The total operating expenditure is projected to be $170.2m, and $40.4m has been allocated for capital expenditure on infrastructure.
That spend comes in above the total operating revenue, which is forecast at $188.8m – but finance minister Mark Brown says he is more optimistic than the economists. He hopes for more income fueled by economic growth.
Tabling the Budget, Brown said the 2019/20 Budget was an investment in the future of the Cook Islands, ensuring essential services and infrastructure were available to support tourism and economic stability.
The government focus on improving the country’s productive capacity by investing in infrastructure would ensure the sustainability of economic growth and the resilience of the economy to climate change.
The government also aimed to increase revenue without increasing the tax burden on society, through economic growth and by ensuring that tax initiatives were applied in an equitable manner.
Brown added the government intended to invest in the capabilities of its agencies to ensure they operate effectively and efficiently in delivering services to people.
Key budget measures to meet the government’s focus areas included increased funding for law and order to ensure effective institutions, he said, as they provided the protection for more investment to make a strong economy.
There was also an increase in the Ministry of Health allocation taking it to $4.1m a year, to ensure Cook Islanders had access to a strong healthcare system and were able to meet their productive potential rather than being impaired by non-communicable diseases, Brown announced.
Roads and drainage received a significant $8m to invest in a quality of road that people expected.
Brown said government salaries had also been adjusted to keep pace with the increased cost of labour in the private sector and the need to retain highly-skilled Cook Islanders.
“I would like to declare that this Budget represents the shared desire of this government and all our public servants to improve the lives of our people. This Budget has been prepared with one thing in mind – and that is to care for our people because we love our people and we love our country,” Brown said.
“We have a clear plan. We know what needs to be done and we are getting on with doing it.
“Today, just as in recent budgets, this government announces strong economic growth, strong revenues and proactive spending for our people. We are living well within our means, with this government delivering positive operating balances and expenditure initiatives for every member of our society year after year.”
Brown concluded the 2019/20 Budget would “care for all Cook Islanders” and was dedicated to the continued prosperity of all people.