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RUTA MAVE: ‘Don’t blame the Russia-Ukraine war, the shame is ours’

Monday 26 September 2022 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Opinion

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RUTA MAVE: ‘Don’t blame the Russia-Ukraine war, the shame is ours’
Convenience Store’s Teibi Ioteba at the shop’s petrol station earlier this year. Petrol prices continue to rise in Cook Islands. Photo: FILE/RASHNEEL KUMAR/22031320

The food freight subsidy offered by government is not going to save the outer islands from an empty bank account, not when the same government sold our precious tuna to the European Union purse seine fishing boats for a lame $0.16 per kilo while we are expected to pay $30 per kilo for tuna caught in our own waters by our own fishermen.

When my bank account is empty it is empty. I can try and juggle it around but it remains empty. For instance, if I take away the ‘e’ it is still ‘mpty’ or if I replace the ‘e’ and take away the ‘y’ it is still ‘emp-t’. Taking away every second letter still leaves it ‘m-t’ and if I was to remove all the letters it still leaves my account ‘( )’ – empty. 

This is the trouble with numbers and statistics and subsidies and 50 per cent sales – it results in my bank account being empty. A fifty per cent sale suggests buying something for half price means I keep half my money when what I am paying is fifty per cent more than the cost price instead of one hundred per cent. I don’t save money; I spend it and that always leaves my bank account – empty.

Another disturbing reality is if I save my money in the bank for a rainy day as an emergency fund and I never use it, add to it or take it away eventually my account will be empty due to bank fees, non-active fees and all manner of fees by the bank for not doing any work on my account because in reality my account is empty. It is just a number on a screen as opposed to a vault full of gold taking up real estate and requiring maintenance. Spend it or save it at the end of the day my bank account becomes empty.

There is public outcry about empty bank accounts and blaming high prices of fuel and food on a war far, far away and none of it is our fault, so the government should fix it.

If an average car petrol tank is 45-65 litres then it should give you on average of 562-812km per full tank or 18–26 laps of Rarotonga. If there was a Government subsidy of six cents per litre, I will save $2.70 per tank and get 10km travel for free. It doesn’t matter how much the subsidy is, if I fill up my tank every week my bank account will be empty but not as quickly as the person with the big gas guzzling trucks. These not only drink more fuel to do the same job but more often belong to the bank and bought by using family land equity given to them for free because their account was empty.  If I don’t want my bank account to be empty quickly, I can use my scooter, catch a bus, ride my bike or walk. Our mamas and papas used to do this and they were fitter and healthier as a result.

Government could fill their empty account by considering a tax on the import and personal use of these large vehicles because they are harder on the roads, require larger/longer parking spots and use up more of this price rising resource. The time has come for cars and trucks to be paying more for their annual registration – it doesn’t make sense that a motorbike pays almost twice as much for a year.

Food, the fuel for our body, and health is not only rising in prices but is empty of nutrients because we buy more tinned or packaged food which are full of sugar and salt because they’re easier and cheaper. A packet of instant noodles and a can of coke might fill a gap but your stomach will be empty.

We import millions of dollars’ worth of food that does little to improve our immunity but has devastated our community.

When shops are allowed to import hot house tomatoes from New Zealand that cost $30 per kilo, and four capsicum cost $28 which we can grow ourselves organically, we can’t keep blaming the war.

If agriculture won’t grow enough food locally saving petrol pricing and improving our attitude to food and health then we should be doing it ourselves. We cry starvation because the boat with American frozen chicken and Fijian eggs is delayed while there are wild chickens all around us. A tax on importing food that can be provided locally might create a domestic product worth exporting.

The food freight subsidy offered by government is not going to save the outer islands from an empty bank account, not when the same government sold our precious tuna to the European Union purse seine fishing boats for a lame $0.16c per kilo while we are expected to pay $30 per kilo for tuna caught in our own waters by our own fishermen.

If we want to avoid our bank accounts from being empty, we need to make better lifestyle decisions based on how we can make a difference and by being accountable. Don’t blame the Ukraine. the shame is ours.