Substantive responses received by the Small Islands Voice global forum to the posting on ‘Foreign Investment – who needs it?’ adapted from an article by R. Crocombe in Cook Islands News, 22 June 2002 14th May 2003

From Jim Bingham, Seychelles

May I suggest that you send a copy of this to Mr. France Albert Rene, President of the Seychelles, with a copy to the Vice President and Minister of Finance, Mr James Michel, also to Mr. Francis Savy and too many others to mention, who should read, learn and comply. It is almost a copy of what is happening here (Seychelles). This place is becoming a province of India. Regards and thanks for many thought provoking articles.
From Lennart Davidsson, Bonaire

Well governments need it, I feel that one of the most wanted positions on an island is to be the governmental person who gives out permits - he has a product to sell. That’s how it's seen, and that’s how all islands get foreign investments. It's the same pressure from both sides, government who want to sell and foreigners who want to benefit.

The investor gets his money back, multiplied many times over, most of the time. The seller is selling something which is not really his, so it's an easy task to negotiate a superb deal. Coupled with this is the fact that the seller is often not used to negotiation while the buyer often does nothing but negotiate.

Governments have much too free a hand to negotiate away property and permits, it's almost so it feels that you should go back to old days when you had a group of old wise men who decided the important things like selling out your island.

From Anthony Garland, Turks and Caicos Islands

In reading the exert from Mr. Ron Crocombe, I'm inclined to believe that he has experienced life here in the Turks and Caicos Islands, as our problems are so similar.

We too suffer under much of the same kind of ‘Who does the development benefit theory’ here, where our beaches have become congested with million dollar condominiums, built by foreign nationals (since we don't have enough people to provide the necessary labor force) for foreign rich. Meanwhile our schools have become over populated with the kids of those brought in to build these, so called major developments, and it becomes the Government, obviously the lowly poor local, who has to bear the cost of maintaining these schools.

These developers are given duty free concession, when our roads and other infrastructure are in a deplorable state and our Government is forced to borrow money at market rates to repair and replace the dilapidated state of our infrastructure.

For me it has become much too much of the old cliché of ‘biting off your nose to see your face’. We want to brag about having the fastest growing economy and most developed country in the Caribbean, without having to answer the critical question of whose benefiting from the so called progress? How is it justified that those wealthy few who could afford to pay the import duties, land taxes, etc., get tax exemptions when the locals have to face constant increases.

Here in the Turks and Caicos Islands, land prices have gone from around US$7,000 for a land lot to now US$20,000 a lot in most areas; of course, forget beachfront properties at an average price of a million dollars an acre. Prices in the food stores have grown astronomically in the last five years. At the same time salaries, (forget minimum wages which has never made sense at US$4.50 per hour) increase by less than 10%. How is the average local single mother of two to take care of her siblings when she has to pay rent and shop at the foreign owned supermarket at these ridiculous prices.

I'm truly of the belief that we as a country should revisit these development plans, mindful that there are a couple hundred million dollars development projects under construction and another couple in planning. There should be a clear policy of having these developers set aside funds for the maintenance of our schools, infrastructure and of course the burdens these immigrants place on our social services. We should discontinue the granting of duty free exemptions and concessions, as we have already reached
the point of diminishing returns. There should be business opportunities for locals and funds available to borrow for assisting in establishing these businesses. There should be a limited number of work permits that will be granted to any one employer and in any
category. There should be a clear policy for locals to be given equal opportunities to compete at a white collar level for all job opportunities in the country.

Then and only then should we be boasting of the success and growth of our country as we would be able to identify locals who are products of the system, designed to foster development where it truly matters.

I thank you for the forum as I think it gives a great insight into the concerns and grief of us all in Small Island Territories.

From Indrani Lutchman, Barbados

I totally agree with the tone of Ron Crocombe's article and the intent. I live in Barbados and had the pleasure to go to Rarotonga last year. What I loved most about Rarotonga had nothing to do with big hotels, flash transport and restaurants or foreign investment. Instead the things I loved the most and enjoyed had to do with the local communities and what the islands naturally have to offer, in their own style, not modified to a Western or developed standard. The Caribbean has some experiences which have been mentioned which Rarotongans should learn from. One is not saying that all foreign investment is bad, but in the small island context, the benefits to the local economies (not just financial) and the impacts on the environment and ecosystems that we have, need to be taken into account as major factors before foreign investors are given the GREEN light.

There are enough stereotype large resorts which are all inclusive, and also very exclusive, in almost every corner of every small island round the world. I think that we need to take more action to preserve what local, natural resources we have before we bring in the big operators whose interest inevitably is self-interest. Keep Rarotonga the way it is, developing naturally, as fits in with the local needs and desires.

From Brian Mommsen

In reading Mr. Crocombe's article, I find myself motivated to bring several observations to the attention of the readers of these newsletters.  Hopefully this 'food for thought' will spark a deeper understanding as to what is happening here.

First - how do you think the islands of the Pacific became populated in the first place?  In an ideal world, people control their population growth to an optimum number and evolve politically to share governance, opportunity, and wealth.  But islanders are human like the rest of the earth's population and have historically forced out many of their people through over population and political strife.  And so - that is how we ended up with people, who lived in one small corner of the Pacific, spread out to all the island groups in the world's largest ocean!

Second - nothing has changed!  Short sighted and greedy leadership in many native societies have continued to push off a portion of their population by not limiting population growth and not evolving politically.

Third - the arrival of foreign capital and foreign workers are a 'symptom' of the above problems.  You cannot cure 'symptoms' - only get temporary relief!  As long as the root causes are left untreated, there will be some kind of 'symptoms' troubling the island populace.

Fourth - there is a unique third spoke to this wheel of discontent. I call it the modern day curse of 'rising expectations'.  To illustrate:  during a stay in Jamaica during the days that Manley was in power (early '80s) I questioned some very knowledgeable and thoughtful Jamaicans about why their island had taken this drastic pro-Cuba/socialist change.  They pointed out that their current predicament is a result of over-population, over-education, and over-expectations.  In today's world of global communication the youth of the islands are bombarded by lifestyle images through movies, videos, TV, magazines, and their own off-island relatives.  These images portray great material successes (nice homes, cars, etc.) as being the world's norm for people who apply themselves.  So in Jamaica during the '70s there were thousands of students who were encouraged by the island's leadership to get college degrees and industrial trade certificates as education was the key to their future financial success.  It didn't happen.  There was plenty of room for blame - inadequate leadership from politicians and business leaders, downturn of the world economy (oil related), bauxite prices, tourism competition from other islands, etc.  They left the colleges and trade schools to find an island not ready for their services - and so there was a great social upheaval that led to the exodus of the educated and wealthy that further drained the potential of the island and the timely chances of improving the lives of most islanders.

To summarize:  islands that can not bring themselves to face the tough questions of population control and political improvement cannot expect to be much in control of anything else.  They become reactionary - spending precious energies and resources to deal with the 'symptoms' of these root causes to their discontent.  Focus on these issues first and everything else will become less of a problem.

From Berny S Filipo Nicholls, Fiji

Thank you for the article which was interesting to read. Is Fiji eligible as a small island? Please keep me on your mailing list. The Exporters Club in Fiji assists manufacturing investors by administering a Duty Suspension Scheme for Fiji Customs which allows importation of raw materials duty and VAT free to exporters. We also take up issues and disseminate information that concern exporters.

From Dorice Reid, Cook Islands

Kia orana! Thank you for this message. The article by Prof. Ron Crocombe is excellent. Your comments at the beginning of the article read that the ‘hotel project started by foreign investors in Rarotonga’ is incorrect. This project was started by the Government of the Cook Islands.

From Shailesh, Fiji

I have heaps of friends from Cook Islands at the University of the South Pacific. They don't seem to be complaining; in fact they can’t wait to complete their studies and go home and work. I understand they are paid good New Zealand money as salaries. So what is the problem? Seems to me that most Pacific island countries need to provide incentives to attract foreign investment, it’s just how you look at it makes the interpretation sound wrong. Think long-term - more investments need accommodation facilities, create more jobs for locals. The problem in the Cook Islands is keeping skilled people home, it’s the same in most Pacific island countries, better salary and benefits in Australia and New Zealand will always take away all the cream from our work force. Why do you think these students get scholarships in the first place? Cook Islands to me is paradise, untapped at this stage, tourism numbers are growing, but you don't want to grow to such a level where more tourists are seen than locals, We don't need another Hawaii in the Pacific. And politics is a problem in all Pacific island countries, after all these are the best paid jobs. Hope my comments didn't offend you in any way.

From Mali Voi, Samoa

I am delighted to read Ron Crocombe's (a close friend for almost 30 years) article regarding the dilemmas and pains of large investment in small island countries and in the Cook Islands example.

This confirms my belief that the small island countries do not need grand scale large investment for reasons clearly articulated by many of our contributors during the past features in this forum...and thank you to UNESCO. I had the opportunity of seeing it in Fiji in 1972, Hawaii in 1973, the Caribbean in 1991. For this reason while serving as a member of the Board of Directors of Tourism Council of the South Pacific (now called South Pacific Tourism Organization) and its Council for 3 years (1991-1993), I advocated for an ecotourism policy for the Pacific Island Countries. All the countries accepted the policy. However, at each country level only a few governments implemented the policy.

Those countries that took ecotourism as a national policy are now seeing the benefits derived by many small scale operations conducted by their people. Fiji and Samoa are but two excellent examples of ecotourism development. They still have resorts either in urban or near urban areas but the small scale activities are spread in the rural or Outer Island areas.

Urban employment in the Pacific is already saturated. With shrinking economies and ever increasing young populations, the scene is unlikely to improve. UNDP's Human Resource Development Report of 1999 (Table: 4 on page 8) shows that human poverty index for the Pacific is as high as 52.2% in Papua New Guinea (population of over 5 million people) and as low as 4.8% in Niue (population of about 1,700 people). According to my calculations, the average human poverty index is 18.6% in the Pacific. In the same report, it shows that only a third of the Pacific Island countries were engaged in the urban employment sector, while the remaining two thirds of their populations were engaged either in the informal, rural or Outer Island sectors.

In the Pacific most, if not all of the bilateral and multilateral aids are focused towards the urban or modern employment sector.

The above brief statistics consolidate the argument forwarded by Ron: For whom is large scale investment?

In this 21st Century, the catch-phrase is: ‘Equality of Opportunities’ regardless. My question as food for thought relates to Norah Brash's (a playwright from Papua New Guinea) play: ‘Which Way Bigman?’ (A Bigman is a chief, or head of village, the modern version is a President or Prime Minister of a country).

From Scott Whitney, Hawaii

Do you have contact information for Ron Crocombe? I'd like to run some of this piece
in our Pacific Magazine

Substantive responses received by the Small Islands Voice global forum to the posting on ‘Cook Islands: untapped paradise?’ by L. Davidsson, I. Lutchman, D. Reid, Shailesh 27th May 2003

From Moelani Jackson, Samoa

I think everyone has a right to her/his own opinion though I had never dreamed that such an opportunity could come so quickly my way. I am writing from the beautiful island of Savaii, Samoa. I used to be a regular visitor to the Cooks earlier in the ‘70s and the ‘80s. When my children came of age, I encouraged them to visit the Cooks and see for themselves. We all agreed that we enjoyed and loved it; at that time investment was there though local involvement was part of the development. More recently I was a bit disappointed to see less smiles and the absence of the young people. The young of my time are not there, they all seem to be running away to jobs in New Zealand or around the Pacific. There is imbalance somewhere, though I have not the authority to point out where. The friendly feeling is no longer in place.

I see a few of my age group are struggling to hold on and keep the authenticity of the place but for whom, when the young who should be taking their place are not there. For the University of the South Pacific students who can’t wait to return, yes of course that is true but only for those who have tourism degrees. I doubt those taking medicine and other courses are staying there.

To put this in short, I am brave enough to say if the Cooks are not careful, then their identity as the Cooks will be overrun by the tourists, investors or the imported labour force. At present I am in a position in my own country to use the Cooks and Fiji as poor examples of a lack of control in tourism development. I am lobbying our government to ensure that we cuddle tourism instead of being buried by the industry.

Substantive responses received by the Small Islands Voice global forum to the posting on ‘Fostering development where it matters: the Turks and Caicos Islands’ by A. Garland 10th June 2003

From a writer in the Caribbean

I agree with you 100%, I seen that mistake happen on the island of St Maarten and I guess it is happening on other islands in the Caribbean

From a writer in Seychelles

Thank you!!!

Substantive responses received by the Small Islands Voice global forum to the posting on ‘Facing up to the tough questions of population control and political improvement’ by B. Mommsen 24th June 2003

From Ron Crocombe, Cook Islands

Today, 26 June 2003, is the first time I have ever seen Small Islands Voice Global Forum. So I was surprised to see that the first item is an adaptation of my article in the ‘Cook Islands News’ and that it is noted as ‘Posted by Ron Crocombe’. It wasn't, I didn't know Small Islands Voice existed! I have no problem with someone else adapting and posting it on Small Islands Voice, but it should not be indicated that I posted it. Keep up the good work.

From David Hudson, Vanuatu

In reply to Brian Mommsen - I haven't come across Prof. Crocombe's article about investment in the Cook Islands, but Mr. Mommsen has stimulated me to contribute to the debate.

Certainly there is political corruption in less developed countries –but if you track down the basic reason for their going wrong, it seems to me to be that the rich countries don't pay the poor ones enough for their products. If they did, there'd be enough money for everyone, the politicians wouldn't have to grab what there is, educated populations would keep them in control, and the countries would be able to develop their economies. The current system of the developed nations making huge profits out of paying minimal prices for commodities, or keeping them out with tariffs/subsidies, is just leading to failed states in which frustrated people lash out at each other, or engage in terrorism, causing the rich nations to send in troops to try and install democratic governments. Perhaps they will learn the lesson (yet again - look at the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Vietnam) that people are eventually going to rebel against inequality, and the longer it goes on, the more explosive the rebellion.

The rich nations will have to pay either way, so why not do it constructively - upfront, with a fair trade price for commodities?

From Winifred Robinson, USA

I too am from a small island -Long Island, and the same problems apply to our youth and population.

It is not necessarily heightened expectations, as much as the culture of benign neglect and distraction that is the culprit which spawns discontent and failure.

Benign neglect, levied from within the Diaspora, in not providing real life reference to the hard work and level of personal excellence (and sacrifice) needed for global competition and success. Culturally, we become discouraged at the first sign of adversity or we are not ‘hungry’ enough to press full throttle towards our goals. There is no such thing as ‘over educated’; we lack in the ability to make practical application of our God given intelligence.

Media stars create images of prosperity that they themselves probably could not attain if they had to go the hard work and education route. I work with middle, high school and college students, in the tri-state region, through a workforce readiness program I developed several years ago. The middle school students think that $100,000 per year is a reasonable salary, but do not have a clue as to the preparation or occupation necessary to attain that goal; the high school students want to make money and don't necessarily see a college education as the road to success and the college students are seeking direction because they have made the choice for education but do not know ANYTHING about applying it to career variables.

There is a ‘brain drain’ that can be reversed as infrastructures, investments and opportunities increase.

But we owe our youth and population (wherever they live) the lessons of alternative plans, skill translation and practical application of global standards of education before they can be expected to compete successfully.

Substantive responses received by the Small Islands Voice global forum to the posting on ‘Saving island identity’ by D. Hudson, M. Jackson, W. Robinson 8th July 2003

From Brent Fisher, Cook Islands
I feel a few people have touched on the real problem with what's happening and what has happened and what will continue to happen with regard to the whole system we use. Why use a system that encourages misuse of public funds for their (politicians) own and family gain. Why have so many politicians and why allow them to be above the law. Have you ever heard of a company that has ‘opposition’ directors? Here in the Cook Islands we must have one of the highest numbers of Members of Parliament per head of population than anywhere in the world. We have little islands that have three!  What for?  I’m not saying that they are all the same, but most are. If we have to have this silly system then we need a lot fewer. Pay them a good salary so they don't need to line their pockets but have a lot less. In some of our outer islands here we have no 24 hour power supply, water supply etc. I think its time the powers-to-be take their heads out of the sky and look around at the way their people are living and do some serious things to help. If we can match these two words together then we will have come a long way from where we are today.  
From Moelani Jackson, Samoa

I do appreciate this network as I feel this is a good form of building bridges amongst the small islands as we have a lot of common interest and problems.

I wish to contribute towards the issues raised by David Hudson of Vanuatu and Winnie Robinson of Long Island.

Corruption with our leaders: if David Hudson could come up with one uncorrupted government leader in our present world today, then I will give you a special award. Therefore it is a knowledge we have to accommodate into whatever we do and find ways and means to break through it to achieve our goals. Isn't this one of the main causes of present day wars - violence, crime and greed that is going around non stop. I think this is why peace has been adopted and welcomed by many organizations, people and nations. Promotion of saving the children and youth has escalated quite widely in the last 15 years due to this corruption. My message is that let us not allow this fact to drive us to the wall, but find ways and means to break through. We have to look at it as part of our everyday life. Therefore we must never give up

In Samoa we are trying our best, but some people thrive on complaining about corrupted leader thus weakening their efforts to do good.

To Winnie Robinson: of course it is becoming a real problem with our young people even in Samoa. I will not blame the youth but the system. See we have a University in Samoa and a campus for the University of South Pacific. The turn out of educated young people is quite high for a developing country. It looks healthy education-wise, though application is almost nil. I have a small business and am constantly looking out for promising workers from our young people. But the drive to work and apply their learning into real life is almost hopeless. Theirs is the attitude of getting a higher
education for more money and when they get the money then they follow a trend of drinking and partying. But what about their parents’ expectations, that these are our future leaders and the ones to take over?

I have had a lot of consultations with our education system and have managed to put in special courses like management courses. We have to deal with the problem in a holistic way right from the start. Bridges must be built amongst ourselves, meaning the homes of the children, the private sector, government, and the education system, so that some of these problems can be addressed and solutions adopted. But most of all the youth and children must be involved in this interaction. A lot of these plans for the young are done without their voices.

From Charles Kick

Responding to David Hudson of Vanuatu who argues that certainly there is political corruption in less developed countries but if you track down the basic reason for their
going wrong, it seems to be that the rich countries don't pay the poor ones enough for their products. This is quite fallacious as a general statement. Yes, world agricultural prices are distorted by subsidies to farmers in developed countries, but those subsidies usually tend to push for higher prices, not lower. However, such subsidies by developed countries are usually accompanied by trade restrictions: the European Union and the US import sugar according to quotas. Were such quotas eliminated, developing country farmers would be able to sell more of their sugar - but at a lower price (the high price that many developing countries get through the African-Caribbean-Pacific agreements would not survive quota elimination).

Recall the truism: ‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.’ Those who think rich nations' politicians grab less than developing countries are sadly mistaken. Politicians are quite similar in all countries.

Fair trade is a worthwhile ideal. However, it is quite unlikely that the 'fair trade playing field' will ever be level. It certainly does not favour small players.

Turning now to the issue of rising expectations among island youth as discussed by Winnie Robinson of Long Island USA, this reminds me of the old ‘Knowing, Knowing How, and Doing’ efforts in the Pacific Islands during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Much of the latter two used to be learned in the community. The death of community in many places results in people demanding more of the educational system, while the desire for material goods results in people not having the time (or inclination?) to participate in education as in the past.

In response to Moelani Jackson’s discussion on the migration of Cook Islanders to New Zealand: the shift to the cash economy (i.e., the New Zealand economy) that took off in the Cooks during the 1970s-1980s has changed a lot of that state's society. Tourism was a convenient tool for national leaders but was not the cause. If the Cooks' national leaders had promoted tourism more as has Samoa’s, development would have been better, but she would still be able to see youths running away to New Zealand (as some 2% of Samoa's population migrate to New Zealand/Australia - and most of those migrants are aged 15-34).

I've attended communal functions of/by/for Cook Islanders in Aotearoa, and would say that although those Cook Islanders are no longer in the Cook Islands, they still have the strong family and cultural ties that one can find in e.g. Aitutaki. I've not yet seen similar functions amongst Samoans in Aotearoa; I hope they exist and are as mutually supportive as the New Zealand Cook Islanders.

From Hendrik Smets, Solomon Islands

I don't agree that terrorism and corruption finds its cause in the under payment of commodities to the less developing countries. Examples as Zimbabwe and Zaire prove the contrary. When Mobutu took power in l967 he put the country on the right trail again. Prosperity returned progressively but slowly to the country. Seven years later, under pressure from his family, he started accumulating the wealth of his country for his own sake and ruined the country.

The same is true for another dictator, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. In the beginning of the 80s he attracted white farmers to invest in his country and take over the farms abandoned by the former settlers. The new farmers brought prosperity to the new country. In 2000, Mugabe started seizing the same farms, giving them to his lieutenants and to some other black people. Some farms were used as second hunting residences and the native workers were chased away just as were the white farmers. Other extensive farmland was parceled in such a way that the management became unproductive. The result of this demagogic policy was starvation and famine.

Many politicians in less developed countries put their own interest and the interests of their family, before the interest of the nation, the people they should serve as a whole. This explains favoritism and corruption. If they would work for the nation, prosperity becomes possible.

And many don't understand that when you want something, you can’t reach your goal without the appropriate efforts – unless of course you use corruption. But corruption means prosperity only for some and not for all.