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11 November 2022

Letter: Stop picking on the ‘little guys’

Monday 11 March 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


Letter: Stop picking on the ‘little guys’

Dear Editor, Once again, the red necks have come out of the woodwork in response to expats asking for a cost-of-living increase.

In particular a fairly well known, by Rarotonga standards, business owner posted on his Facebook page having a go at expats for having the temerity to ask for this. The same business owner who hires expats to run his business. I have since been banned from his page and that shows the calibre of the FB writer who won’t stand by his words and who doesn’t like constructive criticism and throws his toys out of the cot.

So, now he and his erstwhile FB supporters are showing their true colours, talking from a position of bias bordering on outright racism and not fellowship. Hence, I have responded to each of his item with facts not guesses, with proper research not an anecdotal opinion.

Who cares what they earn in their countries. Who cares if they earn more than $320 per week here. They’ve earned it, they’ve worked for it, if it wasn’t for expat workers you would struggle in your business, and we would not have a tourism economy making up 60 per cent of the revenue this country earns.

Who cares if they bunk four or six to a room. When Cook Islanders and other Pacific islanders emigrated to NZ back in the day, they did exactly the same, they still do to this very day. What’s your point?

Who cares that they send the bulk of their money home, again they’ve earned it that’s why they come here to work. Our locals won’t do what they see as menial work, they don’t turn up for work, or they are late constantly and consistently. Or, they skive off to funerals, they don’t like being growled at so expats fill the void and should be well paid for it.

Just think about the foreign owned businesses here with overseas investors and shareholders. Millions upon millions are sent out of our economy overseas, why not have a go at them for not reinvesting that money to help diversify our economy, geez give me a break.

Yes, we are seasonal and instead of bemoaning the fact, you and others need to get off your nono and see this offseason as an opportunity to realign your business model and diversify into other money-making ventures. That’s why we have emerging technology, that’s why we have an opportunity to invest in other areas rather than sit and baby cry about it.

You and the other businesses should eek other ways to leverage your ability to generate other income streams. You will get left behind if you cannot see that your negative energy needs to be channelled into better use. The focus on one income stream is the achillies heels for all businesses here especially in the off season.

Wage increases do go to locals, many businesses pay above wages to attract workers, and you are one of them. However, it requires an economy that can afford it. We cannot, we are recovering from Covid, we have a debt that needs to be paid, no wage increase … not yet.

Not just the citizens, those who work and pay taxes should also have a say in how that money is dispensed and used for the benefit of all. A large portion of our workforce is made up of expats whose taxes go to pay for the amenities that we all utilise. The fact that they have no say in how their tax dollars are spent is nothing short of criminal.

Many expats from low-income economies do not in fact thrive. If they did, they would not come here to work. They come here to work to fill the loss of our local labour who head overseas to work to prop up the economies of Australia and New Zealand.

They come here to escape the drudgery, they come here to escape despotic government regimes, they come here to escape the corruption and the poor quality of life, they come here to put a roof over their loved ones’ heads, to pay for an education for their children, to put food on the table and you want to begrudge this. Not very Christian-like.

You should be focusing on your fellow FB supporters who run businesses and treat their expat workers no better than slaves. Overworked, underpaid for the extra hours worked, poor living and working conditions, breaches of their employment agreements, this is what you should be concentrating on if you want to make a difference. From the tone of your FB post that is so far away from your thinking, it doesn’t register.

You should be focussing on those foreign direct investors who are milking our economy of millions of dollars with no end in sight of that money staying on our shores. Stop picking on the little guys, expats or not, without their work ethics any business here has and would find it difficult to thrive let alone make a decent profit.

Te Tuhi Kelly

Leader of the Progressive Party of the Cook Islands