3 Apr 2020

Cook Islands cash reserves to last six months of Covid-19 crisis

8:28 pm on 3 April 2020

As it tries to cope with coronavirus crisis, the Cook Islands deputy Prime Minister says the country has enough cash reserves to last six months, then it will be looking for donor help and loans.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown

Cook Islands Deputy PM, Mark Brown Photo: Phillipa Webb / Cook Islands News

Mark Brown said the government knew people were doing it tough and he described Covid-19 as "an economic tsunami".

He said it was sending waves of adversity over the economy and a government emergency package was designed to help people get to higher ground together.

The Cook Islands News reported the government had already allocated $US11.25 million dollars to help businesses keep about 6,000 people on the payroll.

Chamber welcomes assistance but wants more engagement

The payroll support announced this week for those sent home because of Covid-19 restrictions had brought some relief to employers but more action may be needed, according to the Chamber of Commerce President.

Fletcher Melvin said with no money coming in for the majority of businesses in the tourism hotspot, many bosses had been dealing with stress over how to meet payroll.

Wage subsidies and cash grants for employers kick in next week and a new Private Sector Taskforce had been flooded with queries from workers, employers, and hundreds more who worked under the tax radar but were also covered.

Mr Melvin said the support would make a huge difference in a country where many employers saw workers as an extended family, but warned it was only the beginning of a long journey.

He said the private sector wasn't currently at the table when key decisions were being shaped and that needed to change.

"The lesson needs to be that we need to put the egos aside and just talk to each other frankly because this is people we pass everyday.

"This is not people sitting in Wellington or sitting in the White House somewhere. This is people just down the road. Why are we not sitting in the same room?"

The President of the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce, Fletcher Melvin

The President of the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce, Fletcher Melvin Photo: CI Govt