Help me understand this.

According to a recent report in the DomPost:

“New Zealand’s biggest science provider, AgResearch, says it is having to find work in other countries to meet Government demands for a 9 percent dividend. At the same time, the Government is cutting funding for pastoral science and greenhouse gas research.

Chief executive Andrew West said AgResearch was helping Chile prepare a pastoral export strategy. He admitted some people might see it as helping the enemy. ‘No, we’re earning 9 percent. The shareholder wants 9 percent – it’s our job to earn it.’

Scientists and farmers said they were concerned by the move. Scientists’ spokesman John Hickford said: ‘Who are they meant to be working for? Isn’t it for the benefit of the taxpayer? The farmer?’”

Good question!

Do I have this straight? Apparently because we don’t have enough research needs here in NZ, Kiwi taxpayers will instead help Chile figure out its export strategy! Hellooo! Doesn’t our productivity suck? Don’t we need to figure out methane?

This reminds me of a recent column in the NY Times by Tom Friedman (of The World Is Flat fame), in which he noted that “America’s premier solar equipment maker, Applied Materials, is about to open the world’s largest privately funded solar research facility — in Xian, China.” At least in that situation, the faster China commercialises solar power, the faster it can limit its catastrophic coal burning … which benefits all of us, enormously. And it will wind up manufacturing and exporting the cheapest solar equipment in the world, making solar power cost competitive for the rest of us importers.

(Perhaps with the side benefit of adding some in-bound cargo for the Port of Napier. They had a boomlet in windmill blades a while back. Maybe Hastings or Napier should switch sister cities?!)

Still, it’s always galling to see basic research exported, instead of fueling innovation, productivity gains and competitive advantage for one’s own people. But perhaps from a “we’re all one big happy global family” perspective, that’s a sentiment bordering on xenophobic!

Is there a smart economist, philosopher, or National MP out there who can set me straight on this?

Tom Belford

P.S. By the way, if you’re interested in a encouraging (but from a competitive standpoint, sobering) account of how and why Red China is committed to becoming Green China, read Friedman’s article … it’s called The New Sputnik. If we think we’re going to be selling technical insight to China for long, we had better re-think. The smartest 1% of NZ’s population — our brain trust (an able and feisty group, I’m sure) — is a squadron of 43,337 individuals; the smartest 1% of China’s population is an army of 13,191,753 … and they all know advanced calculus!

Hey National, let’s invest in a velodrome instead … maybe we can out-bike ’em!

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2 Comments

  1. Good old NZ – for years now we have stumbled along and now seem to be falling by the way.

    Once a leader on the world stage, we climbed the ladder and now we are taking the slide on the down trip.

    Telecom, a company that in the past was big on talk, big on high payouts – to shareholders and executives – now it is facing a hard road. With vision and more investment in infrastruture over the last ten years instead of the focus on short term numbers Telecom could well be at the top of the heap.

    Past management lacked vision or if they had it sold out for short term gains.

    Central and local government are no different.

    There are some hard dicisons to make and no one in central government seems willing to make them.

    Living in hope, deluded.

    While China with its massive stimulus program and America with the Dow making impressive gains, the talk is that we here, in good old NZ will be ok.

    Ah but now we have the NZ dollar on the rise against major currencies, more like the US and Brittish currencies are sinking.

    Why? – because things are not good in those parts.

    Ah, again – we are different we grow food, it will all be ok, or not so bad.

    The NZ dollar was always going to rise, by how much who knows, thats what happens when other countries print money.

    But we will be ok – good Tui advert.

    So the dollar stays up, even continues to rise, interest rates will rise – so what happens?

    Not hard to work out.

    The time is now, in fact it is well past for some major changes, but no one down there in the big honey pot is willing to make them, drones.

    There should be a claw back or some penalty, and rewards, for parliamentarians for past performance – accountability, I can smell Tui again.

    Maybe some politician will step up to the plate of their own accord because one way or another the situation will only deteriorate to a point where drastic measures are forced, all because leadership and vision were found wanting.

    We have some 121 in the hive, I really do not mind who or how many step up and out, but for goodness sake forget about political survival, you will be remembered and perhapes even revered for what was done, not how long you were there.

  2. "the Government is cutting funding for pastoral science and greenhouse gas research" – good plan re greenhouse gas. In fact lets get off that Bandwagon completely – yes, man contributes carbon to the environment, and yes, we have a little recent warming depending on who you listen to, but waste money on study of methane in the current economic climate – Now that is "farting against thunder"

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