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?’”
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?
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!