CINews was given the seemingly official release last week, but when the newspaper checked with Demo Party leader Tina Browne and former party economic spokesman James Beer, neither was able to confirm who had written it.
Browne said she had checked with her team, but no-one had been able to shed any light on the release. However, she emphasised that a number of the issues it covered did not in fact conform with official Demo Party policy.
The statement said it was “good news” that the nation had been able to make a surplus of $37 million at the end of its financial year.
Of this, $6 million was unspent capital expenditure and would be re-directed into the capital expenditure accounts in the next budget “as the caretaker Finance minister Mark Brown has indicated so eloquently.”
“The Democratic Party feels that this surplus, with the exception of the $6 million, should be directed at helping the people of the Cook Islands by pumping the funds into next year’s budget,” the release said.
The release first raised the issue of health, claiming that according to the World Health Organisation, a nation’s health budget should be at least five per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP).
“In the case of the Cook Islands, this is not the case. By WHO’s standards, the Ministry of Health budget should not be lesser (sic) than $20 million.
“The Ministry of Health secretary, Dr Aumea Josephine Herman, has highlighted that the health budget is far less than this.
“She has also indicated that the ministry would like to bring in a CTT scan machine as there are qualified operators locally. She said this would mean cutting down (patients’) trips to New Zealand just for a scan.”
The mystery release said the Democratic Party believed more money should “definitely” be put into the Ministry of Health.
“This will also allow the government to look more seriously at the situation of the Pa Enua.”
The release claimed “a great opportunity” for the Cook Islands’ health system was also available in terms of supporting a project called the Surgical Ship Service – possibly referring to the New Zealand branch of the international Mercy Ships organisation.
“This is a ship which would travel to the Pa Enua and perform surgeries without having the need for the people of the Pa Enua to travel to Rarotonga or New Zealand,” the release said.
“This ship is a New Zealand initiative and only requires financial commitment from the government. The surplus should fit this purpose perfectly.”
Moving on to the subject of roads and drainage, the release said it was common knowledge that lack of a proper drainage system was why Rarotonga became flooded so easily.
“When will the government commit serious money towards drains?
The release then targeted the island’s notorious road potholes, which are regularly filled after being damaged by torrential rain, only for the repairs to lift out again in the next bout of bad weather.
“While serious money may be considered for Infrastructure Cook Islands, the Democratic Party feels there is a need for a more serious commitment about potholes,” the release said.
“The Democratic Party says ICI continuing to fill up potholes with loose metal chips is a blatant example of how valuable money is being wasted on a band-aid solution.
The wide-ranging release then moved on to “the boys in blue”, claiming the $6 million surplus could also be directed at giving police officers a pay rise.
“Ever wonder why the boys in blue are not really motivated?
“There are increased incidents of crime, the communities are putting up neighbourhood watch zones. The Democratic Party wants the minimum wage for police officers starting at the lowest rank to be $17,000.
“And above all, this surplus could most surely be used in increasing connectivity to the Pa Enua. The Democratic Party is of the view that shipping companies could be provided with a real subsidy that would ensure continued shipping service to the Pa Enua.
“This is what the people of the Pa Enua want, a reliable shipping service. The Democratic Party feels this would solve a lot of issues the Pa Enua are currently facing.
Moving on to the subject of justice, the release said the ministry could also do with full time magistrates and judges.
“The nation is spending a lot of money flying judges in and out of the country and the Justices of Peace are not actually magistrates. It is said justice delayed is justice denied. For a small population like the Cook Islands, the wait on cases is far too long.
“According to the Democratic Party”, the so-called surplus could address all the needs mentioned in the document, the release said.
“The Democratic Party is the people’s party and this was decided after the 2018 General Elections.
“The party’s first and foremost rule is to serve its people and that is what the party wants the current government to do.
“What use is a surplus when its people cannot be helped?”