Waylaid Dialectic

December 13, 2010

The Secret to Fighting Poverty is Planning

Filed under: Migration — terence @ 5:22 am
Tags: ,

In a surprising move an AidWatch blogger has come out in favour of statism and planning. Sure the blogger is Laura not Bill, and she apparently doesn’t know this yet, but when she writes about the wonders of New Zealand’s RSE (short term migration scheme) she’s writing about the success of a well planned undertaking.

True, the desire to migrate and the wealth that flows home is a product of the individual desires for betterment of the migrants involved. But the NZ scheme was carefully designed and established by our Department of Labour (with input from the aid programme and others). And a lot of work by government agency staffers has gone into attempting to ensure that the migrants involved aren’t exploited and that opportunities to save are maximised. Similarly, by design and as a result of the types of eligible employment, the migrants are ususally in relatively isolated rural communities with discrete periods of work on offer. So when Laura writes:

The good news doesn’t stop there. The usual fears for or about migrants—that they would be vulnerable to poor treatment, or that they would take advantage of the program to over stay their visas—don’t seem have materialized.

She’s right, but let’s at least give credit where credit’s due on this one — thank you to the planners. (While we’re at it – and this is really a topic for another post — the amount of community planning which went into the selection of participants in the Pacific Countries involved, as well as trying to ensure benefits were spread about, is also something to bear in mind.)

Also, it’s worth noting that this scheme has been relatively unproblematic here in New Zealand because it has been implimented during a period of sustained low unemployement. It’s popular becuase it fills a need and doesn’t displace native workers, but this may not always be the case. One of these days our run of good economic performance will come to an end, and when it does, it’s possible that opposition will rise.

And, finally the scheme is unproblematic because it’s small. Which is a critical point — migration is an incredibly effective development tool for the migrants involved but, lamentably and inescapably, it is unpopular in receiving countries once it becomes large scale. It’s sad to think that the average member of middle-New Zealand is something of a xenophobe, but this is the fact of the matter. Which means that migration isn’t a development magic bullet. It works well for the people who it works for, and we should definitely push for and allow more of it, but there are limits to what it can acheive. There’s no place like home and there’s still no substitute for development back home either.

I’m in favour of migration; I’m in favour of being realistic about what it can acheive too.


  1. Terence, this is a wonderfully balanced post that more people should read. Did you see this post by David Frum, and the comment by Matthew Yglesias. Your post puts what is being promoted as a “successful policy” into its very specific geographical and historical context.

    Comment by Simon — January 1, 2011 @ 11:23 am

  2. Thanks Simon – and happy new year.

    Comment by terence — January 2, 2011 @ 7:49 am

  3. […] Filed under: Migration — terence @ 7:45 am Tags: RSE Scheme A while ago I mentioned the degree of planning that had gone into New Zealand’s seasonal migration scheme – efforts to ensure that benefits for workers were maximised and the risk of exploitation […]

    Pingback by Exploitation and Seasonal Migration « Waylaid Dialectic — February 5, 2011 @ 7:45 am

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