followed a question posed to Puna on Wednesday afternoon in parliament by Titikaveka MP Selina Napa.

She had asked the prime minister whether the Cook Islands was nearing developed economic status, or whether it had further developing to do as a nation.

She said her question followed media reports from government that development of the country was at a high level.

In response, Puna said he was grateful for the opportunity to clarify the country’s developing status following the incorrect public opinion that had been publicised.

He said comments made by Williams in a letter to the editor of CINews in October were not correct. Williams had warned that if the government pursued its United Nations ambitions, Cook Islanders would have to forfeit their New Zealand citizenship.

Puna said he was bemused as to where Williams’ ideas had come from.

The prime minister said it was The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental economic organisation, that determined a country’s developed status.

He added it was up to them to inform whether the Cook Islands needed to improve, or whether it had developed, and “if we have graduated”.

“We are not actively seeking to become a developed country. It is just a natural result of being progressive and developing steadily.”

Puna said that for him, it is something to be proud of.

“Other countries that are already developed are looking at us and saying, ‘Hey, you guys are doing so well, we think you shouldn’t remain as a developing country. You should be a developed country.

“And for me that is a very high compliment for this country.”

In October, Financial Secretary Garth Henderson confirmed the Cook Islands’ graduation from the Official Development Assistance (ODA) had been delayed until 2018 due to the absence of adequate data.          

“In 2015, the government became aware that we were on the OECD graduation list, which assists countries based on their gross domestic income (GNI).

“The OECD felt that we’d graduate from Official Development Assistance programme, effectively making us a recipient of aid no more,” said Henderson at the time.

It was determined by government that further analysis was required, due to the OECD using a country’s GNI to determine their income status, something that the Cook Islands doesn’t currently have a measure for.

Puna said if the Cook Islands graduated to a developed nation status, there would be major adjustments for the nation.

“We will have to recalibrate how we establish our relationships and how we do business with other countries in the world.

“Because basically the OECD is saying, ‘look Cook Islands – you’re not a developing country anymore, you are already developed’.

“We don’t go out actively seeking that status. It comes from having good management of our economy and of our country’s development.

“And for anybody to create a fiction about why we are talking about these issues is absolute nonsense.”

Puna said while attaining developed status was something to be proud of, there was also a need to be very cautious.

He used the Caribbean as an example of what could happen when a country did not have proper support or access to aid.

Some Caribbean nations had only just graduated to developed status before their economies and countries had been severely destroyed by cyclones earlier this year, the PM said.

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