Pure food for Chinese elite


While people around the wold worry about what’s in food produced in China, the elite in that country dine on pure organic foods.

Their diet includes beef from cattle that have grazed on the pesticide-free pastures of inner Mongolia and fish from the crystalline rivers and lakes of Hubei province in central China. They dine on rice that costs 15 times the price of the ordinary grain; as well it might, being grown on the slopes of a mountain near North Korea and irrigated by clear waters from melting snows.

They sip tea brewed with the most delicate leaves from lofty plantations on the fringe of the Tibetan plateau. It costs more than £100 a pound.

The task of selecting the best falls to a body known as the State Council Central Government Bureau Special Food Supply Centre. It caters for the dietary needs of the senior leaders such as President Hu Jintao who, foreign diplomats say, is a diabetic.

Surely this proves we have every reason to be concerned because if the food everyone else eats is wholesome and healthy there would be no need for the elite to have special supplies.

Tax rate & tax take


Critics of tax cuts always say they’ll be matched by spending cuts on the assumption that the tax take mirrors tax rates.

Obviously they’re related, and one affects the other, but they don’t necessarily move dollar for dollar nor in the same direction.

Ruth Richardson showed charts at a public meeting in Oamaru before the 1993 election which clearly demonstrated that while tax rates had fallen the tax take had risen. Among the reasons for that was a decrease in tax avoidance and an increase in productivity.

When Labour put up the top rate with its envy tax in 1999, among the immediate beneficiaries were lawyers and accountants as people hit by the new 39c rate on earnings over $60,000 sought to minimise their liability so the rate rise wasn’t met by a corresponding take rise.

National will announce its tax package on Wednesday and it’s sure to be met with accusations that every dollar gained by tax payers will be one lost from social services.

That won’t be the case because National has already made it clear its priority will be front line service delivery and that any savings will come from sorting out the bloated backrooms.

Unfortuantely there will be no miracles regardless of which party wins the election. But if it’s National, better economic management than the profligate spending of the past nine years should boost productivity and growth. That means more businesses and individuals making more which ought to generate a greater tax take from lower rates.

6 more melamine suspects arrested


Six more people have been arrested in China in relation to the melamine milk poisoning scandal.

Sheep free home wanted for dog


A Roxburgh farmer is advertising a heading dog for sale on Trade Me because he doesn’t like sheep.

It’s a wuff life for a sheep-phobic heading dog.

The PREFU isn’t pretty


Thanks to Ruth Richardson we don’t have to wait until after the election to find out the state of the nation’s books.

She is responsible for the requirement to have a pre-election economic and fiscal  update (PREFU) so we all know that the fair weather Finance Minsiter has left the cupboard bare.

The executive summary  says:

We are now expecting weaker economic growth over the next few years, resulting in slower growth in tax revenue and higher government expenditure. Combined with increases in the costs of some existing policies, these factors lead to sustained operating balance deficits and higher debt-to-GDP ratios.


The economic outlook is weaker …

Imbalances have built up during nearly a decade of sustained growth, including inflation pressures, an overvalued housing market, high household debt and a large current account deficit, with implications for interest rates and the exchange rate. With the economy slowing, these imbalances are starting to unwind – as are imbalances in the global economy – but there is a long way to go.

 And who will we trust to take us there? The academics who helped get us into the mess by focussing on redistribution, or the business people with the knowledge and skills to get us out of it with policies which focus on growth.

Other views:

Keeping Stock, No Minister,  Kiwiblog and No Right Turn

Who’s sorry now?


Helen Clark regrets that the Greens  were shut out of government three years ago and she’d be happy to have them in cabinet after the election.

I have no doubt she regrets it but it’s too late for that now.

She cosied up to the Greens for photo-ops before the 2005 election then scorned them because United Future and New Zealand First gave her a them-or-us ultimatum.

I don’t agree with many of the Green Party’s policies but, with the exception of their blind support for the Electoral Finance Act, I think they abide by their principles.

That’s a lot more than can be said for New Zealand First and that’s no doubt one of the reasons Clark now regrets turning her back on the Greens after the last election.

The Greens can probably trust her more this time – but only because if she’s in a position to form the next government she’ll almost certainly need their support so won’t be able to spurn them again.

Farm lessons for Finance Minister


Farmers tend to be financially conservative because they know many of the factors which impact on their businesses are out of their control.

No matter how good they are at what they do on farm  they are always to a greater or lesser extent at the mercy of the weather, the markets, the value of the dollar and other off-farm factors.

That’s why they use the good years to prepare for the bad, making and storing supplementary feed and investing in things which will make their farms more productive, efficient and better able to withstand the bad years.

Michael Cullen isn’t a farmer but he was a historian so he ought to have known that the good times never last and been prepared for a downturn.

He should have made sure we had hay and silage to spare, soil fertility at its peak, stock in good health, repairs and maintenance up to date and money in the bank for contingenices.

But instead he’s overgrazed the paddocks, made only a little hay, ignored the need for fertiliser, bought toys instead of tools, painted the fence posts but let the wires sag, and employed too many people who are decorating the office and not enough working in the fields.

The country’s books are being opened as I type this and they’re expected to be in the red.

He can blame the drought, international commodity prices and the credit crunch, and he’ll be right. But only partly right, because had he not squandered the good times we’d have been far better equipped to deal with the bad.

He’s been a fair weather Finance Minister. He failed to make enough hay while the sun was shining so we can’t trust him with the farm now it’s raining.

Procrastination flow chart



This came from Project Sidewalk with a Hat Tip to Idealog

Electoral Commission in “catatonic state of inaction”


The aged care sector doesn’t have a reputation for radical political statements but their representatives have accused the Electoral Commission of lapsing into a “catatonic state of inaction“.

Healthcare Providers says the Commission admitted in its Annual Report that it can’t manage the Electoral Finance Act.

Chief Executive Martin Taylor says the non-profit group now has no guidelines on what it can and cannot say during the election.

He says its important issues around aged care are raised – but he doesn’t know where he stands – and the Commission won’t tell him.

The commission spent $40,000 on an advertising campaign  over the weekend trying to explain the Electoral Finance Act and its requirements but people are still unclear about what they can do and how they can do it.

One of the reasons is that the commission has yet to rule on some questions, including whether or not party logos are election advertisements. Another reason is that it won’t rule on other questions which leaves groups who’ve sought advice no further ahead.

That’s not the commission’s fault. The blame lies with the EFA and the parties which forced it through parliament against the advice of experts, and in contravention of our right to free expression.

But she doesn’t believe in fairy tales


The TV3 headline says: Clark says economy will be growing again by December.

Can we trust her or is she just telling us a fairy tale in the hope we’ll let her rule happily ever after?

Only 6/8 for multi-party debate in Queenstown


Only six of the eight parties in parliament will be represented at an election debate in Queenstown.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen will represent Labour. Other speakers scheduled are Deputy National Party leader Bill English, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, Progressive leader Jim Anderton, Greens co-leader Russell Norman and Act candidate Roger Douglas.

The wee parties complained they’re not getting a fair go from TV and Peter Dunne was one of the most vocal critics. But United Future isn’t bothering to turn up for this mulit-party opportunity, nor is the Maori Party.

It’s understandable that the leaders can’t be everywhere but surely they have a candidate who wouldn’t disgrace themselves or their parties who could turn up to fly the flag.

Under MMP every vote is supposed to count but this is further evidence that provincial votes don’t count as much as those in the big cities.

PGW & SFF fight to keep merger alive


Neal Wallace writes:

Obituaries may already have been written about what might have been with the Silver Fern Farms-PGG Wrightson partnership, but the parties are fighting to the end to keep it alive.

Silver Fern Farms (SFF) chairman Eoin Garden remained upbeat and optimistic on Friday that the $220 million deal could be salvaged, after it was faulted on Tuesday when PGG Wrightson failed to secure funding.

PGG Wrightson (PGG-W) chairman Craig Norgate said on Friday progress was being made.

But it’s hardly a vote of confidence in the plan when Pyne Gould Corp which has a 21.6% share in PGW didn’t take up its option and at the same time announced they’d be selling down their PGW stake to apply for a banking licence. The timing of this announcement is cause to wonder if they wanted the merger with SFF to go ahead.

Regardless whether PGG-W came up with the capital, Mr Garden said in an interview it was business as usual.

When they were trying to sell the merger plan to shareholders, SFF said there was no Plan B. But there is – the company has finance in place to carry on as normal.

SFF has had a good year but no doubt banks will be keeping a very close eye on all the meat companies in these uncertain financial times.

That will make business difficult because in spite of what they say about Sunday night auctions, competition for stock will be intense this season. The national sheep kill will be down by about 9 million which makes it a sellers’ market and companies will have to fight to retain their market share.

Liquid milk ok in China


Chinese authorities  say tests on 609 batches of liquid milk from 27 cities across China have found no traces of melamine.

However, melamine has been detected in 31 batches of milk powder.

Neither will admit it . . .


. . . but it’s true:

. . . the Greens and NZ First basically agree with each other on trade, foreign investment and state owned businesses. That’s the inconvenient truth the Greens would never ever admit to. Liberty Scott

33 more sleeps . . .


. . . until election day and if you want an easy vote  you have to be enrolled by Wednesday.

Hat Tip Poneke

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