How much would you pay for one pumpkin?
The question is academic: you’ve already paid for it. It cost you $317,278.
A Community Max scheme for a Far North vegetable garden [set up by Paula Bennett’s ministry]reaped only one pumpkin, it was alleged last night. The four-acre project – pitched as employing eight unskilled young workers with two supervisors – was … given a $317,278 subsidy to employ 24 workers… The ministry had said the garden was providing food to the elderly but, when 3News visited, there was only one pumpkin.
It gets better. There are hundreds of these make-work projects around the country, from a sewing circle in Kawerau allegedly repairing clothes for second-hand clothes shops (of which none could be produced), to a bunch of mobile phone users in Wellington allegedly texting defendants remind them to show up in court (of which no texts .
All up, around 4500 folk around the country “employed” in hundreds of programmes like these were paid $38 million dollars to do things that nobody ever checked were done.
But why should anyone even bother to check? The intent of the multi-million dollar scheme was not to get things done, Minister Paula Bennett told 3News last night, it was to get unemployed people learning about “getting up every morning,” about “showing up to work on time,” about getting a regular pay cheque.
It was, in short, to teach them a “work ethic”—an “ethic” based on getting a pay cheque for producing nothing, paid for by duping naive politicians.
These are the “outcomes” this programme is buying, according to Minister Bennett.
Minister Bennett is happy with the scheme—just as Sir Humphrey Appleby’s administrators were with their award-winning hospital that served no patients.
So too of course will Keynesians be happy, those advocates of big-spending who measure industry not by how much it produces by how much it consumes. (“Pyramid-building, earthquakes, even wars may serve to increase wealth” said Keynes, if nothing better comes along. Like pumpkins.) The only beef these alleged economists would have with these schemes would be they haven’t consumed enough.
Taxpayers however won’t be so happy. There are things they could have produced with that money, including jobs, if it hadn’t been taken instead to give to non-workers to produce nothing.
Someone should hollow out that pumpkin and put it on Bennett’s desk to help remind her whose money she’s spending, and on what.