Key points from Budget 2018

Saturday September 22, 2018 Written by Published in Local
Mark Brown explains his Budget to an audience of more than 80 at a breakfast at The Islander Hotel. 18092110 Mark Brown explains his Budget to an audience of more than 80 at a breakfast at The Islander Hotel. 18092110

Here are the key points from the Budget as highlighted to Parliament by finance minister Mark Brown.

 

Child Benefit Extension

The Government recognises the impact of the high costs of participating in secondary education on Cook Islands families. To address this, the Government will increase the age of the child benefit from the current 0-12 to 0-16 years old over a period of two years. As of 1 October 2018, the child-benefit age will be extended to under 14 years. As of July 2019, the Government will provide additional funds to accommodate the age extension to under 16-year-olds. This will provide additional funding to families to enable them to attend to their children’s basic necessities.

Co-ordinator for Children’s National Policy

To further support children and their development, funding has been provided to the Social Policy and Services Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for personnel to provide effective co-ordination of national activities and action plans under the National Children’s Policy.

Family Protection and Support Manager

Following the successful passing of the Family Law Act 2017, funding has been provided for a Family Protection and Support Manager at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This person will carry out the new responsibilities that are required under the Family Law Act relating to Care and Protection. This will enable children and families to seek assistance and support from Internal Affairs.

Remedial Programmes

Children continue to be the main focus for the Government. In the 2018/19 Budget the Government is providing support for a remedial education programme to support those children facing difficulties at school. It is expected that the programme will help to keep these children engaged in the education system. The funding will cover remedial tutors that will each service a number of schools.

Centre of Excellence in

Information Technology

To secure the country’s successful participation in an increasingly competitive world, we must invest in our educational system and provide opportunities for our youth to excel. The Government will contribute $300,000 over two years, before decreasing its contributions to $60,000 thereafter, towards the development of a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology. A Memorandum Of Understanding has been signed between the Cook Islands Government and the Government of India and space has been made available at USP Cook Islands to accommodate the Centre. To ensure the sustainability of this Centre of Excellence, a local has been identified to work alongside the centre’s establishers, with a view to taking over directorship in the medium-term.

In addition to expenditure focused on upholding the lives of children, the Government has increased its focus on people living in the Pa Enua. 

Minimum wage

 On 1st July 2017, the Government increased the minimum wage from $6.25 per hour to $7. This year, the Government increased the minimum wage again from $7 to $7.25 per hour to further address the cost of living pressures faced in the Cook Islands. Today, we will appropriate funding to allow the Government to meet its obligations to public servants earning the minimum wage. This significantly benefits government workers in the Pa Enua.

Te Maeva Nui 2018

In August the 53rd Te Maeva Nui festival took place. All of the people of the Cook Islands celebrated together, including Northern and Southern Pa Enua. Families from New Zealand, Australia and around the world returned home to participate. Together we portrayed our passion for our culture and celebrated the importance of self-governance. 

These celebrations are important, as they strengthen kinship, culture and unique identity as Cook Islanders. The Government’s vision of this 53rd Te Maeva Nui Celebration made it one of the best ever. The Government values the importance of getting together as a nation, to unite on special occasions such as this.

Pa Enua Capacity Development Programme

Under the strong leadership of this Government, an additional $84,000 will be put towards the Ministry of Agriculture to strengthen collaboration and partnerships between the Ministry and the Pa Enua Island Governments. This programme intends to build capacity in the Southern Pa Enua by providing training to local planters in order to empower them to meet the demand for agricultural products from the Pa Enua. We have seen agriculture expanding in the Pa Enua thanks to the fertile soils and greater availability of land. This funding will help to ensure that this expansion continues.

Increase in the Pa Enua

Funding formula

The Pa Enua Funding Model aims to determine the appropriate level of cash funding to each of the Outer Islands Governments. The system was first introduced in the 2012/13 Budget to ensure a fairer level of basic service delivery. In the 2017/18 financial year, a review of the funding formula was undertaken, particularly focusing on the funding provided for each parameter, as inflation had not previously been considered. While the full review is not yet complete, the Government has decided to increase the total funding formula cap by 4 per cent to go some way towards considering inflation in the Pa Enua since 2012/13. It is anticipated that further changes will be made going forward once the review of the funding model is complete.

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