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No aid involved in plan - Tepaki

Tuesday May 29, 2018 Written by Published in Politics

The Merchant of Paradise (MOP) plan for development of the outer islands is a commercial sector development with commercial criteria and security and should not be confused with public sector aid developments where taxpayer guarantees apply, says developer Tim Tepaki.


Tepaki who plans to unveil MOP’s ambitious Paradise Prosperity Plan (PPP) plan this week, hit back yesterday at the writer of a letter published in last Friday’s CINews. The letter claimed the developer had said in the past that the Cook Islands government would guarantee a loan of $300 million from Chinese sources, to pay for the Paradise Prosperity Plan.

Tepaki said he had chosen CINews to roll out the plan, and had explained it clearly in letters and stories previously published in the newspaper.

“And yet here we are, with letter writer “Concerned Citizen” mentioning, ‘Tepaki’s previous statements that the Cook Islands Government guarantee the loan’, unconcerned that I never made such a statement.

“Kindly ask Concerned Citizen to tell all where and when I made such a statement, failing which, I expect him to publicly apologise to me, government and your readers,” Tepaki said in a letter to the editor. 

In answer to questions about the Paradise Prosperity Plan’s expected gross turnover (in support of the $120 million operating surplus) once it became operational, Tepaki said the “short answer” was $700 million (17 per cent surplus) with tourism, agriculture, fishing, airlift and shipping all contributing to turnover.

Replying to tongue-in-cheek conjecture by “Concerned Citizen” that the Merchant of Paradise plan and that of its Chinese partners must include mining of seabed nodules, Tepaki said “the complete answer” was no.

“Seabed mining is beyond the capability of MOP.”

Questions being publicly asked of government had also “pointed the finger” at Merchant of Paradise and its project, Tepaki added.  

However, he said finance minister Mark Brown and prime minister Henry Puna had stayed away from commenting on himself, MOP and the project, because it was a commercial sector project and not a public sector activity.

“Their strategy is ‘ignore, ignore, ignore’ and allow their opposition to make spectacles of themselves, and fall, which is now happening.”

The Cook Islands government would not be signing any deal with China regarding MOP’s proposed development, because apart from consenting to MOP employing concessional loans set aside by China for commercial sector activity under the One China Policy aid platform, any further involvement by government served no useful purpose, Tepaki said.

“As to the question of whether the Cook Islands Government will guarantee the loan for MOP’s Paradise Prosperity Plan project, I trust not, as it would be improper for commercial sector developments to be guaranteed by taxpayers.”                

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