REAP Report - Foreign Investment -- At What Cost?
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:
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
all too familiar? This article was written by an islander living
in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean.
see more on this issue go to the website:
www.sivglobal.org (USERNAME: siv and PASSWORD: global).
send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Islands News, 26 June 2003