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Parliament cuts debate time to pass $328 million Budget

Saturday 22 June 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in National, Parliament


Parliament cuts debate time  to pass $328 million Budget
Cook Islands Parliament has passed the 2024-2025 budget. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 24062112 / 24062113

Parliament yesterday expedited the process to pass the $328 million 2024/25 Budget after only five half-days of debate on the appropriations.

Opposition leader Tina Browne said there should have been more time given to debate and discuss the Appropriation Bill.

In order to expedite passage of the budget before the weekend, Parliament yesterday reduced the allotted debate time on each ministry’s appropriation from 30 minutes to 15 minutes. Additionally, the 30-minute Question Time was cancelled.

Parliament was adjourned to September 16, 2024.

Browne said time was cut back but there were items they could not cover and they had to prioritise.

The Public Accounts Committee’s newly appointed chair Teokotai Herman said that the committee’s primary focus for this parliamentary session was the budget, which has now been passed.

Herman said over time, as ministries and agencies spend the money, they will be looking at making sure that they are spending it properly. 

The budget which is themed resilience focuses on key infrastructure investment projects for roads and Pa Enua projects such as the Manihiki Airport upgrades, and Aitutaki’s water project.

The Pa Enua has received an allocation of $13.4 million.

Opposition leader Tina Browne in Parliament yesterday. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/24062110

Opposition leader Browne, the MP for Rakahanga, has welcomed the allocation for her northern group island.

Browne said that even though the amount might be small, they were happy that the Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) will be looking at major projects in the Pa Enua.

For Rakahanga, this includes renovating a government building that has been in poor condition for a long time. She said she hopes the renovation will be completed next year.

Browne said she was also happy to note that a cyclone shelter will be constructed on the island.

Prime Minister Mark Brown, who is also the Finance Minister, said the Pa Enua allocation was worked out on a formula that relied heavily on the population.

Brown adds it is important that they find ways to bring the outer islands to be part of the Cook Islands economy.

He said the only way to achieve this is to ensure key infrastructure that enables connectivity is put in place, such as ships, planes, and internet access.

“And as said before, the cost involved in ensuring that connectivity for small population countries like ours is disproportionately high when divided up among people on a per capita basis.”

Brown said they must be innovative in addressing the financial challenges including looking at the diaspora in Australia and New Zealand.

While speaking on the allocation for tourism of $9,268,495, Brown congratulated the tourism board and industry for helping the economy get back on track over the last four years, even though they faced some very challenging times.

He said this year’s allocation for marketing which is nearly $5.5 million is to help build and grow source markets particularly New Zealand, Australia and North America.

“While their job is to market the destination and numbers continue to come into our country, our job as government is to look at how we can diversify our product to ensure that this tourism product is also shared with Pa Enua islands.”

Brown said each island can also participate in the tourism industry in their own small way in tourism.

The Prime Minister said he looked forward to the day when airports are opened in the Pa Enua, particularly in the northern group. This would allow tourists to stay in holiday homes there, creating a stunning opportunity for the country.