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Present Trends In New Zealand
Dorothy - 28/5/99

Part 2 of a three part interview with George Ridley.
If you haven't already, you may want to read Part 1.

What is happening at present in New Zealand?
Trends under the present system:

  • Deterioration of the environment
    'Band-aid' regulations fail to stem the trend.
  • The transfer of wealth upwards
    There is an ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor.
  • The erosion of democracy
    There is a widespread feeling in the community that the ordinary citizen has very little, if any, influence on decision making. Decisions are often made behind closed doors - in cabinet or board room - sometimes overseas.
  • The break-up of communities
    This is especially evident in rural communities as people are forced to move to the cities by the lack of job opportunities and the closure of such places as hospitals and banks.
  • Erosion and denial of the sense of the spiritual or sacred
    The intrinsic value of intangible aspects of life is lost and the view promoted is that only money matters. For instance historic buildings are destroyed and replaced by huge modern buildings which are hopefully functional but lack the variety and atmosphere of the older buildings. Often they are in the inner city which is oversupplied with office space and stand partly empty.
  • Feelings of incapacity and helplessness
    A large section of society has ceased to believe in personal worth and ceased to hope for a better way of life.

What are the obvious resulting problems?
Poverty and the poverty trap

Families have been living too long in crowded, sub-standard housing and struggling to pay for the essentials. Too many are unable to free themselves from the poverty trap and make a fresh start because they lack the extra money needed and because they have lost confidence in their own ability.

Many beneficiaries feel that there is a stigma in being on a benefit and tend to withdraw from community activities.

People who have been unemployed for a long period find it particularly difficult to get work.

Employers agitate for the removal of the minimum wage. Even those who have employment often receive such small wages that they have to go to foodbanks to feed their families.

As people drift from the rural areas to the cities in the hope of work they are cut off from supportive communities and those communities grow smaller and weaker. The new urban dwellers seem often to be known only by their IRD number.

Loss of self esteem
Many people feel that receiving a benefit carries a stigma and that their work is not valued.

Unpaid work needs recognition.
Unpaid work in the home, among neighbouring families or in voluntary organisations goes unrecorded and unrecognised. Government support for the disabled, those with health problems and the elderly has been reduced. This means that the work of the volunteers is of vital importance in reducing the costs to society from illnesses aggravated by loneliness and lack of care, crimes arising from despair, and suicides.

Inequity between the sexes
Women tend to feel that they are regarded as of little worth because they are the majority of the unrecognised voluntary workers. Also the only work available to many of them is paid at a lesser rate than is paid to men.

Stress
In addition to the loss of self-esteem, struggling to survive financially, having little hope of ever gaining employment, living in a society where constant advertising promotes consumerism as the key to happiness - all these tend to produce ever increasing stress.

Crimes associated with poverty and/or drug taking
People driven to despair by poverty commit crimes that they would not have contemplated if they had satisfying work to do and a fair wage. Despair and boredom lead to drug taking and users often resort to crime to support their habit.

Problems in the education system
The education system which is geared too much to learning 'facts' and skills supposedly needed in the workplace but not to people's real needs is failing young people.

Truancy in schools is increasingly common. Where both parents are out all day children can play truant without their parents' knowledge. Living in a hopeless situation of poverty and/or benefit dependence can take from the children any incentive to become educated in a system which seems to have no relevance for them.

Youth suicide
Stress and a sense of futility have led to an increase in youth suicide. New Zealand's youth suicide rates in recent years have ranked among the highest in the OECD countries.

Problems in the health system
Thousands of people are coping with ill health because they cannot qualify for treatment in the public system and cannot afford the cost of private treatment or health insurance.

Insecurity among senior citizens
The inability of the political parties to come to any agreement about superannuation payments as the proportion of senior citizens increases has led to great anxiety for superannuitants as they try to budget for essentials, for health care and for electricity costs which are being increased just as the weather is becoming colder. Many live in fear of 'home invasions' as crime increases.

An unwieldy welfare system
In June 1998 over 800,000 people were drawing welfare payments. The multiplicity of welfare schemes and the large number of recipients require a huge staff to administer payments.

The search for an escape
The desire to escape from tension and hopelessness leads people to find excitement and a financial solution through gambling, or relaxation through alcohol or through smoking cigarettes or marijuana - all addictive pursuits which often lead to the problems of ill health or debt.

An irrelevant measure of the well being of society
Governments measure the well being of the people through the Gross Domestic Product or the Gross National Product - measures based on total money spent and taking no account of social or environmental matters.

The loss of democracy
Individuals feel increasingly powerless as right wing politicians lobby hard to reduce the power of Regional Councils, to step back from MMP and to reduce the number of representatives in Parliament.

Congested and unhealthy cities
The drift to the cities has led to overcrowding and the increasing numbers of vehicles cause ever more pollution.

A general lowering of moral standards
The present system promotes competition and individual self-interest to the detriment of cooperation and compassion.

A new direction is needed, but what options are there?
Read Part 3 of the interview with George to find out the ways in which he believes a changed taxation system could assist the future of the planet and its people.






 
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