Thursday, June 26, 2014

Iwi Development As-It-Is: the Maori economy, capitalism, and democracy

Increasing chatter from the 2011 BERL report which cemented the 30-sumpin' billions we are worth ;)  Innovation (and science) drive a lot of this re-positioning of the so-called Maori economy. (My thoughts on this are out there). I think we need to get our facts right too...I was at an international conference where a Maori researcher argued the Maori economy was now 25% of the NZ economy.

'No,' says I, 'surely it's just 5-6%?'

'No,' sez she, 'it's $36 billion...'

'Yes,' sez I, 'from the 2011 Nana report...' which usefully provides a piechart showing Maori contributing 5-6%, which includes self-employed Maori ($5.4 billion) and Maori employers ($20.8b) taken from Stats NZ data. The guts of the 'Maoriness' of this economy is that encompassed by Maori trusts et cetera: $10.6 billion.

Heoi ano. Of course economic activities can - and I would argue, should - be interpreted as all-encompassing, a subset of our mythical and environmental parameters. (Don't panic, Judeo-Christians have thought this way through generations of capitalists...). The back story is that mainstream NZers have been on a nice little earner here in Aotearoa.

Circumstances have changed.

The capitalist mode of production still rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of non-workers in the form of property - capital and land - while the masses are only owners of the personal condition of production, their labor power.

Further, the peculiar evolution that is neoliberalism now appears in all its stunted glory. Aotearoa/NZ's strategy seems to be a state of 'not-being': not being Spain, not being Ireland, not being Greece.

But as we stumble into a post-settlement era, Maori have a unique position: increasing numbers of us are capital owners (land and assets), albeit as often (very) small-shareholders, while remaining reliant on selling what labour power we possess to survive.

Awhile ago, after the NZ government had replaced the democratically-elected (regional) Environment Canterbury councillors. Local iwi authority, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, support this usurpation. And why wouldn't they? The previous arrangement hardly worked in their favour and now that the government is hell-bent on opening up water for dairying, TRoNT are well-positioned to milk this for all its worth through Ngai Tahu Farms.

Our economy is sexy at the moment, not least as the global capitalist system has squeezed all the low hanging fruit and is looking to drill down - pun intended -and move into the peripheries, literally and philosophically, with Indigenous land and resources now being revisited for ongoing commodification and capitalist economic growth.

Hard rain's gonna fall...

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