Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Fonterra Baby Milk scandal: Reaction in the Philippines
While the Fonterra baby milk scandal was big news in New Zealand, I did not appreciate its global significance until I saw the following in a 7-11 in Manilla, Philippines.
Yesterday New Zealand newspapers reported that three Fonterra products have been removed from the Philippine market by the Philippines Bureau of Food and Drugs. This includes Anchor Warm flavoured-milk products - Mango Magic, Orange Chill and Strawberry Spin - which the bureau said were not produced in New Zealand. The reason for the removal is to allow the products to be tested.
I can imagine some in New Zealand will see this as an overreaction. From here in the Philippines I sense it is not. People are genuinely concerned, if not a little worried. When people hear I am from New Zealand the issue often comes up in conversation.
Newspapers like the Philippine Daily Enquirer have been running half page advertisements with the results of the testing, listing the products found with melanin and the products that are safe.
When asked about the issue by the locals, I am not defending Fonterra, even if the rural sector millionaires would think it should be my patriotic duty. Perhaps if they had shown more care and attention about the welfare of their tiny Chinese customers, such as monitoring their subsidiaries more closely, their millions would not be at stake. It also would have helped if Fonterra had come clean about the issue earlier, even if China was not willing to fully co-operate.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Possible lack of bloggage
Tonight I am getting on a plane to the Philippines. Officially its a work trip, but I have extended my stay in order to meet some more of the locals and see a bit of the country. Looking forward to travelling again. Last night I began to remember all my quirky backpacker travelling tips, learnt while on the road in Europe a few years ago.
I hope to do some travel related writing while I am there, but I do not know how much time I am going to have with access to a net connection. I will let you know when I am back :)
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Where is Labour's big idea?
In recent discussions with friends I am often left wondering when Labour will announce their 'big idea' for the election campaign. A big idea is seen as essential to their election chances.
Did Michael Cullen's tax cuts in April leave no money for big ideas? Perhaps, to give Michael some credit, this formed the reason for Cullen's reluctance to give in to tax cuts in the first place. Could tax cuts end up costing Labour the election?
Perhaps an historical example will help illustrate my point. Many have wondered why Winston Churchill was voted out of office so soon after leading Britain through World War Two. Part of the answer lies in the significant policy progress UK Labour made while part of the wartime coalition government. In the eyes of the British people Labour's ideas became more mainstream during this period, leading to the election of the progressive Attlee government in 1945.
Will Labour's tax cuts give encouragement for people to vote for National's irresponsible borrowing for bigger tax cuts? Me-too-ism could have a cost. I actually hope I am wrong here.
What if Labour had announced a plan to significantly improve public heath, education or housing affordability? Would this have quarantined the call for tax cuts to the struggling folk of Remuera? The new BMW would have had to wait.
In terms of big ideas - how about a housing affordability measure on the scale of the State Advances Scheme? While I do not entirely buy the argument that housing affordability measures will necessarily increase prices, perhaps the recent fall in house prices presents an opportune time to help young New Zealanders into their first home. Not only will the working class of South Auckland love such a policy, it could also ease the fears of middle class property owners who fear the paper value of their major asset will decline further.
The decline of the left in America
It was great to wake up this morning to hear Jim Flynn on National radio discussing his latest book. Listeners should be aware that Mr Flynn has a good sense of humour and sometimes delves in impish irony.
Emertius Professor of Political Studies at the University of Otago, Flynn new book is called "Where have all the liberals gone? Race, class and ideals in America". He summarised some of his findings in an article in the NZ Herald yesterday.
"Does American liberalism have a future? The question has a simple answer: not as long as liberals allow their opponents to define political reality. Right-wing dominance of American politics is easy to understand: popularise a hysterical image of a dangerous world; devote surplus government revenue to ensure "national security"; thus evade a debate about domestic priorities that you might lose; thus leave a vacuum to be filled by trivia such as prayer and gay marriage. "
"It is hard to tell whether American liberals have lost their voice because they lack courage or because they half believe in the same picture of reality. That they have forfeited their tradition of social reform is shown by the paucity of their hopes for an Obama victory."
Some of this analysis could also be applied to the Labour party here, particularly Goff's proposal to "ban" gangs" and Labour's draconian anti-terror legislation. In New Zealand the vacuum was filled with the so called 'debate' over the so called anti-smaking bill. If Labour lack the will and/or perhaps the money for big social reforms the centre-left may struggle to maintain the Treasury benches in November. I will return to this issue in my next post.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear US Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Biden say during the debate last night that he believes the 2008 American election is the most important since 1932. Prior to Franklin D Roosevelt's inauguration in March 1933, 32 out of the 48 states had closed their banks. I hope very much the Democrats are looking to resusitate Roosevelt - the current economic situation is making a new New Deal look like America's only hope right now.