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The Soap Box: Kiwis have right to know what our money is being spent on

Author
Barry Soper ,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 20 November 2018, 6:11a.m.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Papua New Guinea.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Papua New Guinea.

There's some money being pumped into the Pacific that sticks in the taxpayers' craw and with good reason.

You can't argue that New Zealand doesn't have a responsibility to help the Pacific people, but you can argue where the money's going and more particularly, what it's being spent on.

Why on earth the APEC leaders agreed to meet in Papua New Guinea, is beyond me. Rather than splashing money, much of it ours, on hosting the event, surely they'd be better spending it on their people where 40 percent of them live below the poverty line of $1.25 a day.

It's obscene that their Prime Minister seems more interested in creating an impression than caring for his people, ferrying the well-heeled leaders around in a new fleet of 40 Maseratis, with three new Bentleys thrown in for the VVIPs. And at the same time, it's obscene that it's happy enough to spend other peoples' money to look after the things that really matter, like getting electricity to more than 80 percent of their 7.5 million people who don't have it, or to combat polio which has come back after almost 20 years.

The reality is the country simply couldn't afford to host the summit, which saw us kicking in $16 million, to assist with security in the lawless capital where the biggest security risk, American Vice President Mike Pence didn't even stay in.

This summit was once dubbed by me as "Ageing Politicians Expecting Cocktails", but given the presence of leaders like Jacinda Ardern and her buddy Justin Trudeau, it's now probably better described as "Affable Leaders Enjoying Cocktails", because on this trip that's what they were and that's about all they did it seems.

For the first time, they couldn't even agree on a declaration,  which is the whole point of APEC, to speak with one sated voice. Essentially it was a stand-off by the two biggest big players with one of them Donald Trump not even bothering to turn up because he's got the huff with China.

He had his mouthpiece Pence do his bidding for him though by telling the leaders the United States is best, it doesn't run its partners into a sea of debt, they don't coerce and compromise a country's independence. There'd be plenty of countries around the world that'd argue with that.

But as we appear these days to be marching more to the beat of the Washington drum, we should be mindful of the butter that Beijing puts on our bread, more than double the export receipts than we earn from the Americans.

And it seems we're still way back in the queue when it comes to a free trade deal with the United States, while we're re-negotiating the one we have with China, but if we're not careful, that could become just that little bit harder.

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