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Plan includes help for economy

Tuesday 9 March 2010 | Published in Regional


Aitutaki’s business community has been encouraged by news that government will allocate $1.35 million to boost the local economy under the recovery plan announced last week.

Recovery coordinator and finance minister Wilkie Rasmussen met with some members of the community at Tamanu Beach in Aitutaki on Friday to tell them about initial plans to assist the economy following the devastation of Cyclone Pat last month.

Government’s local economic recovery strategy for the island aims to restore sources of livelihood with the long term intention of expanding traditional income generating activities and introducing new livelihood options.

The small business sector will receive a $1 million assistance fund from government to help them recover and grow further. This is likely to be made available in existing loan relief, grants and soft loans from the Bank of the Cook Islands.

“The fund is to assist small businesses to get back to normality.”

There was some disappointment expressed at the meeting about a much smaller $55,000 initial injection to boost local tourism.

Rasmussen said government is not yet sure how this will be allocated but plans are being firmed up this week.

Aitutaki tourism industry council chairman Mike Henry told the minister that without seeing the recovery plan, it was difficult for business owners to provide feedback on all of the assistance.

It was agreed that they all receive electronic copies of the plan and then provide feedback to the recovery committee.

Rasmussen explained some of the other ways government hopes to help the economy of Aitutaki.

An immediate capital injection into the local economy of $100,000 for a ‘cash for work’ programme in the housing sector has also been proposed. This assistance recognises that cash is needed for housing materials, food and other essentials and to retain the population most likely to migrate – the youth.

The cash for work initiative, using a proven international model, will offer short-term employment of about four weeks to about 100 youth to carry out housing repair and rebuilding work, and dispose of debris.

“This money will go into employment of about a hundred young people and labourers that we will pay for. We hope they will spend it here.”

Local farmers will be able to get some financial assistance through a $194,870 fund set up for agriculture recovery.

The value in agricultural crop losses alone is estimated at US$1.5 million – the cyclone completely wiped out crops of banana and pawpaw, leaving the local food supply vulnerable for up to 36 months from now.

Government also hopes to help expand alternative land and marine-based tourism options and develop local industry partnerships with Rarotonga tourism operators within the funding it has set aside. - HG

Summary of costs for

local economic recovery:

Total $1,356,870