The writer presented a lop-sided picture of the performance of this Government and has failed to draw attention to the numerous achievements that have been gained since this Government was elected.
The very hardships identified by the writer are the issues that this Government have prioritised.
Pension and welfare payments have been increased to help those in need.
Technology has enabled more innovation in health and education services in the Pa Enua. We have opened a new nursing school and made significant gains in post-secondary training options on Rarotonga to retain Cook Islanders and give them a better chance to be employed here.
New employment laws have been put in place that provides better protection for workers. We introduced universal maternity leave protection and will actually cover private sector women and paid maternity leave as many employers indicated that it was an additional cost that they would find difficult to carry.
We will be increasing the minimum wage which has not been touched since 2006. There has been a reduction in personal tax meaning everyone earning above $10,000 received a pay increase from January 1, 2014. The economy continues to grow.
Really, there are so many achievements by this Government that the writer has forgotten, ignored or is simply ignorant of. I would suggest that the writer flick through every budget that this Government has put together and see for themselves the many initiatives that we have implemented.
There are some issues that the writer has identified that I would like to address.
Depopulation remains a major policy issue but if you look closely at the population statistics, the resident population on Rarotonga has consistently grown since 2001. This is undoubtedly because it is the urban centre and is where employment opportunities are available.
The real issue is how to address depopulation in the Pa Enua. Without a significant economic base in each island, better infrastructure and more frequent shipping, remain dependent on viability and affordability.
It is an issue that all governments since self-government had has to struggle with and will continue to struggle with. But this Government has made meaningful contributions to those in the Pa Enua as noted in the examples above.
The Government has outlined its infrastructure plans in a clear and transparent manner. The writer just needs to review Budget Book 3 to get familiar with those intentions.
The writer has shown a lack of understanding of basic economics. High fuel prices in this country are dictated by significantly low consumption compared to other Pacific countries. Low volumes mean higher unit prices – Economics 101. For an economy our size, similar to that of the countries that had been identified with having high prices, Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna, we will always have relatively higher prices because of significantly lower volumes compared to our neighbours. It is not a question of reducing it but one of being transparent on how the pricing is made up.
If we are to point fingers, let’s go a few years back. There was an opportunity to bring the price down but the former Government failed at its negotiations to nationalise the fuel industry and consolidate volumes. Instead it left this Government with the responsibility of meeting contractual obligations of paying an extraordinary profit guarantee to one of the fuel companies for the next eight years – a legacy that the Democratic Government cannot walk away with.
The reality is that this Government has achieved many things in its term and the writer is so blinded with bias that they fail to see those things. I hope that general readers are fairer in their assessment; look pass the politicking, and remember the real achievements that have been achieved by this Government in our time in office so far.
Minister of Health, Internal Affairs, Parliamentary Services and Office of the Ombudsman