Neither the Government intervention in the hotel business which led to the disastrous Vaimaanga Hotel project a quarter of a century ago nor the more recent similarly disastrous foray into the fuel business which led to Toagate, which has also cost the country millions of wasted dollars, were projects heralded in the political manifestos of the Governments that undertook those projects. This time it is different. The Democratic Party has announced to the public, in advance, that it will, if elected to power, embark on a journey of economic mismanagement. Consequently, if they are elected to the Treasury benches, we will be able to blame ourselves, not them, for the inevitable economic consequences of their policies.
While Mr Carruthers has explained over several articles in compelling detail the foolishness of Government continuing to hold its existing 40% of Telecom shares, in itself contrary to opening the market to competition, the Democratic Party wishes to turn the clock back and gain control of an asset it is not competent to run, thinking naively that an international player will wish to invest in an asset it doesn’t control – assuming, as Mr Carruthers points out – it is an asset at all. Of all people, one would have thought the members of the Democratic Party would have learnt a lesson from Toa. It is clear they have learnt nothing at all and are no more competent to hold the Treasury benches than they were when they lost power in the midst of scandal four years ago.
Populist politics abound in the Democratic Party’s policies. Countries do well which focus on what they do best. Pig farming is polluting the lagoon – a critical asset to the nation’s main income earner – tourism. Egg farming can’t compete with imports so we are all expected to pay more so someone can indulge in this activity at the public’s expense. If we establish a car assembly plant on Rarotonga, no doubt the Democratic Party will expect us all to pay more for our cars to keep somebody employed in a pointless job. This isn’t Keynesian economics. This is Dickensian thinking.
There are many families in this country with young children struggling on modest incomes to make ends meet. Far from promising to assist them, the Democratic Party focuses on a tax free regime for pensioners, many of whom have no dependents and are on higher incomes. Their prime complaint is about past tax and not about the need to pay tax going forward. But for the Democratic Party education of our youth and supporting young families is secondary to yet another populist cause.
In addition, they herald a reversal of the widely canvassed tax reforms. VAT will go back to where it was and there is no mention of changing the corresponding income tax relief, thereby inevitably leading to the predicted deficit. Many departments of Government have had to manage for a decade now on ever decreasing budgets. It is very clear the Democratic Party has determined to waste Crown funds on foolish forays into the private sector while indulging in a tax relief lolly scramble at the expense of our critical services such as health and education.
The Democratic Party ought to be commended. No longer can we say there’s no difference between the parties – it’s just the personalities. There is a genuine discernable difference between the Cook Islands Party and the Democratic Party. At the heart of it lies competent economic management and the Democratic Party have announced to us all, in no uncertain terms that, if elected, they will pursue a policy which may well lead us to same economic abyss we fell into 18 years ago.
-- Brian Mason