Economic growth foundation for wellbeing

February 26, 2019

The government is trying to persuade us that it’s doing something special in prioritising wellbeing.

That’s a message that will only be bought by people who haven’t worked out that successive governments have cared about and aimed for improved health, education, welfare, security and infrastructure which all contribute to wellbeing and that all these require a foundation of strong economic growth.

Money doesn’t buy happiness but it does buy better education, health services, welfare, security and infrastructure.

Treasury is attempting to put a value on things that contribute to wellbeing, and not doing it very well:

When gaining a friend is deemed more important than avoiding the Emergency Room in Treasury’s model it puts in doubt the analysis that should have underpinned its well-being Budget, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“Serious questions need to be answered on how the Treasury is being asked to evaluate spending in Budget 2019. The Treasury’s cost benefit analysis (CBAx) model has new well-being values that that look out of step with the values of New Zealanders.

“Gaining a friend is valued at $592 in the revised CBAx – more than the $387 to avoid a trip to A&E. Having contact with a neighbour is valued at $8,572, or more than twice the value of avoiding diabetes.

“Changes to the analysis behind this Government’s policies are another example of its weakness of approach and its repeated failure to deliver.

“We’re a sports-loving nation but not many people would put a higher value on their membership of the local rugby club than access to emergency health services or serious illness.

“Governments always have Budget priorities and the risk with the ‘well-being’ framework is that it ends up being little more than a rebranding exercise.

“National understands that improving the lives of New Zealanders is ultimately about letting Kiwis keep more of what they earn and keeping the cost of living low. Kiwis are better off when they have more in their back-pockets and have access to world-class infrastructure and public services.”

You can’t put a monetary value on gaining a friend or having contact with a neighbour and even if you could that’s not the government’s business.

The government can, and should, however, manage its own spending to allow us all to keep more of what we earn and still provide first class public services.

 


Socialism kills more than war

December 24, 2018

Bad economic policies kill more children than war:

Recent reports that infants now die at a higher rate in Venezuela than in war-torn Syria were, sadly, unsurprising—the results of socialist economics are predictable. Venezuela’s infant mortality rate has actually been above Syria’s since 2008.

But it’s not all bad news.

The big picture, fortunately, is happier. The global infant mortality rate has plummeted. Even Syria and Venezuela, despite the impact of war and failed policies, saw improvements up to as recently as last year. From 1960 to 2015, Syria’s infant mortality rate fell by 91% and Venezuela’s by 78%. This year (not reflected in the graph above or below), Syria’s rate rose from 11.1 per 1,000 live births to 15.4, while Venezuela’s shot up from 12.9 to 18.6. Meanwhile, infant mortality rates have continued to fall practically everywhere else, and have declined even faster in countries that enjoy more freedom and stability. Consider Chile.

Chile’s infant mortality rate in 1960 was actually above that of both Venezuela and Syria. It managed to outperform Syria by the mid-1960s, but was still woefully behind its richer northern cousin, Venezuela.  In the early 1970s, Chile’s progress slowed to a crawl as its elite flirted with socialist policies. Once its government abandoned socialism and began economic reforms in the mid-1970s, the pace of progress sped up again, and soon Chile’s infants were safer than Venezuela’s. Today, Chile’s infant mortality rate is similar to that of the United States.

There is a lesson to be learned from these data points: economic policy matters. While Venezuela’s socialism has managed to kill more infants than a full-blown war in Syria, Chile’s incredible success story shows us that by implementing the right policies, humanity can make rapid progress and better protect the youngest, most vulnerable members of society. Today it is hard to believe that infants in Chile were once more likely to die within a year than their contemporaries in Venezuela and Syria. . . 

New Zealand is in no danger of following Venezuela’s downwards trajectory to complete disaster, but it is concerning that economic growth has slowed:

The economy appears to be slowing with today’s GDP figures showing economic growth in the past three months is the lowest in five years, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“Economic growth in the past three months of 0.3 per cent doesn’t even compensate for population growth. Economic growth per person, which reflects population growth, actually declined in dollar terms over the past three months.

“Despite all the Government’s talk of wellbeing, that means New Zealanders are becoming worse off.

“While quarterly numbers can be volatile and need to be read with caution, these latest figures do suggest a general slowdown from the economy the Government inherited from National.

“These results will cause embarrassment to the Minister of Finance after he was too quick to boast about the previous quarter’s result, which now appears to be an outlier.

“Despite the economy slowing, the Labour-led Government is projected to take an extra $17.7 billion in tax from New Zealand families over the next four years than was projected under National. That amounts to $10,000 less in the back pockets of the average household.

The announcement of another increase to the minimum wage without a change to tax thresholds will mean even more tax taken.

Any families on low wages will be little if any better off because any gain in their pay will be offset by abatements to Working for Families top-ups. It is better to earn more and be less dependent on government support but that will be cold comfort to people who are struggling.

“National believes New Zealanders deserve to keep more of what they earn. Unlike the Labour-led Government, we know that as a country we can’t tax our way to prosperity.

“New Zealand needs sensible and consistent economic policies that promote growth and reward hard work, as well as wise spending of taxpayer money.” 

Venezuela is an extreme case but the lesson is clear – tax and spend economic policies are no substitute for ones which promote economic growth and lessen the burden of the state.

Good economic policy is the necessary foundation for sustainable social progress.


Christian privilege?

December 7, 2018

Statistics New Zealand is copping criticism for playing ‘Check Your Privilege Bingo’ at a workshop:

The game had a five-by-five board, with squares including ‘white’, ‘Christian’, ‘able-bodied’, ‘no speech impediment’, ‘male’ and ‘heterosexual’.

“Officials at a Stats NZ technical workshop today spent an hour having participants singing, hand-clapping and playing ‘Check Your Privilege Bingo’,” said National finance spokesperson Amy Adams. . .

According to the event schedule the game only ran for 15 minutes. 

“Yet at the same time New Zealand continues to wait for the 2018 Census results after a shambolic process that resulted in significant data gaps and we’re yet to see anything on the last two years of child poverty statistics.”

I agree that this doesn’t seem to be good use of time and it is particularly galling when the census was a shambles but I was intrigued that being Christian makes you privileged.

When it’s okay to put a condom on a Catholic icon and call it art, when people are killed for mocking the prophet of one religion but Jesus and Christ are used as curses and the politically correct pussy foot round every other creed but Christianity, is it really a marker of privilege?


Rural round-up

November 17, 2018

’Cutest sheep in the world’ turns heads in Christchurch

A new breed of sheep debuting at the New Zealand Agricultural Show in Christchurch is proving very popular with the crowds.

The Swiss Valais Blacknose, which are considered to be the “the cutest sheep in the world,” have a black head and black knees, and a fluffy white fleece.

Wairarapa farmer Christine Reed, along with several business partners formed Valais Blacknose NZ and imported the breed as embryos from the UK about a year and a half ago. . .

Biosecurity experience bears fruit :

When kiwifruit bacteria Psa-V appeared in New Zealand in 2010, it reshaped the industry’s biosecurity practices. Inside Dairy spoke to one grower about how dairy farmers facing Mycoplasma bovis can learn from his experience.

Kiwifruit growers Robbie Ellison and his wife Karen run Makaira Orchards in Te Puke, south east of Tauranga. When the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) announced in November 2010 that Psa-V had been discovered in a neighbouring orchard, the airborne disease was found on the Ellisons’ crops.

“We were right in the thick of it,” says Robbie. “I never want to go through another summer like that again. DairyNZ and dairy farmers were very supportive of kiwifruit growers during our crisis, so I’d like to return the favour now they’re dealing with Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis).” . . 

Money saving tips shared – Ken Muir:

 Dairying can be a tough life for many farmers but it’s especially difficult if you’re a woman on your own with a family to raise.

However, Northland farmer Lyn Webster, who spoke to the Dairy Women’s Network in Gore last week, has turned a need to make best use of her resources into a publishing and online enterprise, sharing her money-saving practices with anyone who cares to listen.

She’s sold out the first edition of the story of her frugal lifestyle Pig Tits and Parsley Sauce and a new edition with a new title Save, Make, Do will be published by Random House next year.

Ms Webster was born and bred in Otago and went to Taieri College followed by university after a period of working. . . 

Nature’s power pack meat & veges :

 What is Nature’s Power Pack when it comes to eating? Is it meat? Is it vege? Is it superfoods? Is it a certain type of dietary regime? It’s probably no surprise for those omnivores that enjoy including meat in their diet, but to get a big bang for nutrition buck don’t look past a moderate portion of protein such as lean red meat with a good portion of veggies. Yep it’s that simple.

So here’s two reasons why animal protein should not be overlooked as a smart dietary choice.  . . 

Veganism was behind the ‘meat tax’ hype – so what happened to critical thinking? – Joanna Blythman:

Much media reporting of food and health is fatuous and lazy, but coverage of the proposed ‘meat tax’ hit a new low of ignorance, or if you’re less charitable, intellectual dishonesty.

Was it too much to ask that journalists who reported as unimpeachable scientific ‘fact’ the recommendations from the University of Oxford’s Oxford Martin School – which describes itself as ‘a world-leading centre of pioneering research that addresses global challenges’ – tempered their headlines with the fact that the lead researcher, Dr Marco Springmann, is a loud-and-proud vegan?

It’s naive to think that his beliefs didn’t influence the design of this number-crunching research. Mathematical modelling (the type used here) is about as weak and unreliable as research gets. It is based on highly debatable assumptions and doesn’t take full account of ‘confounding factors’, such as smoking, exercise, alcohol and class. . .

The enduring legacy of merino – Katrina Kufer:

Dubai Opera’s Sky Garden exclusively hosts the Loro Piana, in partnership with Tashkeel, Merino wool cloud installation that showcases the World Record Bale alongside a special commission by Calligraffiti artist eL Seed.

Under the royal patronage and support of H.H. Sheikha Lateefa bint Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, founder and director of Tashkeel, Italian luxury textiles brand Loro Piana’s The Gift of Kings and The Record Bale, The Noblest of Woolsinstallation comes to Dubai after premiering at Art Basel Hong Kong. Featured alongside a special commission by French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed — known for large-scale ‘Calligraffiti’ works — the immersive installation is created from the world record holding Merino wool in its raw form. . .

 


Mixed Ownership Model works well

August 23, 2018

National’s partial sale of a few state assets has been vindicated by a report released by TDB Advisory:

An independent report released today by TDB Advisory shows that the Mixed Ownership Model introduced under the previous National Government has been an overwhelming success, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“The Mixed Ownership process successfully generated $4.7 billion for public infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and broadband and TDB’s findings highlight the wider issue with the Government’s ideological opposition to private sector involvement in funding new assets.

“The partial sell-down of Genesis, Meridian and Mercury began in 2013 and had three simple objectives: to lower Government debt; to increase investment opportunities for ‘mum and dad’ investors; and to improve the financial performance of each company.

“TDB’s study shows all of these objectives have been achieved.

“The most striking finding is that despite electricity prices being flat-to-falling over the period of the Mixed Ownership Model, shareholder returns have increased by 69 percent and the Government has received higher dividends despite owning a lower share of each company.

“The report also shows that opposition to the Mixed Ownership Model was misplaced. It didn’t lead to higher electricity prices. And it didn’t result in a drop-off in renewable energy generation, which has increased over the period.

“The current Government has an irrational opposition to the private sector. Labour’s ideological resistance to Private-Public Partnerships to build public assets means a number of important projects are failing to get off the ground.

“The Government shouldn’t shut itself off from ideas such as Private-Public Partnerships or Mixed Ownership purely on ideological grounds. Evidence, not ideology, should drive good policy.

So the fear of prices soaring was misplaced; the government is earning a similar amount in dividends from a small shareholding; and pausing less interest; and the people who invested in the shares are getting dividends too.

This report  ought to encourage the government to consider more sales.

. . .Taxpayers’ Union Economist Joe Ascroft says, “This report demonstrates what most analysts already knew: private-sector discipline can transform bloated, inefficient Government-owned companies into efficient market-disciplined businesses. It’s a win-win-win for taxpayers, investors, and consumers.”

“With the Government struggling to meet its self-imposed budgetary restrictions, it’s actually the perfect time for an expansion of the Mixed Ownership Model. Raising capital and increasing dividend payments would give Grant Robertson the room to invest in infrastructure without seriously damaging the country’s books.”

The three parties now in government were vehemently opposed to the MOM.

The report proves them wrong and shows their opposition wasn’t based on fact.

The state still owns too many businesses which could easily be sold, partially or fully, to the benefit of the public finances, taxpayers and the businesses.

If the government would let evidence not ideology guide its decisions, it would sell at least some of them but it is very, very unlikely to do so.

The report is here.

 


August 20 in history

August 20, 2018

636  Battle of Yarmouk: Arab forces led by Khalid ibn al-Walid took control of Syria and Palestine , marking the first great wave of Muslim conquests and the rapid advance of Islam outside Arabia.

917  Battle of Acheloos: Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria decisively defeated a Byzantine army.

1000  The foundation of the Hungarian state by Saint Stephen.

1083  Canonization of the first King of Hungary, Saint Stephen and his son Saint Emeric.

1391 Konrad von Wallenrode became the 24th Hochmeister of the Teutonic Order.

1672  Former Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis were murdered by an angry mob in The Hague.

1778 Bernardo O’Higgins, South American revolutionary, was born  (d. 1842).

1794  Battle of Fallen Timbers – American troops forced a confederacy of Shawnee, Mingo, Delaware, Wyandot, Miami, Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi warriors into a disorganised retreat.

1804  Lewis and Clark Expedition: the “Corps of Discovery”, exploring the Louisiana Purchase, suffered its only death when sergeant Charles Floyd died, apparently from acute appendicitis.

1858 Charles Darwin first published his theory of evolution in The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, alongside Alfred Russel Wallace’s same theory.

1866 President Andrew Johnson formally declared the American Civil War over.

1882 Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture debuted in Moscow.

1888  Mutineers imprisoned Emin Pasha at Dufile.

1901 – Salvatore Quasimodo, Italian novelist and poet, Nobel Prize laureate, was born (d. 1968).

1904 – The New Zealand Free Lance printed a J.C. Blomfield cartoon in which a plucky kiwi morphed into a moa as the All Blacks defeated Great Britain 9–3 in the first rugby test between Motherland and colony. This may have been the first use of a kiwi to symbolise the nation in a cartoon.

First use of kiwi as unofficial national symbol?

1909 – Alby Roberts, New Zealand cricketer and rugby player, was born (d. 1978).

1923  Jim Reeves, US country music singer, was born  (d.1964).

1926 Japan’s public broadcasting company, Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK) was established.

1927 Yootha Joyce, English actress, was born  (d. 1980).

1927  – Peter Oakley, English soldier and blogger was born (d. 2014).

1940 The New Zealand Shipping Company freighter Turakina was sunk by the Orion 260 nautical miles west of Taranaki, following a brief gun battle – the first ever fought in the Tasman Sea. Thirty-six members (some sources say 35) of its largely British crew were killed. Twenty survivors, many of them wounded, were rescued from the sea and taken prisoner.

Turakina sunk by German raider in Tasman

1940 In Mexico City exiled Leon Trotsky was fatally wounded with an ice axe by Ramon Mercader.

1941 Dave Brock, British musician and founder of Hawkwind, was born.

1941 Slobodan Milošević, President of Serbia and of Yugoslavia (d. 2006).

1944 Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, was born (d. 1991).

1944  – 168 captured allied airmen, accused of being “terror fliers”, arrive at Buchenwald concentration camp. The senior officer was Phil Lamason of the RNZAF.

1944 The Battle of Romania began with a major Soviet offensive.

1948 Robert Plant, British Musician (Led Zeppelin), was born.

1955 In Morocco, a force of Berbers  raided two rural settlements and killed 77 French nationals.

1960 Senegal broke from the Mali federation, declaring its independence.

1974 Amy Adams, American actress, was born.

1975  NASA launched the Viking 1 planetary probe toward Mars.

1977 NASA launched Voyager 2.

1979  The East Coast Main Line rail route between England and Scotland was restored when the Penmanshiel Diversion opens.

1982 Lebanese Civil War: a multinational force landed in Beirut to oversee the PLO’s withdrawal from Lebanon.

1988  ”Black Saturday” of the Yellowstone fire in Yellowstone National Park.

1988 – Iran–Iraq War: a cease-fire was agreed after almost eight years of war.

1989 The pleasure boat Marchioness sank on the River Thames following a collision, 51 people were killed.

1989 The O-Bahn in Adelaide, the world’s longest guided busway, opened.

1991  August Coup: more than 100,000 people rallied outside the Soviet Union’ss parliament building protesting the coup aiming to depose President Mikhail Gorbachev.

1991 Estonia seceded from the Soviet Union.

1993 The Oslo Peace Accords were signed.

1997  Souhane massacre in Algeria; more than 60 people were killed and 15 kidnapped.

1998 The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Quebec couldn’t legally secede from Canada without the federal government’s approval.

1998 The United States military launched cruise missile attacks  against alleged al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical plant in Sudan in retaliation for the August 7 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

2008 – Spanair Flight 5022, from Madrid to Gran Canaria, skids off the runway and crashes at Barajas Airport. 146 people are killed in the crash, 8 more died afterwards. Only 18 people survived.

2012 – A prison riot in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas killed at least 20 people.

2014  – Seventy-two people were killed in Japan’s Hiroshima prefecture by a series of landslides caused by a month’s worth of rain that fell in one day.

2016 – 54 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated himself at a Kurdish wedding party in Gaziantep, Turkey.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


Confidence plummets

July 31, 2018

Labour, NZ First and the Green Party haven’t even been in government for a year and already business confidence has droppedto the second lowest in the OECD.

New Zealand has tumbled from top to bottom of the OECD business confidence rankings with the most recent data revealing New Zealand has the second lowest level of business confidence in the developed world, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“Given the high level of political uncertainty around the world it is a shocking revelation that New Zealand – typically a haven of political and economic stability – has the second lowest level of business confidence in the OECD.

“In 2016 New Zealand was the second highest in the OECD with 33 of the 35 countries beneath us. Now everyone except South Korea is ahead of us. To have fallen so far in such a short space of time is a damning reflection of this Government’s economic management.

“It is clear the Government’s low-growth policies are having a major impact, and are driving New Zealand’s appallingly low business confidence – though the Government is still refusing to acknowledge that.

“Policies such as industrial relations reforms, increased costs on small businesses via minimum wage increases and higher fuel taxes as well as the banning of oil and gas exploration, have all been bad for business sentiment and the economy.

“We want businesses confident so they can invest for growth, hire more people, and increase wages. That is how Kiwi families get ahead.

“With this Government’s dismissive and reckless approach to the economy, it’s no wonder we are again beginning to see more Kiwis heading overseas to greener pastures as opportunities here in New Zealand dry up.”

 

Businesses are generally still reasonably confident about their own outlook, but how long will it be before lack of confidence in the wider economy impacts on their decisions?

Increases in fuel taxes and the minimum wage, the prospect of a return to 1970s industrial relations and the strife that will accompany that, and the unilateral decision to end oil and gas exploration are all taking their toll on confidence.

Deteriorating  relations with Australia, our second business trading partner, add to causes for concern on the domestic front.

Sir John Key warns of clouds on the international horizon too:

. . .”We’re at the end of what I’d say is the economic cycle at the moment. There’s no question that when I look around the world and the things I’m now involved in internationally, you can start to see the pressure in the system,” Key said. 

“I was in China a week ago, it’s clear their economy is really starting to splutter a little bit. While the United States economy is doing well, they’re running massive, massive deficits – 7 per cent of GDP. Europe’s obviously much weaker than it was.

“So I think you are starting to see a slowdown in the economy and I think that, in part, reflects the business confidence numbers in New Zealand, and I think in part New Zealand businesses are looking at what the Government’s doing and they’re uncertain about that.” 

Low business confidence numbers could not be ignored, but Key said he hoped the economy remained strong “because every day, New Zealanders rely on it”.

“If doesn’t, then I think the right political party to lead the country wouldn’t be the one that’s currently there,” Key said. . .

A sluggish economy isn’t just a problem for business it’s a problem for everyone and should it get worse, businesses need confidence that the government will handle it well.

The current one has given plenty of grounds for concern that it won’t.

Running a business is full of risks and uncertainties and business people need confidence in their own outlook and the wider environment if they are to take the risks necessary to grow rather than stand still or retrench.

Business confidence doesn’t matter only for individual operations. It’s important for security of employment and a vibrant and growing economy.

That in turn is necessary to fund the infrastructure and services we don’t just want but need.


%d bloggers like this: