‘Embrace China’s financial assistance’

Wednesday April 30, 2014 Published in Letters to the Editor
Opposition leader Wilkie Rasmussen. 13120337 Opposition leader Wilkie Rasmussen. 13120337

Dear Editor, We have a resident population of around 15,000 of which 3000 are foreign settlers, 2000 are foreign workers and 10,000 are indigenous Cook Islanders.

Some 700 indigenous Cook Islanders leave our shores each year to seek economic refuge elsewhere and 200 foreigners come and settle, tilting resident population towards foreign domination by 900 a year and changing the face of the Cook Islands by the day. At the current rate of change in population indigenous Cook Islanders will become the minority in their own country by 2020.

When this CIP Government came to power one of the first things the PM said was, we must develop the outer islands so our people can come home, and went so far as to invite our people living offshore to come home. Now it has implemented austerity measures to keep our aid-dependent economy afloat, including the unpopular tax reform, I expect it will grow the economy next.

When global economies choked on money supply and slipped into recession in late 2008-2009, China’s economy defied global recession and kept growing, and now China sustains the world on money supply to keep global economies afloat. As luck would have it, we signed the One China Policy in 1997 and China regards us as an ally and friend.

Following the crash of late 2008-2009 our visitor numbers defied global tourism downturn and increased by some phenomenal 30 per cent, because we are a Christian destination and safe haven free of terrorism and uprisings of the nature occurring around the globe. Grey Power and TMV Petitioners rose up and terrorised politicians to draw attention to them, so unfortunately our safe haven status will be short lived.

Realising that God Almighty has given us a tourism platform on which to grow our economy out of recession and friend in China to fund it, a group of us indigenous Cook Islanders and landowners got together and scoped a comprehensive development plan to expand tourism to the outer islands on the back of increasing visitors on Rarotonga and asked the Minister of Finance to present the proposal to the Chinese Ambassador, and ask him if China would fund the project under the One China Policy, to which the response was “yes” on a “govt to govt” basis.

The Minister then made it clear Government will only develop key infrastructure and leave it to the private sector to grow the wider economy, so the next step is to ask if China will fund the project on a “govt to private sector” basis with commercial terms and security to apply.

As luck would have it, China put aside US$2 billion to help small island states like ours to grow our economy following its meeting with member island states, so instead of whining and petitioning public sector projects like TMV and making the rest of us look like whiners, why not scope growth developments and embrace China’s financial assistance. One only need to look at the rock star economy of our fellow New Zealanders to realise it’s at the benevolence of China, as is the survival of every other economy on the planet, so why are we waiting?

It’s not hard to figure out that sourcing supply and labour out of China will shave 35-40 per cent off development cost and employing China’s concessional finance at 2-3 per cent interest instead of our local banks funding at 12-18 per cent interest will make any development bankable as a commercial venture, despite recession.

My purpose in writing this letter is to seek clarity on whether a Democratic Party Government will accept China’s financial assistance and support indigenous outer islanders in their endeavour to develop their dying economies so their people can come home, which this CIP Government clearly does.

I have not forgotten that I and a couple of friends scoped a proposal for 72 brand new 141 square metre homes for Aitutaki during Hurricane Pat and Chinese SOE contractor CCECC agreed to gift them to the Aitutaki people if it proceeded with the $37 million TMV project, which Cabinet approved and then canned, the explanation being it didn’t trust the Chinese? Needless to say my people in Aitutaki were forced to accept 41 square metres shoeboxes from Habitat and some are still waiting for their homes.

If a Demo Government won’t accept China’s financial assistance to grow our economy out of recession and possibly out of aid dependency and it has no growth plan of its own, which seems to be the case, then the fate of indigenous Cook Islanders is sealed – those who left cannot come home and those in residence will become the minority in their own country by 2020.

Before anyone even thinks it, this is not about race, as we are all mutants and bits of this and that; it’s about survival of a race, the indigenous Cook Islander!

Tim Tepaki

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