Investment Not Aid
There is nothing like a visit from our benefactor from the mainland to gel our Premier’s thoughts and to advise his people of his ultimate plans for the island. At the joint press conference, Prime Minister Ardern, having announced a package of close to $6m of assistance to Niue, left it to Premier Talagi to flesh-up on the skeleton – and what a flesh-up it is.
For a start it is no longer aid or budgetary assistance – it is now ‘investment’, investment in the infrastructure, investment in sustainable development, investment in commercial activities and so on. First tangible investment is the government’s continuing quest to reduce the cost of importing fossil fuel in order to generate electricity. A $5m injection from New Zealand into adding more to the existing array of photovoltaic cells could see the island saving as much as $1.5m. It might take a little while to achieve – the target date is 2025 when Niue can expect up to 80% of its electricity requirement will be met from solar power.
Currently the island spends $1m on fuel for the diesel generators, $2m goes to jet fuel and $3m on vehicles. No measure appears to be forthcoming on restricting gas thirsty vehicles coming to the island which could potentially save ~$500k.
Then of course there’s the water. The Premier is looking for more investment to get the bottling of water under way – once he and CEO Wayne Harris-Daw has sorted the small hurdle of water purity. There is a bottling plant installed at the defunct fish processing factory at Amanau but this may not have the capacity particularly when Premier Talagi is expecting anything up to $3m from the sale of water.
The Premier chose to highlight the fact that the old trading departments of government, run by public servants was completely inefficient and made no money at all. This has now changed he said
and went on to quote the example of the Broadcasting Corporation which at one time cost the government $.5m. That operation is now totally self-funding; any profit from this would be a bonus he said. That could be a more realistic assessment of the performance of BCN than the several thousand dollars surplus which various officials have quoted previously.
The overall aim, according to the Premier is for Niue to meet the government’s operational costs of $20m to $24m with income derived from its various investments. This he said may take 10 to 12 years but he has every confidence that it can be done.
“I have always been ambitious”, he told the media, “I used to run a business here and my objective was to make a million dollars. That was an ambition I had undertaken”.
The inference is that he has achieved that personal objective and that he will go on to achieve the much bigger goal of $20m to $24m. Only the Premier and his close advisors know the details of how this can be achieved, but it will not be by hocking-off the family jewels.