Economist Stands by Underclass Comments

Stuff (New Zealand), May 29, 2008

Economist Greg Clydesdale has defended his contentious Pacific Island report that was criticised by fellow academics for using out-of-date data.

A peer review commissioned by the Pacific Island Affairs Ministry said the main argument in Dr Clydesdale’s paper, that the goal of immigration is to generate economic growth, is questionable.

The author, Otago University economist Paul Hansen, said the report showed poor use of data and failed to back up claims that Pacific Islanders are creating an underclass.

Its presentation was also substandard, he said.

The discussion document Growing Pains: The valuation and cost of human capital—dubbed the Clydesdale report—has drawn scathing responses from the Pacific Island community since it was reported by The Dominion Post last week.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres is reviewing the report.

Teresia Teaiwa, programme director for Pacific Studies at Victoria University, said the report raised more questions than answers.

She asked why a paper written in 2008 cited social status reports from 2002, when 2006 census figures were available.

“Thankfully, Dr Clydesdale is not staking out a future for himself as an expert on the Pacific. This is, perhaps, his saving grace.”

But Dr Hansen said the report also contained useful information, which was interesting and provocative.

It covered the performance of Auckland’s economy and the effects of immigration on New Zealand’s environment and property market.

“It’s a discussion paper, it says it is a discussion paper and it has caused some discussion,” he said.

“That’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Dr Clydesdale said his paper was peer reviewed and accepted by international scholars before its presentation at a July conference in Brazil, but he has not given details.

He stuck by his statements that future growth depends on having a population that can create new products and new production processes.

This requires a high level of education, especially in technology, sciences and engineering.

“Pacific people have poor educational outcomes compared to other migrant groups, and with their growing population size, this will mean New Zealand will have a smaller proportion with the capability to produce growth.”

He said it was notable that, when all Pasifika speakers talked about the achievement of Pacific peoples, they provided examples in sport and the arts.

“Their failure to provide business examples is exactly what I am talking about. New Zealand policy should reflect a need for future economic growth.”

[Editor’s Note: The earlier story on Professor Clydesdale’s warnings of a Pacific island underclass can be read here.]

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