Thursday, June 14, 2007

Poverty in Fiji - letter to Fiji Times - Poverty speech

I REFER to Dr Wardan Narseys statistical methodology and congratulate him on his research to explain poverty levels according in Fiji to various ethnicity.

I believe we should be prepared to have our views and results shaped by the research done by Dr Wardan.

I also believe he did not go far enough in terms of being strategic in the new social, economic and political order of the market information civilisation of the 21st Century.

In this regard, his research methodology appears to have failed to balance out quantitative data with qualitative data.

In the past, economists were so good at calculating economic formula to solve all our problems that in their enthusiasm, they factored out human elements such as creativity, perseverance, honour, etc. These are some of Gods gifts to humanity and indeed we must be continuously cognisant of such factors so as to properly account for social capital.

Accounting for such qualitative data allows for more appropriate information surveys to underpin public policy, factors and differentiators from a strategic marketing perspective.

Taking such a holistic perspective within Dr Wardans framework, I would like to point out a couple of caveats to his article.

First, Dr Wardans conclusions are certainly valid with respect to educational poverty (people who are poor because they cant afford an education) but they are not necessarily valid for supply-side poverty (people who are poor because of scarce or restricted opportunities).

For example, affirmative action quotas rectify glass ceilings to promotion opportunities for women or minorities most effectively.

My own research confirms that ethnicity (as indicative of cultural suitability) is in fact a universal success factor that needs to be measured in this regard as an indicator to formulate local domestic intervention policies.

This leads me to my second caveat, which concerns the top 10 per cent wealthiest of the general population.

This group largely comprises the business community and this is another area where market opportunities are restricted because of the market dominance of established players and networking cliques. That disposes it toward limited affirmative quota inventions.

My research shows that this group is made up of 52 per cent Indians, 27 per cent Other Races and 21 per cent indigenous Fijians and Rotumans.

Of course there are real ethical difficulties in recommending affirmative action interventions at this level but if one accepts the normal Pareto breakdown that the top 20 per cent of wealthy people probably own 80 per cent of the (local) national wealth, then clearly this is the area where most can be done to redress the perceived wealth disparity between the major races.

I look forward to reading my own copy of Dr Narseys book but in view of my comments here and the typically self-righteous attack by the FLP, the way forward may not be as straight forward as he might have hoped.

Mere Tuisalalo Samisoni

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