Friday, 3 August 2012

Hold the Pisupo! Let's not celebrate just yet

Yesterday New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key announced a $5 million dollar package in Education Aid to pay for the school fees of more than 16,000 high school students in Samoa. While most of my friends on Facebook were celebrating what on the surface level appeared to be a very generous and kind hearted gesture to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship between the said countries, I held back from peeling open that can of pisupo (I ran out of wine, shush) in celebration of the said gesture.

I've posted a few articles I have found which confirm my suspicions, and not that you need a PHD in Puliliness to understand it; you either have to be interested/ passionate in/about these sorts of issues or have done some random paper at University which briefly covered the topic (Pac 204, anyone?).

My initial reaction was that this was a well timed PR gimmick,  typical National Party show and tell, but it reminded me of some of the more poorly informed, backward reforms this government has made in relation to Aid, or Overseas Development Assistance. 

Not only was this act a facade, highlighting so many things wrong this particular administration, it does show that they are good at one thing: blinding the public with a whole lot of gimmicks - and people lap it up - naturally given preference for feel good stories with only a sound bite of background information- no one wants to get into the nitty gritty of at all.  

However, in situations like this, it is important that we do. For several reasons. The main one (for now) being that we don't jump up and down screaming 'Hercules, Hercules', when there is much more to the story than meets the eye.

The $5 million dollars was part of an already existing Aid Budget, which NZ provides to Samoa and other countries in the Pacific through it's Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).

Short story, real Aid from NZ, whilst it has confusingly increased in this terms Budget, has decreased in real terms, and has a very bleak future.

In 2002 NZ, with most of the international community were party to the Monterrey Concensus (and several other international agreements) in which developped countries would commit 0.7 of it's GNI (Gross National Income) to Development assistance, as part of the international bid to eliminate poverty by 2015. I'm sure we've all heard of the Millenium Development Goals. 

In typical National fashion, their friends in the Business community of New Zealand have dictated their policy, where they would rather the government reduce it's ODA budget, and help them by  “removing barriers and smoothing the way” to offshore investment. Neo-colonial rape anyone? 

In response National has slashed $133 million over three years of the Aid Budget, putting us even further behind other countries in the OECD. By 2014 New Zealand will only be committing 0.24 of GNI, the lowest amount it has committed in the history of NZ overseas development assistance. Great friendship huh? This comes at a time in which we've seen remittances from NZ drop, a weak demand in Samoan exports and the excruciatingly high prices for imported food.

These are very real things we need to be concerned about. So tell me again why are we celebrating?

On the other side, the Treaty provides grounds for dialogue on ways in which the friendship can be improved. But it will take all of the might of our people, in both Samoa and NZ, to push these issues, and to not jump up and down everytime the (former) master throws us a biscuit.

Tim Baice
Pulili News.

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