Last week RNZ reported on two stories that should give us all pause to think about who we are , what we stand for and the ACTUAL rather than the pretend economic policy by which our country is run .
The first was on the queues of people lining up at the Manurewa MSD office on Thursday to get emergency assistance .Some had been there, in the cold and rain since 2 am.
The Minister Carmel Sepuloni put the blame on the Auckland Action Against Poverty group because that’s the day they have their advocates there to advise people about their rights and they won’t spread out their advocacy over the week, through pre appointments and at other offices
Putting aside all other issues (such as trust in the MSD and the need for volunteer advocates at all) the fact that so many people are so desperate for assistance the government itself has had to increase the amount it has allocated for hardship grants to $128.5 million, tells you there is something very wrong with the way we are running our economy.
The second item was about the proposed sale of Westland Milk to a subsidiary of the Chinese milk giant Yili.
The Cooperative has been struggling to be profitable and pay a competitive pay out to its farmer suppliers.
Last year when Prime Minister Ardern visited the Westland Milk Products factory she announced it would receive a $10m loan from the Provincial Development Fund but this was taken off the table in March of this year when Westland Milk signed their provisional agreement with Yili to sell to the oversdeas buyer at $588 million.
What this story tells you is that the government’s continued neoliberal policy of allowing vast sums of foreign investment to wash across our borders means that it is powerless to support our agriculture and dairying industries from being bought up by overseas investors.
The same problem occurred in our housing market when unrestricted foreign money was allowed to buy and sell in our residential housing market . When overseas buyers can pay more for a property than the locals , then the locals miss out. (It is still happening by the way but in a less overt manner).
Who can blame a Westland famer who has struggled to make ends meet for taking a more attractive deal from an offshore buyer when the local deal isn’t as good?
Well of course that’s neoliberal capitalism. Everything is for sale because, to the neoliberal mind, money is the measure of value.
The trouble is that if we keep going down this road there will come a day when New Zealand is entirely operated by people who do not live in our country. What then? Who will be? What happens to our identity as a nation – our democracy?
Again the problem lies in the way we run our economy . The government, for all it’s recent PR about wellbeing is still running to the neoliberal agenda which promotes selfishness and competition over cooperation and the common good .
It still has ‘ a hands off’ attitude to the market place. Indeed it is actively waving foreign investors ashore to buy up our freshwater , milk factories and farms so that it won’t have to raise taxes from our own wealthiest people to pay for our own infrastructure, promote our own businesses and ensure that workers receive a fairer share of the nation’s wealth.
While the government may point excitedly to fact that there are officially less unemployed people in our country as evidence of their economic success , they can only do so by turning a blind eye to the fact that neoliberal economics has turned us into a low wage economy – a Gig economy – where many people have to work 2 and 3 jobs just to make ends meet.
It is still running an austerity budget with $3.5 Billion surplus when food parcel distribution at the Auckland City Mission is up 50% on last year.
It is also to ignore the fact that our richest two citizens now own as much wealth as the bottom 1.5 million of us- and yet our government refuses to instigate any significant form of wealth tax.
Over the last 3 weekends I have posed hypothetical questions on my page which have invited readers to think about their ultimate values . This week let me finish by posing you the real question I asked at the end of my 2012 documentary Mind The Gap…
What is the purpose of an economy?
Is it so a few people can get rich at the expense of the many? (Neoliberal economics)
Or to deliver the greatest good for the largest number of our citizens over the longest time? (Progressive economics)
I’m for the progress ‘greatest good’ approach to running our economy.
How about you?
Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.