Friday, 9 November 2007 1:42 PM

ADB Continues Support for Cook Is. Infrastructure Plan

In its recently issued Country Operations Business Plan for Cook Islands 2007-2009, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says its work with Cook Islands will continue to promote good governance, environmentally sound infrastructure and fiscal management.

The ADB continues to support the Cook Islands' plans for sustainable infrastructure development and the Bank is in the process of developing its country partnership strategy with the island nation.

Under ADB's Asian Development Fund (ADF), the Cook Islands is eligible for up to $5.12 million in 2007-2008 in loan planning funding, according to the Bank's current Cook Islands business plan, issued in August.

The business plan notes the ADF allocation is expected to be used to plan an infrastructure-development loan for approval in 2008 and disbursement in 2009-2012.

The country partnership strategy for the Cook Islands under development is expected to propose a strategic focus on supporting private sector-led environmentally sustainable economic growth through improved public infrastructure and improved public sector service delivery.

"As we develop a sustainable infrastructure framework, we identify and prioritize the needed investments with the objective of enhancing infrastructure productivity and service delivery," said Richard Phelps, ADB's Infrastructure Specialist. "It is important to incorporate standards in infrastructure development that can sustain weather-related risks which are experienced frequently by Cook Islands."

The 2007 Asian Development Outlook Update showed that growth in the Cook Islands has picked up from 2006 and is forecast at 2.5% for 2007. The key tourism industry, which accounts for half of gross domestic product, is particularly vulnerable to the risks posed by inadequate and ageing infrastructure. In 2005, the country suffered damaging cyclones, to which ADB rapidly responded with an emergency assistance loan to reduce the negative impact of disaster relief on budget stability.

"ADB is working in close cooperation with the Cook Islands government and its development partners to help maintain macroeconomic stability, improve the governance environment, and help deliver sustainable economic growth," said Sirpa Jarvenpaa, Regional Director of ADB's South Pacific Subregional Office in Fiji Islands. "Improving education and health services are also medium-term objectives of the government."

ADB's Cook Islands Business Plan is consistent with ADB's Pacific Strategy 2005-2009 and the Government's national development plan.

"As we address the binding constraints to development in the Cook Islands we recognize the need to ensure that growth is sustainable and possible risks to the environment must be carefully mitigated," said Philip Erquiaga, Director General of ADB's Pacific Department. "Economic growth, particularly in the tourism industry, must be built on a solid foundation of safe water and sanitation, affordable and reliable power and transport systems, and that is our objective."