The government is being accused of ‘virtue-signalling’ after banning KiwiSaver default funds from investing in fossil fuel companies.
A number of changes will be made to how the default funds are run, including the new ban.
KiwiSaver members are allocated a default provider if they don’t actively choose a KiwiSaver fund – and nearly 700,000 people are currently in that situation. . .
People who do this are likely to be inexperienced investors.
Sam Stubbs from the KiwiSaver provider Simplicity said fossil fuel companies were not delivering great returns, so were not a hot pick for investing at the moment anyway.
Excluding fossil fuel investment in itself was not that controversial, he said, but it was notable the government was targeting individuals’ funds.
“There’s always the risk of moral hazard … where the government is playing God about where your money should be invested.” . .
Whose money is it? It’s the investors’ and the government shouldn’t be coming between them and their providers.
Chief Executive of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association, John Carnegie, said while the industry was on board with the transition to renewable energy, he did not believe the government should be dictating which investments are acceptable.
The choice should be made by the saver, he said, in part because deciding what is “responsible or not is highly subjective”.
Stubbs agreed, saying people might not like plastics for example.
“And you might say let’s get rid of plastics … that means you get rid of all shoes, ear implants, heart valves, plastics are in everything – there are very obviously some bad things but some great things as well, all of these things are judgements.”
With investors already worried about their KiwiSaver balances due to uncertainty created by the Covid-19 virus, National’s Paul Goldsmith said the government has chosen now to “meddle” with their investments.
“The coronavirus will have a huge effect on our economy, an economy that is weaker than it should be because of this government’s poor economic management.
“Instead of focussing on ways to improve this, the government is tinkering around the edges and indulging in virtue signalling”, he said. . .
If KiwiSaver providers sell shares in fuel companies they will be bought by someone else and that will have absolutely no impact on the companies nor will it have any impact on the environment.
It is virtue signalling with other people’s money.
While this particular intervention will probably have little impact on returns for the funds, it establishes a very dangerous precedent. If it’s fuel companies this time, it could easily be something else that would negatively impact on people’s retirement funds next time.
It’s not the government’s money. It belongs to individual investors and they government should not be telling them, or their KiwiSaver provider, what to do with it.