The government has confirmed it is only re-appropriating part of the unused $38.4 million – earmarked for capital projects in the past financial year – for this year’s Budget, taking the total capital budget to $44.5 million.
The Cook Islands’ government is determined to continue to strengthen key economic drivers, while diversifying the country’s financial base.
The Cook Islands’ political situation is fragile and the government could change at any time, says an experienced political commentator.
Speaking to CINews on condition of anonymity, the source says the government could change within months or even weeks.
The possibilities are said to range from the CIP replacing prime minister Henry Puna with Finance minister Mark Brown, to the formation of a new coalition government which would be achieved by several MPs crossing the floor.
At the centre of the uncertainty surrounding the government’s future is the fate of dumped Internal Affairs minister Albert Nicholas, who has been suffering serious health issues, the source says.
At the swearing in of Mac Mokoroa as the new Internal Affairs minister on Wednesday, Puna told Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters that it had become necessary for him to terminate the appointment of “a minister” for personal reasons.
Clearly referring to Avatiu-Ruatonga-Palmerston (RAPPA) MP Nicholas, Puna said: “He has been unable to discharge his responsibilities of the high office of minister and it has become necessary for us to terminate the appointment and appoint a new minister in his place.”
Before this year’s general election in June, Nicholas spent some weeks in an Auckland, New Zealand hospital suffering from what was said to be a serious blood infection that had started with a centipede bite. He had been a patient at Rarotonga Hospital for some time before that.
Nicholas, who has been absent in New Zealand since the release of the judgements on the electoral petitions, is still an MP in the CIP government. Under current regulations an MP may be replaced if he misses 14 consecutive days of a parliamentary sitting.
On Thursday, prime minister Henry Puna said he was expecting Nicholas back on the island sometime this weekend.
If the government decided Nicholas couldn’t continue as an MP, there would be a by-election, which Demo candidate Teina Rongo could have a good chance of winning, the source says.
Combined with MPs crossing the floor, this could also trigger a change of government.
Yet another possible scenario is that as a result of losing his Cabinet post, Nicholas might “walk”, However the CIP numbers might then be made up by another “vaka-jumper” from the Demo Party, the source adds.
Newcomer Tingika Elikana is excited with the prospect parliament will provide him in serving his people and the nation in his four-year term as the Member of Parliament (MP).
Eleven new Members of Parliament (MPs) are expected to make their maiden speeches when the opening session of the Parliament starts today at 1pm.
Republic of Korea Ambassador to the Cook Islands, Seung-bae Yeo, presented his credentials as ambassador to the Cook Islands at a ceremony at Government House on Wednesday
The facilitators of the three-day induction workshop for the new and returning Members of Parliament (MPs) say they were pleased with the enthusiasm of those who attended.
Prime minister Henry Puna will nominate the Speaker when the first session of the Parliament since the 2018 general election takes place on Wednesday next week from 1pm.