The Maori Economic Summit has walked into a storm of criticism from Phil Goff, Meteria Turei and Syd Keepa. Keepa claims the Maori Economic Taskforce, established by the Maori Party, focussed only on how “Maori corporates can break into international markets rather than what is happening in the community”. This is good point I think. It reminds me of Tuku Morgan’s fixation with international financial markets. I remember an episode of Native Affairs where Tuku took a Maori Television team to
New York to cover a glorified visit to the stock exchange. Tuku barked on about how Maori need to become global players and the way to do that is break into international financial markets. That is all well and good, but Maori should not jump ahead of themselves. We need to sort our own house out first – then we can worry about becoming “global players”. New York
As I said Phil Goff and Meteria Turei have come out hard against the taskforce and the summit. Turei called on the summit to address the needs of small rural Maori communities rather than “think big projects”. Goff ran a similar line; however he slammed the summit even before the first karakia was uttered.
Keepa, Turei and Goff made valid criticisms and suggested valid areas of concern, but I tend to think they were a bit quick in writing it all off.
Now, you might think the summit was all negative. It wasn’t. Bill English addressed the summit and he had this to say:
Maori businesses stand to benefit from the rebalancing of the economy his government is attempting, especially if they focus on exporting.
Does that mean Maori business stand to gain from asset sales, privatisation of social services and so on? Theoretically, Maori business will benefit, but do we want that benefit to come at the expense of all New Zealanders?
Economist Ganesh Nana also addressed the summit and said:
Investment in science and innovation in the Maori economy could create up to 150,000 new jobs by 2061 - while doing nothing will lead to a reduction in jobs.
This deserves serious consideration. I have always thought the Maori economy needs to refocus. The Maori economy is still based, for the most part, on primary production. I would like to see a shift towards investment in growth industries, like science and technology, rather than expanding the primary sector of the Maori economy. Essentially, structural change is required.
The central message coming out of the summit was Maori cannot afford to do nothing. According to the taskforce if the recommendations were to be followed 150,000 jobs could be created and the Maori economy could be lifted by $12 billion over 50 years. By contrast, doing nothing would cost 185,000 jobs and leave Maori lagging behind economically. It’s a clear choice.