(File photo) Prime Minister Mark Brown. Photo: LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 21031938
Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown expects the Government’s books to be better than expected, with the Pre-Election Fiscal and Economic Update due to be released today.
The update, which is released prior to each election, outlines the fiscal outlook for the country. The election is set to take place on August 1.
Brown said he had not seen the update yet, but
“anecdotally looking at how busy the island is, I expect we would be ahead of
what we forecast”.
year’s Budget, the Government projected a fiscal deficit of $39.8 million in
2022/23 that will be funded through the Government’s cash reserves at the end
of 2021/22 and an operating deficit of $0.7 million and fiscal deficit of $5.2
million is projected in 2023/24.
said things had been picking up of late, particularly with the arrival of
“I think the biggest thing we did in terms of putting
money back into people’s pockets is opening the borders,” Brown said.
“By opening the borders, we’ve allowed the tourists
come in to spend their money and we’re starting to see the benefits of that all
the way from the top-end hotels and resorts, right the way from stall-holders
at markets. You can see it at the food markets at Muri, they’re positively
He said the majority of those employed were now
earning above the wage subsidy.
Brown said the Government’s decision to open up in
January was “bold”, knowing that Covid-19 would come with the tourists, “and
sure enough it did”.
“But we also knew with the vaccination programme we
had put in place; we would be prepared. The results have vindicated our
decision, although we have had more than 5000 cases of Covid-19, we have had no
hospitalisations and only one death,” he said.
“We’ve allowed people to get back to the business of
business. From here, the greater our economic productivity, the more money
we’re able to put into people’s pockets.”
Brown also said the increase to the minimum wage from
$8 per hour to $8.50 per hour and an increase in the Old Age Pension by an
extra $20 per month, would help address cost of living issues.