17 Jan 2011

Cooks summit in March to chart planned growth

5:17 am on 17 January 2011

The Cook Islands prime minister, Henry Puna ,says the economic summit planned for March will give government and the commercial sector the opportunity to jointly examine the many opportunities his administration believes the country has for economic growth.

Mr Puna says the time is right for government and the private sector to plan for the future and he's confident that the recently signed airline agreements will give tourism an expected boost of just over 70,000 tourists between this year and 2014.

Mr Puna says growth will also have a positive spin off across the board, and especially for industries dependent on the tourism market.

Florence Syme Buchanan reports.

"The Cook Islands government is confident of a 11% increase in GDP over the next three years. It is also forecasting the creation of close to 1,900 new jobs in all sectors. However, with the problem of depopulation facing the country, the government hasn't confirmed how those new jobs will be filled. Already the tourism sector claims to be experiencing an ongoing labour shortage calling for the need to import workers from Fiji and the Philippines. However, critics say it's more a case of cheap labour being brought in from overseas to fill jobs that would cost more in wages if locals were employed."