Friday, January 29, 2021

Barry Soper: Why Kiwi taxpayers are paying Covid wage subsidy in Cook Islands


What's so special about businesses in the Cook Islands?

Well, they must have something worth preserving that our businesses here don't have. Their Prime Minister, Mark Brown, told Heather du Plessis-Allan on Newstalk ZB Drive last night that kind donors from this country are paying the Covid wage subsidy through until the end of March with support packages being planned by the Government there to go through until the end of June.

The kind donors are of course New Zealand taxpayers.

The wage subsidy in this country stopped well before the end of last year and since then a number of businesses have gone to the wall.

In fairness, Brown did say wage and other subsidies can't continue indefinitely with tourism starting up again at some point.

While Cook Islanders can now come to this country, Kiwis can't go and sun themselves there which again is a little difficult to fathom. Brown gave a glimmer of hope though, saying once the vaccination programme is rolled out here Cook Islanders will be much more accepting of Kiwi tourists going there.

When that will happen is anybody's guess.

It's a pity, given what would appear to be a lack of community spread in this country, that our tourists can't go there and spend the money our Government's using to prop up businesses there.

Another country belonging to the New Zealand Realm, which is what the Cooks is known as, is Niue which Jacinda Ardern calls her second home. Her dad was up until a couple of years ago the High Commissioner to Niue and was there when John Key visited and got a first-hand taste of what was expected of his Government here.

The country's late Premier Toke Talagi, who greeted Prime Minister Ardern when she visited three years ago, told Key a few years earlier that he wanted $4 million of aid money released after it had been frozen because the Government wanted to know what it was being spent on.

Talagi gave Key an ultimatum, give us the money or we'll look to China and told him if he lost the election there later that year he'd blame our Prime Minister! He won the next election.

Oh, and given what's happening in the Cooks, there's no reason for also thinking the Covid wage subsidy in Niue has stopped with the New Zealand taxpayer being the biggest paymaster there which means we're subsidising our own workers!

The argument is that both countries rely so heavily on tourism and without New Zealand taxpayer help they would be impoverished. Yeah well before Covid tourism was New Zealand's largest export industry delivering more than $40 billion to the country's economy.

It seems it all comes down to the degree of suffering.

Barry Soper is a New Zealand political journalist, and has been featured regularly on radio and television since the 1970s. Currently, Soper's main role is political editor at Newstalk ZB, a radio network in New Zealand.

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