The N.Z. connection and capitalism with an ugly face

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FACE OF THE MOMENT: N.Z. Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

FACE OF THE MOMENT: N.Z. Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

by Le Ulupoao Ata Maiai


New Zealand, a member of the Pacific family of nations, has an exemplary record in the development and the maintenance of democratic governance in its modern history. 

But its colonial experience in Western Samoa is the exception to the rule.

The record however speaks for itself on the positives: a country in the Pacific region that  passed  a  Law in 1893  to  allow women to vote in the General Elections; Elizabeth McCombs,  was elected a member of the NZ  Parliament in 1933.  

NZ Prime Minister Keith Holyoake played the leading role in the establishment of the South Pacific Forum. That saw the development of many regional projects and programmeswhich impacted  and enhanced  the principles of  democratic rule  in the Pacific Small Island States. 

Enlightenment and innovation were the hallmarks of NZ Prime Minister  Norman Kirk’s  government: as I remembered it, Norman Kirk was a  leader who changed through policies and Law  the esoteric outreach of  mainstream  politics  into pragmatism for the ordinary New Zealanders. 

Mr. Norman Kirk and the Treaty of Waitangi. Many observers would regard this feat as the watershed in the long march of events from the Maori Land Wars to the Atomic Age. The latter point of course symbolises the life of a great New Zealander Sir Ernest Rutherford  whose pioneering  work of the  planetary model of the atom led to  far reaching results  in science.

  But it is the  tradition and culture of the Maori people that  give  New Zealand its unique identity.  From the times of King Tawhiao;the  militantwarriorism of TeKooti ;  to the scholarly  Sir Maui Pomare, Sir ApiranaNgataand the present Maori Leaders, there is  a certain  political purpose as the result of tolerance and acceptance by the Maoris and other ethnic groups regarding  a civil political order. 

The alternative was chaos which they all strived to overcome with success. Christianity gave substance to the moral fabric of that order.  

So the great ministries that took place in King Country in the times of men of the cloth- John Whitely, James Wallis, William Williams; and  the Catholics and the Anglicans up to the 1940’s made the difference  in the  social and political realities of contemporary New Zealand. 

They sent men and women to the World Wars and made the Head of State of the United Kingdom their Sovereign. One activity however brought the people of New Zealand together and that was “ wealth creation.”   

Agriculture has always been the number one provider for wealth creation activities which impact food security and international trade for New Zealand. The fore-going snapshot of the political landscape of this country is a good start in the public interest   for making sense of the recent NZ  General Elections. Afterall to understand the present and visualise the future, we look to the past. It also serves to remind the governments and the peoples  in the Pacific Small Island States  to take stock of their relationship  with New Zealand.  

New Zealanders have impacted the national development  and the psyche of many societies  in this part of the world. To name a few topics:  Human Rights, Regional Trade, Foreign Aid (Education,  Medical Treatment programmesetc); Economic Cooperation( Seasonal Workers Scheme), Race Relation,  Diplomacy, Defence; Institutional and capacity Building -eg  social-economic reforms and  structural adjustments in the administration of public resources.

In our generation, we are witnessing the New Zealand character,  excelling  in every walk of life-eg.the all conquering “All Blacks” plus the  high achievers in other sports; innovators in science and technology; thriving scientific and medical community;  Top recording Artists in the music Industry;  Film elites  in Hollywood;   Kiwi solidiers  are among  the best  in the world; leading roles in the   agro and value-added commodity export industry. 

 New Zealand is a beautiful country as a  tourist destination;  and its  shared past with Samoa continue to serve as a source of inspiration and as a  tangible means of close co-operation for the  peoples of New Zealand and Samoa. Recently its population of  4.7 million people went to the polls. Thousands of qualified Samoan voted in the New Zealand 2017 General Elections.

From a distance, the results of the General Elections confirm the predicted outcomes of the campaigns by the candidates in the electioneering period- plus  certain election results  that we foreigners are trying to make sense of. 

Try this one. The National Party  won  more Party seats  in the General Elections  than those of the other Political Parties - and it  went on to be the  Opposition Party in Parliament. Admittedly, there is a  jocular ring to the foregoing statement- it could be  a lyric from a protest song in the tradition of Bob Dylan . 

Or a bad example in a 100 metres race in the Olympics where the winner clocking the fastest time  in the contest  is not the winner. Winning 44.44 per cent of the votes casted in the 2017 General Elections, why didn’t  the National Party call the shots to form the next government in New Zealand?

In the  past decades,  New Zealand voters have inquired into and decided on  the  merits- and otherwise-  of the subject of the   electoral system  -ie first past the post vis a vis Mixed Members  Proportional.  New Zealand voters went into the 2017 General Elections under the Mixed Member  Proportional, abbreviated MMP. But in the end, it was in  essence a handful of people, the Board of Directors of the NZ First Political Party , that decided the next government in “God Own.”

Mr. Winston Peters’sstatement  in a Press Conference  could very well be the  political watershed in the  NZ  post election  politics:   Capitalism he said should have a” human face”, a desire he attaches to  the type of political, social, economic developments for his constituencies. 

Already, the Coalition Government has introduced reforms in the social services such as the pay increase, annual leave etc ; the public pronouncements on an ambitious  investment package  in  public housing  and talks of a Free Trade Agreement with Russia. 

Prime Minister JacindaArdernhas publicly stated the creation of a group of bureaucrats  under her watch  to design activities that produce outcomes for poverty eradication. Based on his Press interviews, the Minister of Finance Grant Robertson gave us an idea of his bias on  fiscal  and macro-economic management  in his job: people’s  needs come before the country’s national debt. The assumption is that this coalition government is on the road  to do what Mr. Winston Peters  said about a  “human  face” for Capitalism. Or some observers would regard the agreed measures by the Coalition government as a  face-lift for   Socialism. There were   good things said about the fiscal performance for instance of the  Labour Government of Tony Blair of  the United Kingdom  but then he went after Saddam Hussein;  and imagined a stock pile of chemical weapons leading to his departure from Number 10. It is common knowledge the engine of economic growth in a capitalist system is the business community.

The creation and the sustainability  of wealth in the  Capitalist system- be it in NZ or elsewhere-  require the government of the day to establish the policy environment conducive to the interests of the business  community. 

The spinoffs from business activities in terms of income distribution would  impact  the livelihoods of the disadvantaged groups. New Zealand is a notable player in the Global economy.   

Remittances from Samoan living in NZ benefit the Samoan economy. NZ trade with China is valued at NZ  $20 billion dollars. And its domestic developments are extended subjects of globalization exposing its vast tract of farmlands to foreign investments.  

Interestingly, the housing projects for the low-income people under the new Government could mean heavy borrowing from the capital markets.  The National govt. policy was to grow the Hotel  business sector by accomodating  the  low income families.

MMP has its strengths which appeal to the system of representation for minority groups. Western Samoa had a similar experience in 1880’s with the advent of the Taimua and Faipule House. 

Government by representation as opposed to representative govt  is not a new subject. If there is a problem  in MMP and there are quite alot, it is the question  of legitimacy.  

Mr. Winston Peters and others entered  Parliament and Cabinet on the strength of the Party vote. The question is whether or not a Party vote encapsulated a  Human Right or not? A victorious candidacy has a Human Right as part and parcel of the result. The person won the contest. This why there is a question of legitimacy in  the case of Winston Peters presence in Parliament. He did not win the contest. Exception to the rule is  a tricky business and could be an unorthodox past -time. It is also like shadow boxing - a delusional habit. Take the  case of  a  referendum on a certain drug as publicly espoused by a Leader of a Minority Party. 

That Political Party won 8000 plus votes out of a  millions  voters in the  electoral  roll. Isn’t a referendum  a wayward act given the said  numbers?  The notion that New Zealand has a drug epidemic problem might be the result of speculation. 

The governments in the Americas, Asia, Europe, Africa  are struggling to gain  control of  the Drug-epidemics which are  fuelling  corruption in high office, terrorism and the general breakdown of societies. 

To paraphrase  a well known outcry often quoted  in the printed media: they lamented   that while  hard-working people who wake  up early to go to work or  the  hard working  business people  would break their  back to make their living, there are known cases of people living off the  social security smoking pot and live easy reckless life. 

The TV One News and this Newspaper have carried news items of group of gangs caught by the NZ Police shipping loads of cocaine into NZ. The worry is that criminal activity contaminate our shores in the future. This is capitalism with an “uglyface.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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