New Zealand’s largesse in the pacific

credit: Michael Craig

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters have both made highly publicised visits to the Pacific Islands this year, and have been very busy doling out parcels of money for this good little island, and that well-behaved atoll.  There was the $3m for Samoa and $10m for Tonga to assist with damage repair after cylone Gita.  Samoa was given $6m for the business sector, Niue $5m for a solar power outfit and Tonga a generous $11m.  Then there was $15m to Papua New Guinea specifically to help with security for APEC, plus another $7m for immunisation programmes.  That’s a total of $57m to four tiny countries.

Why such largesse?  It almost feels like we are trying to buy the Pacific.

This from Mike HoskingQuote.

[…]The play for Pacific influence is real, and money talks, and New Zealand needs, some argue, to be seen to be playing our part, and if you are of a mind towards fiscal kindness, you could also argue we have let it drift a bit in recent years.

But here is the big question. Just how much fiscal kindness is enough, and even with Winston’s wallet out and the cash flying, will it ultimately make any difference at all given this all looks increasingly like a lottery, where the only winners are little countries with their hands out.

We, in aid terms, give enough each year in places like Tokelau and Kiribati and Nuie for families to live perfectly happily by doing literally nothing.

$86 million to Tokelau … population 1500, $70m to Niue … population 1600. Do the math, and how long has that tap been on, and how long does it continue to be on for?

And what sort of message does it send as regards self-determination and economic improvement?

Then of course you get to the real game, which is the proper money and investment and loan activity from the heavyweights.

If they build government buildings and presidential residences and wharves and supply ships and planes and transport and power, does anyone honestly believe these places aren’t beholden to the suppliers of those facilities and infrastructure?

Our Prime Minister waxed lyrical about the women’s market we’d helped build in PNG, a women’s market is the sort of altruistic sideline that will be long forgotten when the Navy bases are up and running and the runway extension is in and the lights are on.

The point here is this: 1. None of this is good for the islands, the more you are “shouted” the more addicted to free stuff you get, and as sure as night follows day, this will in some way shape or form end as regional interest is historically seasonal as the geopolitical plates shift.

And 2. If we think we are a player here, we are dreaming. Money talks and the more money you got, the more you drown out people like Peters standing on the sideline with a few gold coins. end quote.

He’s right, $57m is chump change compared with the size of the cheques China and the United States can write.  So why bother?  It would be better spent in our own country, where it was earned, on the taxpayers that have earned it.


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