Don’t panic but . . .

March 13, 2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that that COVID-19 is a pandemic.

In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled.  

There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives. 

Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals.

In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher.

WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.

We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. 

Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.

We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.

And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.  

WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases.  

And we have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.

We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.  . .

WHO has rung the alarm bell. Has our government heard it?

As I said on Monday, just looking at the number of cases and the number of countries affected does not tell the full story.

Of the 118,000 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90 percent of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – China and the Republic of Korea – have significantly declining epidemics. 

81 countries have not reported any cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less.

We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic.

If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission.

Even those countries with community transmission or large clusters can turn the tide on this virus. 

Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled. 

The challenge for many countries who are now dealing with large clusters or community transmission is not whether they can do the same – it’s whether they will.   . .

New Zealand is not dealing with large clusters or community transmission – yet.

This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector – so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight. 

I have said from the beginning that countries must take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimize impact.

Let me summarize it in four key areas. 

First, prepare and be ready.

Second, detect, protect and treat.

Third, reduce transmission.

Fourth, innovate and learn. 

I remind all countries that we are calling on you to activate and scale up your emergency response mechanisms;

Communicate with your people about the risks and how they can protect themselves – this is everybody’s business; 

Find, isolate, test and treat every case and trace every contact;

Ready your hospitals;

Protect and train your health workers. 

And let’s all look out for each other, because we need each other.  . . .

Are you confident that the government is taking this as seriously as it should be?

Friends flew home from South Africa a couple of days ago. In Singapore everyone in transit was asked lots of questions about where they had been, and their passports were checked to confirm what they’d said.

When they got to Auckland there were only two border staff on duty, all the disembarking passengers were crowded together in the queue. Nothing was said about Covid-19 but the the officer put a piece of paper in her husband’s passport which gave information about the disease.

A friend flew from the USA a couple of days ago, found only a couple of border staff on duty and a similarly low-key approach to the risk of Covid-19.

This does not seem to be taking WHO’s directive to detect and protect seriously enough.

That large public events are still going ahead, including the commemoration of the anniversary of March 15’s mosque massacre doesn’t seem to be taking the directive to reduce transmission seriously enough.

Are our hospitals ready? Are health workers trained and protected?

The health system is over-stretched at the best of times. What is being done to ensure it, and the people working in it, cope with what could be the worst of times?

And what’s being done to ensure people with symptoms self-isolate?

The government must pay people who stay away from work because they have the illness or have been in close contact with people with it.

These workers must not be left out of pocket or forced to go to work because they can’t afford not to and businesses should not have to cover that cost either.

That is one of the recommendations from David Farrar .

Should the government be unsure of what to do, following them would be a good idea.

There is no need to panic but there is urgent need to do everything possible to ensure everyone is doing everything possible to minimise the harm from the pandemic.


Rural round-up

February 22, 2020

Workshops to build strong work places – Annette Scott:

Free workshops on building great workplaces are rolling out around the country this week.

The workshops, facilitated by the Dairy Women’s Network, are structured to help build great workplaces on dairy farms.    

Chief executive Jules Benton said the interactive workshops understand how valuable it is for dairy farmers, their teams and their communities to flourish in a positive, supportive environment. . . 

Kiwis hit home at agritech expo – Richard Rennie:

One of the agritech sector’s international leading lights in venture financing has given New Zealand an unequivocal thumbs-up for its ability to punch above its weight in the competitive global scene.

Addressing delegates at the EvokeAg agritech expo in Melbourne, Silicon Valley investment and tech firm SVG Ventures founder John Harnett said he is seeing more NZ agritech start-ups meeting farmers on the ground and integrating well with them to find solutions to their problems.

He also urged Australian counterparts to move further afield in the way NZ, Israel and Irish agritech entrepreneurs have done. . . 

Aussie farmer’s heartfelt message for drought-stricken Kiwis :

A photo shared on The Country’s Facebook page showing severe drought in the Waikato region has struck a chord with one Australian farmer.

After seeing NIWA weather forecaster Chris Brandolino’s post, which featured Sarah Fraser’s sobering image of parched fields, Cindy Bruce left a heartfelt message of support for her Kiwi counterparts.

Bruce, who runs a beef and wheat farm in Central inland Queensland, said the drought had so far cost her over $100k in feed and lost cows and calves, along with a failed wheat crop “which ironically, provided feed for the cows in October”. . . 

Drought’s mixed effects on sectors :

Prolonged dry weather will have mixed effects on commodity prices, says ASB senior rural economist Nathan Penny.

For dairy, the drought will put upward pressure on prices as milk production will fall.

“Currently, we forecast 2019-20 production to be flat on 2018-19, but we are reviewing this forecast next week,” says Penny.

Meat changes coming – report – Pam Tipa:

New ideas of what equates to ‘premium’ in red meat are expected to change significantly in coming years, according to a new report from Beef+Lamb (B+LNZ). The traditional characteristics of premium today are marbling and exotic provenance such as Japanese Wagyu, which has been stable for some time.

So says the report called ‘Shaping the future of New Zealand’s Red Meat Sector’ released late last year.

Consumption of acorns by finishing Iberian pigs and their function in the conservation of the Dehesa agroecosystem – Vicente Rodríguez-Estévez*,
Manuel Sánchez-Rodríguez, Cristina Arce, Antón R. García, José M. Perea and A. Gustavo Gómez-Castro :

1. Introduction
The dehesa is an ancient agrosilvopastoral system created by farmers to raise livestock, mainly on private lands. This system is highly appreciated by society and enjoys legal
protection of the authorities because it is rich in biodiversity, a home to critically endangered species (Iberian lynx, imperial eagle and black vulture); a significant carbon
sink; ethnologically and anthropologically valuable (culture and traditions); and is known for its scenic value. The dehesa also underpins rural development and is valuable for, inter
alia, ecotourism and rural tourism; hunting and shooting; fire prevention; wood and charcoal; and for fodder (grass and acorns). However, most of these values do not produce
any benefit to farmers and they do not receive any kind of support from these contributions.

The dehesa is both a resilient and a fragile system; its resilience derives from the perseverance of its operators, and its fragility is its susceptibility to unfavourable economic
factors that influence its profitability (Siebold, 2009). . .


Higher wages fewer jobs

January 15, 2020

The  increase in the minimum wage costs jobs:

Confirmation that the Government’s unbalanced minimum wage rise could cost 17,000 jobs and lump taxpayers with a $125 million bill is an alarm bell for small businesses, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Todd McClay says.

MBIE’s recently-released Minimum Wage Review 2019 reveals the Labour-led Government’s proposed change to $18.90 per hour on April 1 will cost the economy 6500 jobs and increase Government expenses by $62m a year, as well as drive up inflation.

Moving to a $20 an hour minimum wage by 2021, which the Government is proposing, could cost the economy 17,000 jobs and increase expenses by $125m a year.

“The minimum wage changes will see small businesses struggle more at a time when the Government should be supporting them, not working against them,” Mr McClay says.

“The Government is making it harder for small businesses to employ people, harder for them to invest in training and development, and harder for them to get ahead.

“These projections could prove to be much larger if our economy continues to slow and the labour market weakens, as it has already under the Labour-led Government.

“Everyone wants high wages for workers, which is why National increased the minimum wage every year in Government. But we believe the minimum wage should go up in a balanced way that doesn’t go too far, too fast.

Employers expect modest increases in the minimum wage but this government’s fast-tracking bigger increases is too much too quickly, at too high a cost.

“Hard-working Kiwis are already doing it tough because of the Labour-led Government’s poor policies, which are driving up the price of petrol, rent and other living costs.

“The best way to put more money in workers’ pockets is to let them keep more of what they earn. What good is raising the minimum wage if workers are being taxed to the eyeballs?”

Would tax cuts be better than increasing the minimum wage?

An orchard owner in Central Otago is rallying against minimum wage increases, arguing reducing the income tax of a portion of low-wage earners would help them more and do less harm to small businesses.

But a tax expert says it makes more sense to give low-wage earners more social support than to ‘‘tinker’’ with the tax system. . .

The business owner said she did not want to be named out of concern people might react angrily to her view the minimum wage should not be increased.

‘‘I’m all for people getting more money in their pocket.

‘‘The Government needs to look at how they can ensure lower-paid people get more in their wage packet, without damaging especially smaller companies.

‘‘What is the point of more money in a pay packet if the result of that is that it is going to cost jobs, and it gets swallowed up by higher prices for the basics, like fuel and electricity and rents and groceries?’’

Wage rises are a cost to business . If they’re not at least matched by a gain in profit businesses have to increase prices to compensate. That feeds into the economy and soon eats into any increase in pay. If people are paid more but have to pay more for goods and services they’re no better off, and if there are fewer jobs those who lose, or can’t get, a job are worse off.

She said she had a better idea of how to get more money to low-wage earners.

‘‘If they’re going to up wages all the time why don’t they bring the PAYE [rate] down?

‘‘Lower-paid people can have an immediate solid increase in their take-home packet.’’

If you follow the principle of less tax on things we want to encourage and more on things we don’t, tax cuts on wages is good. The trouble is most lower to middle income people pay little or no net tax.

Tax specialist and managing partner at Findex in Dunedin Scott Mason said he had a lot of sympathy for business owners struggling with the increasing cost of wages.

He agreed with the orchard owner the increase in minimum wages could lead to employers not hiring new staff.

‘‘They’ll defer taking an employee on for a longer period of time. Which then has a counterintuitive impact on the economy, accepting of course we’ve got pretty full employment at the moment.

But reducing the income tax low-wage earners paid was ‘‘tinkering with our overall tax settings’’.

‘‘The reality is those on minimum wage — when you take into account their tax rate and their social benefits — aren’t generally net taxpayers anyway.

‘‘We’re basically using the tax system, the people who are net taxpayers, to subsidise [low-wage earners] further.

‘‘It may or may not be right — it’s just a much wider debate is the point I’m making.’’

He said it would be a better idea to increase social welfare to help those more in need.

‘‘If you were going to use the tax system to do it, you’d be better off tinkering with the likes of Working for Families or those sorts of things rather than changing tax rates.

‘‘If you change the tax rate then it affects all taxpayers.’’

If you increase WFF it affects all taxpayers too because that’s who pays for it.

What we need is increased productivity and profits and a reduction in business taxes could help that.

That in turn could lead to sustainable growth in the economy which would, in time, lead to sustainable increases in wages.

That would be much better than wage increases by government decree which have nothing to do with the value of the work employees do, nothing to do with a businesses ability to pay that additional cost and a lot to do with job losses.

 

 

 

 

 


Labour pains, National delivers

December 18, 2019

National promised eight policy papers this year and they’ve delivered.

The government promised this year would be their year of delivery and they haven’t.

You’ll find National discussion documents here.

You’ll find the government’s broken promises here.

They include: child poverty heading in the wrong direction, the level of homelessness is appalling, elective surgery numbers have dropped, economic growth has dropped from 4% under National to 2.1%; job growth has fallen from 10,000 a month under National to just 3,000 under Labour; per capita growth is only 0.5 per cent a year compared with average of 1.7% a year during the last five years under National; the number of people on the dole is up by 22,000, the number of New Zealanders heading overseas has increased by 10,000 a year, the billion trees promise isn’t being delivered and won’t be, not a single cent of the the $100 million Green Investment Fund that was supposed to kick-start $1 billion of investment in ‘low carbon’ industries has been invested, the  commitment this year to making the entire Government fleet emissions-free by mid-2025 was dropped, the government hasn’t been able to find a credible way to introduce a royalty on bottled water exports without trampling all over trade and other agreements with countries New Zealand does business with, yet another working group was set up to address waste minimisation but hasn’t come up with anything yet, the bold goals for housing have been dropped, The 4000 new apprentices target has been quietly dropped. Only 417 have started the Mana in Mahi programme and 32% of them dropped out . . .

Rodney Hide sums it up saying the year of delivery got lost in the post:

This was supposed to be the turnaround year. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared 2019 her Year of Delivery. Nothing has been delivered. Her promise has proved, like her government, empty and meaningless. 

The tragedy is that we accept it. It’s enough that politicians feel and emote; there’s no need to do or achieve anything. We should perhaps rename the country New Feel-Land. . . 

That’s the Year of Delivery done and dusted.

But there’s always next year. The prime minister has plastics again in her sights. She says it’s what children write to her about most. There are news reports she’s planning on banning plastic stickers on fruit.

I scoffed when we had government by focus group. We now have government by school project. . . 

Garrick Tremain sums it up:

What’s all that hot air doing to our emissions profile?

Reducing those is another failure, in spite of the commitment to reducing them being the PM’s nuclear-free moment, they’re increasing and will continue to for the next five years.

A new government ill-prepared for the role might have been excused a first year finding its feet but there’s no excuse for failing so badly to deliver in on its promises in what was supposed to be its year of delivery.


Delivering $132m more on dole

October 29, 2019

The government’s year of delivery has delivered an extra $132m in jobseeker benefits.

An additional $132 million of dole payments have been dished out to people who are able to work in the past year, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“New Zealanders deserve a fair go but not a free ride. Since Labour came into Government an additional 22,000 people have gone on the Jobseeker Benefit.

That’s around the total population of the Waitaki District who could be working but aren’t and on a be fit because of that.

“Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni doesn’t seem to care how many people go on the dole and she doesn’t believe there should be sanctions if people show no willingness to get into employment.

“Being in work lifts people out of poverty and improves the lives of families. There’s no excuse for taxpayers having to pick up an additional $132 million, a figure that doesn’t include inflation. This figure is just for people on the Jobseeker Benefit – people who are fit to work and doesn’t include other benefits.

Employers are crying out for workers so there shouldn’t be people who are able to work lining up for the benefit.

These aren’t people who can’t work, they could be working and aren’t.

“This week National will release our Social Services Discussion Document. We’ll release our positive plans to get more people into work and improve the lives of individuals, families and communities.

“National is aspirational for New Zealanders, we want people to have a safety net when they need it but we recognise that this is paid for through taxes and there needs to be accountability and obligations with that.

“The Minister needs to explain to taxpayers why they’re funding an additional $132 million in welfare and what her plan is to get people back into work.”

There are lots of reasons why people who are able to work might not be able to find a job in the short term and benefits provide a temporary safety net for them.

But there’s something wrong with a system that allows the safety net to become a hammock that traps people in dependency when so many employers are desperate for staff.


Sowell says

July 24, 2019


Sowell says

July 23, 2019


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