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Sharples: The Genuine Progress Index

Keynote Address: Takapuwahia Marae, Porirua

Measuring Well-being of Communities -

the Genuine Progress Index

Dr Pita R Sharples; Co-leader, Maori Party

Thursday 18 May 2006

Last August, the minority Labour Government in listing their achievements for the last six years prior, boasted about the building of two new prisons with two more planned.

The politicians rejoiced at the spectacular growth in total prison inmates, a stunning 21% growth rate between 2000 and 2005. In real terms, that’s a rise from five and a half thousand inmates in the year 2000 to nearly seven thousand in 2005! Unbelievable!

The economists celebrated the fact that on an annual average basis the New Zealand economy grew by 2.2 percent in the year ended December 2005.

The construction of new prisons is not just good news for GDP - it is great news! New buildings, new jobs, associated industries and a flurry of economic activity.

But hold on a minute. Let’s rerun that.

What sort of political regime would salivate at the expansion of prisons, the increase in crime, the realities of dysfunctional families indulging in negative activity - and call this progress?

What sort of political party would be proud of the fact that while the prison population expands exponentially, the indigenous peoples of the land maintain their position of 50% of the prison numbers?

In fact this last statistic makes us a world winner - Aboriginal peoples in Canada at most comprise 18% of the federal offender population; Aboriginal inmates in Australian prisons represent 21% of their total population while we top the scales on 50%.

What sort of political mind would see progress in that? What we see is institutional racism, ethnocentrism and subordination.

And it’s not just in the jails of this land that such injustice is allowed to breed.

Today is Budget Day - and very shortly the country will be exposed to the glossy overdose of media spin designed to sell the unpalatable and call it progress.

What could be more unpalatable than the finding last month by Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the United Nations Special Rapporteur that here in Aotearoa:

“significant racial inequalities continue to exist in health, housing, employment, education, social services and justice”.

What sort of politician can claim that this is progress?

The 2006 Budget could have provided a perfect opportunity to respond to the devastating disparities between Maori and non-Maori, by honouring our constitutional framework, and ensuring all citizens are supported through to prosperity.

But wait…..what about the GDP?

The Gross Domestic Product.

Remember the GDP provides an aggregate account of all goods and services in the economy. If it goes up, we’re all happy, because we are told that economic activity equals progress.

It is a bit like telling a drowning person that the more they thrash around in panic, the greater the chance of survival, - but we know the more they panic the greater chance they have of drowning; lots of activity no progress.

And that is how this minority Government views its adherence to GDP measurements and quite frankly right now they are panicking to find ways of meeting the extravagant election promises they have made. They will create the illusion of progress.

They will indulge in more ‘free trade’ and not ‘fair trade’ deals which in the Maori Party’s view will inevitably lead to the exploitation of people in other lands, the most negative impacts of which will be borne by indigenous people.

So if you’re thinking the Budget will have a nice, neat package of programmes to target these disparities between Maori and non-Maori - you better think again.

Remember closing the gaps? It’s not in the Government’s interests to close those gaps, to diminish disparities, to address inequalities.

For a whole industry has been generated to service Maori’s welfare needs and in turn it serves to keep Maori in the dependency mode. The only gaps they will be closing are the prison gates.

Billions of dollars are spread across a range of Government Departments such as Te Puni Kokiri; Ministry of Social Development, Department of Corrections, Department of Courts, Children and Young Persons, and many others and a whole raft of activities and businesses in turn service these programmes.

The fact that the latest Household Labour Force Survey showed that the Maori unemployment rate is still three times that of the rate for European/Päkehä- means in effect we become the shock absorbers for the economy.

Our misery is great for GDP. The GDP needs our misfortune.

I know - it sounds crazy. But let’s look at one example - health.

Here’s some figures that won’t be jumping up on today’s Budget powerpoints:

- Maori men are five times more likely to die from illnesses such as asthma, heart disease, infections, and bronchitis than non-Maori men; or

- The life expectancy for Maori is significantly lower than the life expectancy of the total population; with a difference of about 7.6 years between Maori and the total population.

Heart attacks are counted to mean something in the GDP.

They bring cash in to the economy - through drugs, hospital beds, medical supplies, nurses, doctors, theatre and intensive care staff, heart surgeons and community workers who support coronary care.

It’s all about face. Most of the over $9 billion health budget is being spent treating people once they have become ill, rather than trying to prevent people from becoming ill in the first place.

But this government does not wish to fund Maori providers to service Maori in need in Maori communities because that is “ethnic” targeting and that is not good - a practice recommended by Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, in his report.

If you asked the question - what would you rather have - good health and healing - or illness and pain - you would think there would be no debate.

Certainly we’d have no argument here today!

The spin-off of a Maori people strong and achieving within society would increase the vitality of all New Zealand - pumping up the health of our Nation.

And that is what we are gathered here today to do.

We are here to say Kati! Enough already of the conventional measurements -the standard GDP toolbox - it does not say how we are!

We are here to promote, to announce and to endorse the Genuine Progress Index - the GPI.

To calculate the GPI you take the GDP, subtract all the negatives (crime, pollution, divorce rates), accentuate the positives (voluntary work, marae activities, cultural revival), and end up with a new measure of sustainability, well-being and quality of life.

It sounds so easy.

And it is.

As we sit here surrounded by the wealth of whakapapa of Ngati Toa, blessed with the spirit of those tipuna who watch over us; it makes perfect sense that we understand the roles and responsibilities we all have to sustain and maintain the well-being of the people, the environment, our natural resources.

Whakapapa is all about honouring the inter-relationships between ourselves and our world.

As an example of this connectedness, the transgression of a sewage outfall impedes our ability to demonstrate manaakitanga - the ability to provide for our whanau and manuhiri. It also impacts on our duties to kaitiakitanga - to care for our natural resources.

The land-based sewage treatment plant not too far from here is a good local example of genuine progress (although unintended at the time as debates raged about the economics and expense), but look now, a once polluted Bay; once not safe to swim or gather kai moana in, now enjoyed by whanau and communities.

Ngati Toa, I know you played an important part in the land-based plant as you always objected to the pollution of your käpata kai with the discharge of raw sewage in to the Bay. Tena koutou.

If we take care to ensure the ecological footprint we leave behind is not soiled by the costs of stripping the ozone layer bare, of air, water or household pollution, of resource depletion; then we are also nurturing wairuatanga, our spiritual health; mana whenua - our responsibilities to our ancestral lands; and mana tupuna.

And we in the Maori Party whose offices are literally watched over (their photographs adorn the walls) by all the Maori politicians whose footsteps for us still echo in the halls of our Parliament, are every day reminded of their dreams and the dreams of ancestors still unfulfilled.

We know they did what they could in the best interests of our people and the nation, in an environment not always welcoming of another worldview.

Little has changed, and the Maori Party has added a mechanism which is compatible with a Maori worldview; the Genuine Progress Index; which I will address in a moment.

Continuing to pump billions into roading projects can not be seen in isolation of the damage to the ecosystem, the threat to wahi taapu, the threat of peak oil; dirty air; pollution.

So what do we do about it?

Well for a start - we face the facts - take the challenges head on - not blending everything together in a moulied stew where the spuds are mashed to a pulp; the carrots so sodden they’re tasteless; the pumpkin all disintegrated and the final produce called ‘one size fits all’; ‘one law for all’; the Kiwiclub.

Professor Stavenhagen concluded his New Zealand report, with a word of warning against retargeting programmes based on need rather than on ethnicity.

He said:

“Such a quantitative approach might lead to neglecting the specific contextual factors that have impacted the persistent inequalities suffered by Maori, and make the aim of reducing inequalities all the more difficult to attain”;

Indeed; “special measures to rapidly improve outcomes by Maori for Maori may still be called for”.

If we are ever to address these persistent disparities and to bring a measure of equity within our society, we can no longer be blind to the obvious relationships between ethnicity, racism, discrimination, poverty, ill-health; unemployment - the linkages across and between that trigger off different impacts.

We know this Government is nervous of the word Maori - last Budget the word wasn’t even used once - and they know we are counting!

I would here, in front of you all, say that if the word Maori appears in the Budget it will be to cut some project or advantage for Maori that the Government has found still exists.

We are saying, move on, get over it, wake up to the reality of tangata whenua; the wonder of tangata whenua; the first peoples.

It is time to make a difference - to work together, all together, to enhance the GPI of New Zealand.

We can do this by creating a better quality of life for Maori, by healing the sick, by addressing under-employment, by increasing community vitality and raising the general living standard.

These two days are going to change our world.

We are so honoured to be in the company of Dr Ron Colman - and I mihi to him for the leadership and passion he has shown in developing an index of wellbeing and sustainable development.

Over a humble dinner the other night we felt the fever of revolution as we listened to this quiet prophet of peace - calling us all to believe that transformation is not just possible - it is the greatest challenge of our life - to measure it right.

And so in the spirit of an uprising - who better to build a new environment of enterprise, of excellence, and of innovation than Mason Durie, Whatarangi Winiata, Anthony Cole, Vicky Forgie, Willis Katene and Michael Ross.

These highly respected rebels are all, in their own distinguished way -pushing the boundaries in refining our understanding of ways to count cultural survival.

With their help we can create the Budget of all Budgets - the measurement of well-being.

We are here to bask in the quality of life.

We seek to develop the capabilities of all whânau and citizens for social, cultural and economic advancement.

We are here to activate advancement in ways that express the values of Aotearoa, including kaupapa Mâori. We will promote the value of utilising resources for development only when preservation and restoration imperatives are applied.

We call on our indigeneity as a source of inspiration, of ingenuity; of insight and of creativity.

Our outcome will be to ensure that all aspects of our wealth, human, cultural, social, spiritual and economic are sustained through investment. I can’t wait to get started.


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