In the Cook Islands, as in other countries with small legislatures, this challenge is even greater. Now, however, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) hopes to increase the capacity of various parliaments around the Pacific, including the Cook Islands.
Last month, a “Floating Budget Analysis Unit” was established as a part of the Pacific Parliamentary Effectiveness Initiative (PPEI) implemented by the UNDP Pacific Office. The PPEI receives $3.9 million in funding from New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).
The initiative is a three-year programme implemented in support of the parliaments of the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. It focuses on a number of areas including improving procedures and processes in parliament and building the capacity of Members of Parliaments and secretariat staff.
The Floating Budget Analysis Unit includes several researchers from the Parliaments of Fiji, Tonga, Australia, New Zealand, and New South Wales.
The international researchers have been paired with local Parliament researchers and assigned ministries’ draft budgets to work on.
Country Director and Head of Pacific Regional Programme and Policy for the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Bakhodir Burkhanov says the aim is to progressively develop a core of researchers in every Parliament of the Pacific, who can also support budget analysis across the region when it is needed.
It is expected that the group will visit the Cook Islands during the setting of the budget in parliament later this year.