Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Two New Zealands

First there is the New Zealand that appears to have no end of money to throw at burley blokes chucking a ball around a field. Hosting the Rugby World Cup cost Auckland ratepayers $100 million, although some of this was on improvements to the central city that were long overdue anyway. According to the Herald, as of last October budget blowouts had pushed government spending above $200 million. Plus $555 million in stadium upgrades, plus $39 million in direct losses from hosting the tournament. It is unclear if these figures include the $2 million cost of securing free-to-air TV broadcast rights.
To highlight just how important rugby is, the PM announced in 2011 that the government would pay a further $11 million to revamp Rugby League park in Christchurch so the Canterbury Crusaders would have a field to host rugby games in 2012.
So what does the New Zealand taxpayer get for this investment? Why, we're top of the IRB world rankings:

Give yourselves a pat on the back, Kiwis. This suggests that if we are prepared to spend the money, we do get the results.
What a shame then that as a country we are not prepared to make the same investment in our kids. New Zealand has one of the lowest rates of investment in children under the age of 5 of any country in the OECD outside of places such as Turkey and Mexico. 30 years of neoliberalism on steroids has gutted core government spending on social services including healthcare and education, resulted in barely rising incomes for low and middle income earners (the families charged with raising the majority of the country's children), and seen the emergence of what Guy Standing calls the precariat: people dependent on precarious employment and multiple low-paid part-time jobs, with wages kept low by an increasingly difficult to access welfare system and a fractured, multi-site service oriented workforce. Every New Zealand government since 1984 has blathered about wanting what's best for children, then proceeded to act in a manner that ignores their best interests. What is the outcome of our tight-fistedness? Why, we're 24th of 25 countries for children's health and safety, including infant deaths, immunisation rates, and death from injuries (graph from OECD. Note this uses an index to show how far countries are from the OECD average, and whether they are doing better or worse than average). 
No money, woeful results.

Thanks to Professor Asher from the University of Auckland for bringing this to our attention. The government has set up a ministerial committee on poverty as part of its agreement with the Maori Party. This should be drawn to their attention.