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A time to confer and consume

Auckland, New Zealand


As the Methodist hierarchy sit down to confer and consume over the next
week or so, I'’m asking the economists in our midst for a quick summation
of this annual activity from the point of view of the event'’s impact on
our economy and how it contributes or otherwise to Tonga'’s economic
growth and well-being.

The Tongan Methodist Church is an economic behemoth, capable of adding
value or crippling our economy. My observation is that that the church
is probably doing both but on the annual conference, the level of
consumption and the costs may have negative impact on shareholders but
also on the economy as well. Which is why I'’m asking for some expert

On the conferring role of this gathering, it's similar to a
shareholders,’ AGM I suppose and to that end, it is a necessity. The
shareholders gets a chance to seek answers and clarification from the
directors and the Board on the affairs of the "“company"”. There'’s
promotion and demotion within the ranks of the officeholders and if I
were to go on the annual reports of previous years, they accounts–
financial that is, are fully reported on and as an organisation, it
appears to be fiscally prudent and is clearly making money. I think that
on those items alone it is a performing stock in a complex and difficult

Lately there has been rumblings over the mission statement and clearly
there'’s a split between the traditionalists and the more liberal
elements, formented to some extent by influences from members
worshipping in foreign shores. But these are the stuff of AGMs and while
media coverage tend to dwell more on the festive side of the gathering,
the more contentious issues are usually debated behind closed doors and
are kept to a few informed senior members.

But back to the annual results. While the details of the company'’s
activities including a body-count of membership are fully reported on
and the financial bottom-lines ticked I decided to look for what I
thought would be a reasonable item in a company such as this. I wanted
to know how many have actually made it to heaven over the last 12
months. It'’s the sort of item that any potential investor would
reasonably expect from a stock which invests heavily– and some might
say exclusively for this purpose. There was none that is no one was
prepared to put a figure on it. It'’s not in the books not even in the
invisibles! I'’m told it isn'’t the sort of questions that is asked at AGMs.

Don'’t get me wrong, I don'’t think that this company should make this the
only bottom line to report on, but given the nature of its business and
activities, its stated objectives and its prospects for future growth,
the absence of this number and a reluctance to "go there" with its
members is apparently consistent with similar operations of its type in
the kingdom. Which is why I'm asking for commentary from the experts.

As for the consuming, that shouldn'’t be too difficult to compare or
assess. When you look at the AGMs of global giants such as Apple and
Microsoft, consider the size of their operation relative to the
economies that they operate in, put that alongside the Methodist annual
conference in Tonga and my guess is that both Gates and Job (not the
prophet, but Steve) have got a long way to go! But I could be wrong.

Sefita Hao'uli

sef [dot] haouli [at] ihug [dot] co [dot] nz