3 Dec 2008
Sione came to New Zealand for better education and employment
opportunities. He got through his trade training, but did
not learn how to manage the business he dreamt of owning.
In the story that follows, know that the anonymous Sione
is based on real Pacific migrants. The story is told to help
work our what financial literacy programmnes might offer to
some permanent migrants, some seasonal workers, and some others.
Eventually Sione’s relatives had found his weaknesses
and misunderstanding in business. Faced with his mountain
of debt, they tried to plug his and his family’s skills
and financial knowledge gaps.
With a jolt he had started to learn the differences between
GST, company and personal taxes, assessments, penalties and
A mentoring service was identified, and Sione hoped it would
make a difference. Something was needed, particularly given
communication with his accountant was indifferent.
The free mentor service said the person they would select
should not be seen as a paid consultant, but Sione, nudged
by those around him, hoped the experienced business mentor
– a retired non Pacific businessman - would explain
mostly everything about business, and help his business to
survive in future.
The relatives tried to get a friend to show how to prepare
a business plan. One of those organizations who claim they
are there to help said a plan would be necessary before they
considered making him a loan for a workshop near his home.
That did not work, so a relative coaxed Sione through ideas
about production, markets and management, which led to an
outline plan the accountant pooh poohed. But with his new
plan, Sione could join in deciding what to do about charge
out rates, hours he could target as chargeable, and other
assumptions that could make his small business viable.
Sione needed relief from taxes that had grown through his
lack of understanding, and lack of well assembled financial
information. The threat of the debt – and its growth
– hung over the family.
Information uncovered in drawing up a statement of financial
position and cash flow threw light on past realities and future
possibilities. Friends gave Sione a computer, installed word,
email and spreadsheet programmes. They found volunteers and
teenagers in his family to help show him how to use computing
Sione’s comprehension was greater than his written
English would suggest – but he needs financial and other
business skills and knowledge. He had one year of secondary
education in New Zealand followed by a period working in a
factory and eventually chose a trade career path (before the
modern apprenticeship scheme was established), in which he
could be self employed. While he trained for his trade, he
clearly did not get focused, or trained, to run a small business.
He married another migrant who had also had very limited
formal education in a remote Island, where her duty was to
leave school at 13 to care for her dying father.
With no financial assets and negligible support, he built
up his business. He is good at his trade.
Relatives tried to help with business advice, but did not
want to interfere, so introduced others who might have been
able to help. They suggested an organisation with a mandate
to help self employed people like Sione. But between them
they failed to complete a plan, attract a soft loan, and get
The relatives then agreed to be more hands on. Progress was
made in Sione’s understanding of business planning,
and the need to create management systems to put tax expenditure
and income information into an order the couple, their accountant,
bank and others important to them could understand and operate.
His accountant provides some of the necessary services –
but not other services still needed to help Sione grow the
Sometime annually Parliament will be given a report on progress
with the implementation of the National Strategy for Financial
Literacy, which was unveiled in mid 2008.
The strategy wants to facilitate financial education programmes
tailored to Pacific peoples, and other New Zealanders. It
wants the programmes to provide the information and skills
necessary for people like Sione to become well informed and
knowledgeable consumers of financial products and services,
to manage money effectively on a daily basis, and to plan
for the future. NZAID wants providers of financial and wider
literacy for seasonal workers.
Permanent New Zealand residents and seasonal workers from
neighboring Pacific Islands need some of the skills and knowledge
in the financial literacy strategy and projects – and
more. They are not alone.