Mi­gra­tion – so who’s right?

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

Is it $15 bil­lion or near zero?

A Bri­tish myth about the real value of im­mi­gra­tion could worry New Zealand and pose a se­ri­ous ques­tion: Is im­mi­gra­tion re­ally the great cash cow our Bee­hive bu­reau­crats and MPs claim it to be? Are our of­fi­cial fig­ures right?

A study made for Im­mi­gra­tion NZ by highly-re­garded Busi­ness and Eco­nomic Re­search Ltd has no doubt.

The BERL re­port says the coun­try’s near-mil­lion mi­grants con­trib­uted $8101 mil­lion to the econ­omy through taxes, GST and ex­cise du­ties in 2006.

And that in the same year gov­ern­ment spend­ing on them, in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion, health, ben­e­fits and al­lowances, was only $4813 mil­lion. Which sounds a pretty good deal.

Cer­tainly bet­ter than the newly-re­leased find­ing by a House of Lords eco­nomic com­mit­tee in­quiry that a claimed $NZ15 bil­lion ben­e­fit from mi­gra­tion to Bri­tain is hope­lessly wrong, that the real im­pact on the UK econ­omy is close to zero.

If that’s right, the Lords should have come here to see just why our out­come seems so much bet­ter.

Or if, some­how, we’ve got it wrong?

In­stead, they con­cluded that in their case the cost to Bri­tain of mi­grant ed­u­ca­tion and health in par­tic­u­lar has been un­der­stated.

Ex­perts told them no real ac­count had been made for the ef­fect of Euro­pean ca­reer crime rings, se­cu­rity, the race re­la­tions process and what has been la­belled “health tourism” – travel to take ad­van­tage of the hospi­tal sys­tem.

The re­port called for curbs on fur­ther mi­gra­tion and crit­i­cised a gov­ern­ment scheme to in­crease the UK pop­u­la­tion by 190,000 a year.

That was likely to have se­ri­ous im­pacts on pub­lic ser­vices and hous­ing.

The Lords slated the gov­ern­ment for “ir­rel­e­vant and mis­lead­ing” use of “se­ri­ously in­ad­e­quate” eco­nomic sta­tis­tics to jus­tify the in­flow of mi­grants.

Among the re­port’s find­ings: • Mi­gra­tion could price mil­lions of Brits out of the hous­ing mar­ket over the next 20 years • Many UK schools are strug­gling to cope with their rapidly-ris­ing rolls of mi­grant chil­dren who do not speak English as a first lan­guage.

Lord Wake­sham, a for­mer en­ergy min­is­ter, summed up: Min­is­ters risk stok­ing so­cial ten­sions with poli­cies “which don’t make sense”.

This ver­dict and the ap­par­ent clash with New Zealand find­ings comes while Bri­tain tries to cope with the vir­tual open borders regime forced on it by the EU – mi­grants have all but tre­bled in the last 10 years to one in ev­ery eight UK work­ers.

Only half-funny jokes about how many East Euro­pean plumbers now work in Bri­tain and the im­pact of that move on their orig­i­nal home com­mu­ni­ties tell their own story.

The clas­sic re­peated in Moscow is how a Rus­sian would-be new car buyer was told he could ex­pect his car de­liv­ered on Septem­ber 1, 2010.

He shook his head sadly.

“I can’t col­lect it then, I’ve got a plum­ber due that day.”

The crit­i­cal re­port doesn’t come from fuzzy-minded old gen­tle­men wo­ken from their arm­chair slum­ber in cushy Lon­don clubs.

For­mer chan­cel­lors and Cabi­net min­is­ters were in the group which tried and failed to bal­ance the pluses and mi­nuses of the largest wave of mi­gra­tion in Bri­tish his­tory.

At the same time, Bri­tish so­ci­ety is cop­ing with the worst brain drain in 50 years – one Brit left ev­ery three min­utes in 2006, that’s 207,000, the high­est in the OECD.

More than a mil­lion Bri­tish grad­u­ates are mak­ing a ca­reer over­seas, a third of them with science and en­gi­neer­ing de­grees.

So we are far from hav­ing it on our own.

With dif­fer­ences in scale, the same trends are ob­vi­ous here – doc­tors leav­ing Third World com­mu­ni­ties who need them to come here for a new life, re­plac­ing our doc­tors who are go­ing for the First World big money over­seas, an Auck­land hospi­tal ward staff with 18 na­tion­al­i­ties rep­re­sented on its duty ros­ters.

Then there’s the prospect of a thou­sand Chi­nese nurses, trades­peo­ple and labour­ers com­ing into New Zealand un­der the small print of the China free trade agree­ment.

And while the glad­hand­ing was go­ing on in Bei­jing, thou­sands of Brits were get­ting their own share of Kiwi charm and sug­ges­tions they should come too at mi­gra­tion sem­i­nars in Bri­tain.

The whole world seems to be on the move.

Date­line Bei­jing:

Back to those be­lieveChina trade fig­ures.

Which did you be­lieve – the first “ex­pert” es­ti­mates of $150 mil­lion com­ing our way, a fig­ure which seemed to dou­ble within hours and even triple to guesses of $600m, al­most be­fore the ink was dry, the last hand was shaken and the last toast was downed?

Or did those bal­loon­ing to­tals come from the same of­fi­cial sources as that confi mat­ter of $600m in taxes which seemed wrongly to have gone astray re­cently, then the de­ba­cle of the gov­ern­ment’s $4.2 bil­lion cash sur­plus ap­par­ently seep­ing away?

From Paul Holmes: “No Chi­nese we met has any doubts about Ti­bet.

“Even our guides, lib­eral, charm­ing, frank peo­ple all of them, think the Dalai Lama is a trou­ble-maker and that Ti­bet be­longs to China.”

So there! That set­tles that then.

Sur­pris­ingly, no Chi­nese gov­ern­ment civil ser­vant – lib­eral, charm­ing and frank peo­ple – bad-mouthed party pol­icy to for­eign­ers.

How to­tally un­ex­pected!

To con­tact Pat Booth email: off­pat@snl. co.nz. All replies are open for pub­li­ca­tion un­less marked Not For Pub­li­ca­tion.

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