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Air bridge and quarantine-free travel bubble between Cook Islands and New Zealand could be a world first and template for air travel around the world.
Over the last few months, there have been two questions people constantly ask Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown.
“How long can this continue?” And, “when will the Government run out of money?”
Brown said the answers were complicated by the uncertainty the Covid-19 pandemic had created around the world.
But there was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel: this year’s Budget put Cook Islands in a position to support itself through until after June 2021.
“Our Budget has been crafted to ensure we can continue to provide key public services, this includes all capital projects that are scheduled for this financial year and the Economic Response Plan, we can cover our public expenses,” he said.
But the challenges would be far-reaching and the consequences devastating if the borders remained closed.
The reality was the Government could not keep providing financial support through the Economic Response Plan, he said.
The NZD$57 million (US$38 million) put into an economic stabilisation fund had been a “blessing”, he said, and had ensured people continue to receive an income – but they never imagined it would be drawn on, until Covid-19 came from nowhere.
“In making the decision to become Covid-free and shut the borders, we knew we would be shutting down 60-70 per cent of our economy,” he said.
“Almost 100 per cent of all tourism-related businesses would receive no income.”
In the final throes of arranging an agreement with the New Zealand Government in regards to an air corridor and quarantine-free travel between the countries, Brown said the Government was working at pace to finalise details.
With New Zealand’s Parliament having its final sitting yesterday, prior to the general election next month, there is not yet a date set to reopen the border.
“We need to restart the private sector and we need to do that soon and we have the opportunity to do that with New Zealand only,” Brown said.
What was being developed could well be a template for air travel for other countries. “I’m happy to tell you that what we are doing will be a world first,” he said.
SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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