Gareth Morgan, Director of Gareth Morgan Investments
The economic debate on immigration centres most often on whether raising numbers is likely to be of net benefit. Just as legitimate an issue is whether present immigration levels add, detract or don’t affect the economic and social well-being of the country. The issues relate not just to numbers but to the quality of migrants. One area where we appear to be shooting ourselves in the foot is the lax economic performance criteria we apply to migrants, thus denying ourselves the opportunity to use migration as a means of leveraging up average skill, education, and enterprise levels in the community.
The suggestion by a State politician in Australia that Kiwis in their jails should be deported makes economic sense. The investment in these criminal’s education, both formal and social, was a NZ effort which clearly failed. Accountability dictates that those who did a poor job- NZ schools, NZ parents, and NZ social policy, should pay. On the other hand billing emigrants from NZ for the cost of public sector investment in their education is also logical. By bearing all the fruits of their efforts- good and bad- the signals to improve these institutions would be stronger, leading them to attain higher success rates. Accountability is a powerful incentive mechanism, leading to improved average performance.
One of the counters to the Australian initiative came from the NZ civil libertarian lobby. Their spokesman questioned where such a policy would end. If we complied to the Australian wishes, would we also apply such penalties to immigrants who offended here? The sensible answer is yes! An immigrant is a probationary citizen, and conditions applying to them should be tougher than those applying to full citizens: Until their probation is complete, granting them full rights is both unnecessarily beneficent, and leads to immigration raising average dependency rates on State institutions.
At a time when many citizens are having to adapt to a far harsher competitive climate for jobs, education, and for welfare assistance, an environment in which featherbedding is greatly diminished demands that migrants should not be granted the right to exploit scarce national resources through favourable, or even equal access to any of the above. Until citizenship is granted, their rights should be similar to those granted any probationer. Committing crime, inability to support oneself and one’s family without resort to welfare services, inability to fund one’s own health needs, should all be grounds for repatriation.
Economic benefits of immigration are debatable. Far clearer though is the economic cost of sponsoring immigration of people whose dependence on State- provided institutions is greater than average. Stressing economic criteria for immigrant eligibility and de-emphasising the currently-dominant bilateral constitutional and legal obligations, will alleviate unnecessary pressures current immigration policy places on NZ citizens. Stricter probation conditions are overdue if we want to eradicate the economically noxious impact of current immigration.