NZ loses its way

November 22, 2017

For several years, New Zealand has received international attention and praise for its economic success.

Just a few weeks with a new government this commentary from Jared Dillian at Forbes is less than enthusiastic about its policies:

On September 23, the people of New Zealand elected 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern as prime minister, the youngest prime minister in New Zealand’s history. Ardern has brought youthful energy to New Zealand politics, but her scary rhetoric during the campaign (like calling capitalism a “blatant failure”) has some people wondering if she will take the country back to the bad old days of the 70s and early 80s.

New Zealand is a supply-side economic miracle. Not long ago, it was one of the most unfree economies that was not actually Communist in name. Most industry was nationalized, from telecommunications and transportation, to banks and hotels. There were strict capital controls and prohibitions on owning foreign assets. And of course punitively high tax rates, inflation, and extraordinary levels of government debt. . .

Those policies from the early 80s back are the ones which failed us.

The 1980s saw an enormous rollback in the size and scope of government, and the beginning of a supply-side revolution. Of course, economic liberalization was happening around the world at that time, but it was most dramatic in tiny New Zealand.

New Zealand enjoyed unprecedented economic growth, and leapfrogged to near the top of the economic freedom rankings, where it usually sits only behind Hong Kong and Singapore. It became one of the richest countries in the world. Part of New Zealand’s success was due to good central banking; the Reserve Bank of New Zealand was the first central bank in the world to institute a formal policy of inflation targeting, which other central banks have copied over the years, to everyone’s benefit. . . 

Inflation is theft. It steals the real value of money and it’s the poorest who are hit hardest by it.

It seems likely that New Zealand will experience a recession during Ardern’s term. Nobody is predicting a return to the bad old days of the 70s, but New Zealand will probably lose its status as one of the most open, free economies in the world. It takes decades to weaken an economy, just like it takes decades to strengthen it. But investors will probably want to avoid New Zealand for the time being.

This government has taken down the welcome sign to immigrants and inwards investment.

Richard Harman at Politik reports the Government is to put the approval of overseas purchases of farmland on hold as it gets advice from officials on how to carry out its coalition agreement with NZ First to strengthen the Overseas Investment Act.

The hold is likely to affect tens of millions of dollars of property sales and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business transactions.

POLITIK understands that the sale of one large South Island property and the potential sale of an iconic Wanaka station along with two large North Island dairy properties are likely to be caught up in the move.

It was not clear from the comments from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday whether the hold will also apply to overseas business investments – but if that is the case, there are proposed takeovers in both the oil and gas and private hospital sectors that could be affected. . . 

The sale of Icebreaker  to VF Corporation which needs OIO approval as will the sale of carpet maker Godfrey Hirst to global flooring manufacturer Mohawk Industries.

Uncertainty over the economy, the inflationary affect of a lower dollar and higher borrowing, and whether immigrants will be available to fill staff vacancies is denting business confidence.

Less confidence means businesses are less willing to take risks, including hiring more staff.

It’s very early days but if overseas investors are being warned off and local businesses are losing confidence, it’s a sign that New Zealand is losing its way.

 


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