Committed gov’t important for implementation of peer review

Alofi, Niue– The Niue Secretary to Government Richard Hipa has attributed the progress made so far in the implementation of the 2011 Niue Peer Review recommendations to the stable government and the commitment by the political leadership in the country.

The government of Niue invited a Peer Review Team in June 2011 under the Cairns Compact on Strengthening Development Cooperation (Forum Compact) to review its planning, budgeting, public financial and aid management processes. The Team, made up of representatives from Nauru, Samoa and Australia, made 12 recommendations which were endorsed by the Government in consultation with Niue’s development partners.

Under the leadership of the Niue Secretary to Government, a committee has been set up to coordinate the implementation and monitor progress of the recommendations of the peer review as part of government’s ongoing and existing initiatives to improve its policies and institutions for effective and efficient delivery and management of services and resources to its people.

“What helps Niue is that we have a stable government, a commitment by the political leadership to carry the recommendations forward and also the wide consultation undertaken by the peer review team. The review has helped us to see what lessons could be learnt, help us look at how we have been delivering and managing services and resources and with a little bit of assistance we will be able to improve on what we are doing,” said Mr Hipa.

“I am happy that since the peer review team delivered their report we have managed to gain ground on most of the 12 recommendations.”

Mr Hipa agreed that the peer review has provided the catalyst for moving forward on some issues which the government had earlier planned.

“On the question of certainty for planning, we have managed to move forward last year with the finalization of the Joint Agreement for Development with the government of New Zealand. Under the Agreement we have confirmation of funding from Wellington for the next three years providing certainty which assists planning by the government of Niue. This is significant progress in regards to forward planning and budgeting,” said Mr Hipa.
Further to that, the Niue government has also seen improvements in the overall management of its fiscal and financial policies.

“For the last three years we have seen, despite the difficult financial situation, government managing to record a surplus in its budget at the end of the year. Small as it is, also taking into consideration a small market base to generate revenue locally, it indicates that the government, through the leadership of the Premier, Cabinet and the departments, have managed to keep expenditure to budget. This provides confidence for the government on the ability of departments to fiscally manage the operations of the public sector.”

According to the Secretary to Government, another positive development arising out of the Forum Compact for Niue has been the strengthening of the very positive engagement between the government and the private sector.

“Whilst we are progressing with the public sector transformation programme, the government has adopted a holistic approach, looking at a national programme for the public sector as well as what assistance could be provided to the private sector,” said Mr Hipa.

“The Government have shifted the youth employment scheme (YES) from under the government and placed it under the Niue Chamber of Commerce, funded by the Government and supported by New Zealand. This reflects the importance of youth in building the future economy of Niue.”

In the past, Government’s have largely captured the top 10 – 15% of Niue High School students receiving study awards, the rest missing out having to look for employment or families sending them overseas. Today, the YES program allows students to take up work with the private sector, funded by Government, where they will learn the skills of the trade they wish to take up. After a year or two work attachment, they will pursue studies in technical training institutions abroad. In 2010, there were a record six study awards for the private sector, and a program the Government will continue to invest in long term.

Last year, the Government of Niue, for the first time, formulated not only an operational budget but also an Investment and Development budget. The Investment and Economic Development budget captures funding Niue receives from other donors or development partners other than New Zealand.

“The linkages of departmental corporate plans with the operational and Investment and Economic Budget with the 5 x Year Niue National Strategic Plan is work in progress and we will continue to refine it as we go along,” said Niue’s Secretary to Government, Mr Hipa. The Niue Government is also setting up an Aid Management Coordination Unit within Treasury. The Unit will articulate for the government’s and development partner’s consideration Niue’s existing aid coordination policies.

“The biggest challenge for us here within the Niue Government is one of time and capacity. The time to work on the many things we have to do and the capacity of the skilled people to deliver the objectives of government. So we will need to review and set priorities for ourselves.”

The Secretary to Government in Niue Mr Hipa is optimistic that after this year, “we will be pretty much on track with the implementation of the recommendations of the peer review. I don’t believe that no one PIF country has got it all right at the moment. We thought we were very much on track but not quite so, therefore I would recommend to other Forum island countries to consider conducting one to have a look at their systems.”

A team from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat which was in Niue from 27th April to 4th May, debriefed the Premier of Niue Hon. Toke Talagi and the Niue Peer Review Steering Committee on their findings about the progress made so far, the challenges being faced and what assistance the Secretariat could coordinate with other Forum Island Countries and development partners to assist with the further strengthening of Niue’s institutions and policies including the implementation of the peer review recommendations.

ENDS.

For media enquiries, contact Mr Johnson Honimae, the Forum Secretariat Media Officer on phone: +679 9997998 or email: johnsonh@forumsec.org.fj