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$5.3m top up to Cook Islands budget
00:01 am GMT+12, 11/04/2019, Cook Islands

Cook Islands government is proposing topping up the current 2018/19 Budget by $5.3 million (US$3.5 million) in an Appropriation Amendment Bill that was tabled by finance minister Mark Brown in Parliament on Monday.
 
This change will see the total appropriation increase from $268 million (US$181 million) to about $274 million (US$185) million.
 
In tabling the Bill before the House, Brown said the proposed rise in appropriation is a result of an increase of $2.7 million (US$1.8 million) to support various agencies to improve the service the government delivers. It is also to accommodate $2.5 million (US$1.6 million) to support infrastructure both here in Rarotonga and the Pa Enua, he added.
 
Brown also said as of March 31 2019, a total of $3.2 million (US$2.1 million) of executive order approvals were granted under article 70(3)(b) which allows additional funding to be allocated, but not to exceed a 1.5 per cent of that total amount of all sums appropriated by the Appropriation Act.
 
These approvals included $239,100 (US$161,617) for Sheraton Foreshore Protection to strengthen the main road in Vaimaanga and prevent this particular stretch from collapsing.
 
“In May 2018 a study was commissioned to review the erosion of foreshore in Vaimaanga near the old Sheraton Hotel site and develop a remediation project. This was not funded in the current Budget however with the increasing and more intense rainfall and high seas, and subsequent damage to the existing rock wall protection, this was immediately identified as high risk project that required urgent mitigation,” Brown said.
 
The Atiu Road Improvement project required $704,597(US$476,265) and Brown said these expenditures reflect the significant and substantive focus of the government to ensure that better roads are built and maintained for all people. A further $220,000 (US$148,711) was allocated for the Atiu Power Upgrade.
 
The government also sought extra $657,000 (US$444, 107) for the Capital Distribution Fund for multi- purpose tractors to help the Island Government on Pukapuka-Nassau in a multitude of tasks, to load, unload and carry cargo and to support other critical work undertaken on the island.
 
The fund will also be used for purchase of electric vehicles to replace the ageing vehicle fleet of government agencies.
 
“Many government vehicles are over and beyond their useful life. As we move towards replacing this fleet, this government is very conscious of the rapid improvement of electric vehicles and the likelihood that the government vehicle fleet the not too distant future will be electric,” Brown said.
 
The Ministry of Health received an additional $718,016 (US$485,379) to assist them with various challenges including combating the recent dengue cases identified on Rarotonga.
 
Brown said government approved $88,016 (US$59,498) to support the operation Namu and an addition to this, $500,000 (US$338,015) was approved to support the purchase of pharmaceutical and patient referrals.
 
The government also approved $100,000(US$67,605) to purchase a burr hole drill and a skin graft machine in a bid to improve the medical services and effectively reduce the intensity of care and number of medical referrals.
 
There was also an approval of $30,000(US$20,281) to urgently replace a water tank that ruptured unexpectedly, at the Aitutaki Hospital.
 
To accommodate travel for the Members of Parliament, $180,000(US$121,686) was added through the executive order approvals.
 
Brown said the government had allocated $87,307 (US$59,022) for the Mangaia school bus.
 
Apart from these executive approvals, Brown said additional priorities were identified to be supported through the Appropriation Amendment Bill (Supplementary Bill).
 
They are $200,000 (US$135,220) for the Pacific Games, $523,000(US$353,600) for the airline subsidy and $208,879 (US$141,222) for head of ministries (HOMs) administered payments.
 
“The airline subsidy we currently have in place will continue to provide a prop for our tourism industry. Due to the unscheduled maintenance on Air New Zealand Dreamliner aircraft, this has impacted on the financial performance of the airline underwrite. This served amongst other things to increase the cost of the subsidy by $523,000(US$353,600). It is necessary for government to provision for this additional cost,” Brown said.
 
“With the recent renewal of head of ministries announced to the public, the Budget must increase to reflect government's need to remunerate more to attract very more and better candidates.”
 
Brown also said despite these changes and amendments, the government still managed to put forward an operating surplus budget of $19.2 million (US$12.9 million) and a fiscal deficit of $13 million (US$8.7 million), resulting in a -2.6 per cent of the GDP.
 
“We are still living well within our means with this government delivering positive operating balances and expenditures that benefit every member of our society,” he said

SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS


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