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The REAP Report - Foreign Investment -- At What Cost?

The issue of foreign investment is being debated not only here in the Cook Islands but across the oceans. The Small Islands Voice Global Internet Forum is providing an opportunity for people everywhere to express their views and concerns. Concerns we all need to think about as we ask ourselves what do we want the Cook Islands to be like in the next five to ten years. And can we afford the price. Here is one islanders' perspective:

Here with the population of around 14,000, we too suffer from much of the same kind of "Who does the development benefit?" theory here, where our beaches have become congested with million dollar properties, built for rich foreigners by overseas workers (since we don't have enough people here to provide the necessary labour force). Meanwhile, our schools have become over-populated with the kids of those overseas workers, brought in to build these so-called major developments, and it becomes the local Government, obviously the poor locals, who have to bear the cost of maintaining these schools.

These developers are given duty free concessions, when our roads and other infrastructure are in a deplorable state and our Government is forced to borrow money at market rates to repair and replace the dilapidated infrastructure.

For me it has become much too much of the old cliché of "biting off your nose to see your face". We want to brag about having the fastest growing economy and being the most developed country in the Caribbean, without having to answer the critical question of who is benefiting from the so-called progress. How is it justified that those wealthy few, who could afford to pay the import duties, land taxes, etc., nevertheless get exempted from these taxes while the locals have to face constant increases.

Land prices have gone from around US$7,000 (NZ $12,000) for a lot of land to US$20,000 (NZ$35,000). Forget beachfront properties. Prices in the food stores have grown astronomically in the last five years. At the same time salaries, forget minimum wages at US$4.50 (NZ$8.00) per hour have increased by less than 10%. How is the average local single mother of two to take care of her children when she has to pay rent and shop at the supermarket at these ridiculous prices?

I'm truly of the belief that we as a country should revisit these development plans, mindful that there a couple of hundred million dollars worth of development projects under construction and others in the planning stage. There should be a clear policy of having these developers set aside funds for the maintenance of our schools, infrastructure and of course the burdens these immigrants place on our social services. We should discontinue the granting of duty free exemptions and concessions, as we have already reached the point of diminishing returns. Business opportunities for locals should be promoted and funds made available to assist in establishing these businesses. There should be a limited number of work permits that would be granted to any one employer and in any category. There should be a clear policy for locals to be given equal opportunities to compete for "white collar" job opportunities in the country.

Then and only then should we be boasting of the success and growth of our country as we would be able to identify locals who are products of a system designed to foster development where it truly matters.

I thank you for this forum as I think it gives a great insight into the concerns and grief of us all living in Small Islands.

Sound all too familiar? This article was written by an islander living in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean.

To see more on this issue go to the website: www.sivglobal.org (USERNAME: siv and PASSWORD: global).

Please send your comments to: smallislandsvoice@sivglobal.org

Cook Islands News, 26 June 2003


To get involved, contact :


Ms. Imogen Ingram
Island Sustainability Alliance (C.I.) Inc.
P.O. Box 492
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
T 682 22128, 682 58289 (m)
F 682 22128

Ms. Jacqui Evans
Taporoporoanga Ipukarea Society
P.O. Box 796
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
T 682 29110 (w) 682 55050 (m)

Ms. Gail Townsend and Ms Jane Taurarii
Curriculum Development Unit
Ministry of Education
P.O. Box 97,
Nikao, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
T 682 25270 F 682 28357


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