20 Jun 2007

Niue government plans for debt write-off upset residents

6:35 pm on 20 June 2007

The Niue Government is planning to write off nearly two million US dollars in long standing debts.

The bulk of the money is owed by the government-owned Niue Power Corporation for diesel imports, but about 400,000 US dollars is owed for import duty, student study overseas, phone bills, television licences and rents on government housing.

The Finance Minister, Fisa Pihigia, says the money has been deemed unrecoverable, with individuals concerned either having died or moved off island, mostly to New Zealand.

"Most of the debts have been disputed so the recommendation that we need to follow from the auditor is to do away with those debts that have been showing on our accounts year after year."

But an opposition MP, Terry Coe, says many think the Government needs to do more to get the outstanding money from those Niueans living overseas.

What the people on the island are saying is why should we have to pay all our debts and people who go overseas don't have to and it's just totally wrong. And I think that too. We should collect all the debts.

Niue is to bring in a new Budget next week - one that is expected to include cuts to services as the island struggles to balance its books to meet the requirements of its main aid donor, New Zealand.