27 May 2020

Cook Islands govt announces more Covid-19 assistance

10:14 am on 27 May 2020

The Cook Islands Government hopes another injection of money will help the country come through the coronavirus crisis.

In its second phase to help the people and businesses survive the impacts of Covid-19 it is providing $US42.5 million - slightly more than the first assistance package announced at the end of March.

Finance Minister Mark Brown said the government's latest announcement has three key themes - lifeline support, recovery and transforming the economy.

He said the immediate priority is protecting livelihoods and businesses.

The wage subsidy will continue until September, debt repayments will be delayed and businesses will have access to low interest short-term loans.

Tax free thresholds will be higher, unemployment will include job training and reductions in superannuation payments will continue.

Cook Islands tourism

Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Walter Zweifel

Mark Brown said moves to foster economic growth in the medium term include fees free training and tax measures to help businesses invest.

He said the government wants to encourage diversification by supporting the private sector.

Mr Brown said they believe the soon-to-be online Manatua submarine cable will be a catalyst for a revitalised ICT sector and said the government will offer grants, low interest loans and tax credits to help companies set up in the sector.

Henry Puna northern charter criticised

An official charter to the remote northern Cook Islands for Prime Minister Henry Puna has been slammed as a waste of public money by Opposition leader Tina Browne.

Ms Browne said a $US25,000 charter flight to look into new infrastructure projects for Manihiki, Penrhyn and Pukapuka should have been put on hold and money put into economic growth.

Mr Puna, his deputy Mark Brown and Infrastructure MInister Robert Tapaitau are looking at project sites for hospitals, cyclone shelters and air strip work in the prime minister's electorate, Manihiki.

But the Opposition leader said the timing is bad because inter-island shipping and supplies for the work are going to be a challenge.

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