Investor XXXX plus

If you’re going to make your money by being a person of easy virtue then you may as well make a decent living out of it. By lowering all the standards for immigration under the Investor Plus category our current immigration minister Jonathon Coleman has hitched a fetching red light outside our nation’s front door and put a big sign up saying ‘Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!’ We don’t mind who you are just show us your money honey. At least the immigration department will check good health and character at the door. For those of you who have had nothing to do with New Zealand’s immigration department and are therefore not on the floor laughing at that last comment; the only way that you can believe a clear police record or business references is when you accept them from people who don’t have any money. Only hard working immigrants who have no other option have to come up with the genuine article – everybody else just pays cash.

I once spent a year as an illegal alien in South America as a consequence of a diehard refusal to pay a bribe to the local immigration officers on the grounds that I had all my papers in order and I was legally working there. I wandered in shifts of yellowing paper, holding a full-house of documents standing in lines that sometimes went twice round the block being ritually humiliated by guys in uniforms whose sole purpose in life seemed to be to slouch and eat pizza. My case officer then ‘lost’ everything and I was told I’d have to start the process from scratch. (If you are thinking ‘yeah… only in South America’ the exact same thing happened in New Zealand when my partner applied for residency here.) Eventually, my boss in Buenos Aires got bored with my moral stand and the effect it was having on my productivity and went and bought a clean NZ and Argentine police record – or something that would be accepted as such, a doctor who would vouch for my vitality, paid the appropriate official and had my working visa within an afternoon – all without me even being there.

At least under the previous government the threshold for being allowed in the country – almost no questions asked, was 20 million. Now it’s 10 and while it may be true that Russian billionaires are feeling the pinch and cutting back on the Lamborghinis this year, there are around 4 million millionaires in the Asia Pacific alone with Latin America quickly catching up. Great! They can all invest in adding value to New Zealand’s resources and we’ll all benefit. Except – if I were an ageing millionaire and I wandered across a country with no capital gains tax and I could be an instant citizen, I know exactly what I’d do. It wouldn’t involve the hassle of employing too many people either.

We are systematically hard on the working poor whom we allow into New Zealand. We now require skilled workers like nurses and early child hood workers to have the same level of English that only a few years ago we required of psychologists and surgeons. And so we end up losing them to Australia or the States where there are lower English requirements and better pay. Yet many of these people are exactly the kind of hard working families that grow an economy and contribute to the community over the long term. Thinking that we are going to fix a slow economy by inviting rich people to stay with us for a couple of months in the year on the condition that they keep their money here for a paltry 3 years seems slightly shallow and more than a little desperate. In sourcing new immigrants it shouldn’t just be about the cash. When it comes to wallets… like a lot of other things… bigger isn’t necessarily better. Unless of course it really is just all about the money – in which case I guess you should just sell yourself off to the highest bidder.

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