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General Debate : Dr Pita Sharples

General Debate

Dr Pita R Sharples

Wednesday 17 May 2006

As we approach Budget Day, the Maori Party has been asking questions of anyone who will listen: will it make a difference? Will tomorrow’s budget improve the cultural, social and economic wealth of the nation? A boom for whom?

The irony is, of course, while United Future, Progressives, Greens, and NZ First have been asked for an input -Labour has either deliberately ignored, denied or just plain forgotten that tangata whenua may also have something worthy to contribute to the budget.

Why should we be surprised from a Government which produced a Budget last year which failed to even include the word Maori?

The Maori Party is committed to a true and accurate account of the economic picture for our nation. The connection of truth and accuracy is particularly important - for whose truth are you telling if you are only counting part of the picture? How accurate can your projections be if only a partial account of wealth is conveyed?

The million dollar question for all economists and analysts alike - is if GDP is UP, then why is Aotearoa so DOWN?

Why are we experiencing crippling rates of poverty; escalating trends of convictions; unprecedented growth in police numbers; breaking all international records in child abuse or youth suicide stats?

Where is the pleasure in evaluating the impact of new technologies if it is accompanied by ‘jobless growth’ - growth of economic activity without any subsequent impact on employment rates?

Another riddle to stifle all laughter is that the more fossil fuels you burn, the more greenhouse gases you emit; the greater GDP grows.

The problem is not with GDP per se.

GDP was only ever intended as a measure of activity - a quantitative count of the goods and services used to make the economy grow.

One would think that no politician in their right mind would argue that higher poverty rates, dirty air, increased stress, or the loss of first language speakers is a sign of a successful nation. Yet that is exactly what GDP does - it measures the quantity of the fishing haul without ever stopping to count the cost of the destruction of the seabed. It counts the profit of felling logs without assessing the damage to the eco-environment, measuring what is left behind.

The Maori Party knows that just because one does not count something, it does not mean that it does not count, and the Maori Party also knows and believes that some of the things that are counted as happens with GDP do not count in making this society of ours a better place for all of us.

For years New Zealanders have watched MPs turn up

- to give out certificates to community workers;

- talk about how much they value a safe neighbourhood;

- praise up the volunteer workforce who care for the elderly, the young, the sick, the poor, the vulnerable, the lonely…..

- and yet they never include this work in the national accounts.

It’s time to make a difference, to make it count. We need a dramatic shift in the political vocabulary which takes account of all those who are locked out of the budget; sidelined from the discussions; left behind; alienated. And that includes the Maori Party - the only independent Maori voice in this House.

For Maori know, better than most, the impact of measuring it right.

Tangata whenua live by kaupapa which remind us that if we are not caring for Papatuanuku (Mother Earth); if we are not feeding the wairua, sustaining our spiritual growth; then our mauri (our life-force) will be comprised.

We understand that the revival of te reo rangatira; the advancement of Matauranga; will not only ensure the survival of the people as Mäori; but it will also increase our nation’s prosperity and cultural capital.

We know there are already existing indicators in the Social Report or in the work undertaken at Massey University - Te Hoe Nuku Roa - which assess a range of quality outcomes which provide a wider assessment than GDP.

Currently these frameworks are seen as an interesting addition - an add on to conventional measurements. While GDP is misused to represent far more than it was ever intended to; these social indicators are reserved in separate silos that can be pushed to the side.

The Maori Party wants to bring to the core a framework of indicators which accounts for our human, social, cultural assets alongside our produced and manufactured wealth. At the centre of all our Policy thinking is the Genuine Progress Index as a measurement of our pathway to a truly healthy and prosperous society.


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