It was no surprise to see the New Zealand Initiative (the old Business Roundtable rebranded) provide a platform for a Rogernomics-era free-marketeer, Stephen Jennings, to tell us we needed more market-led reforms – especially in education.
Jennings is worth $980 million according to the NBR rich list and is currently in Africa looking for more money-making opportunities.
Jennings made his first pile here in the 1980s as the fourth Labour government privatised state assets. He pocketed millions of unearned wealth created by former generations of New Zealanders who built up this country’s infrastructure for the benefit of the country well into the future.
Then he moved to Russia where he made billions more pillaging the wealth of generations of Russian workers through the privatisation of their state assets. Now he’s in Africa working to amass more wealth from African workers.
On the one hand Jennings message is the same – free-market capitalism is the only way forward – but on the other it was less bullish.
He supports some interventions in the economy and claims rising inequality is a problem that will come back to bite us. He worries about political instability (it’s bad for predatory capitalists like Jennings) as in the US with Donald Trump or the BREXIT vote in the UK. He fears it could come here next year.
So who or what does Jennings see as responsible for rising inequality? The free market? The privatisation of public assets? The gutting of New Zealand manufacturing by cheap imports? The driving of tens of thousands of New Zealanders into poverty by free-market capitalism? The shifting of taxes from the rich to the rest of us? The inability of capitalist to curb their greed? The failure of families to feed their kids on poverty wages? Appalling housing? The obscene salaries paid to senior managers in the private and public sectors?
No, no, no, says Jennings – the problem is the teacher unions!
Jennings, at the behest of his Roundtable mates, claims poor teaching was behind the low-educational achievement of children in schools in low-income areas. He says teachers are failing Maori and Pasifika kids in particular. He wants performance pay for teachers despite the highest performing countries in education, like Finland for example, specifically rejecting performance pay in favour of high professionalism of teachers, collaboration, co-operation and the aim that every child succeeds.
Pity the people of Africa having to put up with this corporate bludger.