NZ Institute’s report card for NZ


The New Zealand Institute is launching a website – nzahead – which will give a comprehensive assessment of the coutnry’s social, economic, and environmental performance.

A media release from the institute says:

nzahead brings together 16 key measures of how we are doing as a country, and then gives an overall mark for ‘Effort’ and ‘Achievement’. It will be launched in Auckland on 31 March.

Dr Rick Boven, Director of the Institute, says that while there might be a light-hearted element to the idea of a whole country receiving a report card like a student, there is a serious side to the project.

“If we’re going to make good choices about our future as a country, we need to have an informed debate about how we’re really doing in the things that really matter. This is one of our most important contributions to informing that debate.”

. . . Dr Boven recognises that choosing what is measured and how performance is assessed can be highly charged decisions.

“Our objective is not to embarrass or upset anyone. We have selected 16 measures which we believe give an accurate Big Picture view of our country’s long-term performance. And we will take the next step of saying what we think about that performance. Whether or not people agree or disagree with our 16 measures or our  assessment, I hope they will feel better able to talk about the issues with their  families, friends and workmates.”

Dr Boven says that selecting the 16 measures was a very challenging process. “We wanted to find the right balance between capturing enough information to make broad judgments about New Zealand’s performance, without capturing so much that we would be drowning in detail. Of course we prefer that the figures are reliable and accurate, and ideally cover a long time period so that we can see trends and spot  onnections. One of the challenges was that there is little information on some measures we think are very important.”

An independent assessment of where we are and how we can improve is a very good idea.

I await the launch with interest.

Best case worst case


Idealog interviewed David Skilling, chief executive of the NZ Institute on his views on the economy.

You can read it in full here, so I’ll just give a taste with his view of the worst case outlook for New Zealand:

I think the worst case is not terrible, catastrophic, Third World status. Worst case, I think, is probably Fiji with snow: bit of agriculture, a bit of tourism, friendly people, half-decent rugby team. And that’s pretty much New Zealand. So it’s not terrible.

But on current course and speed, there’s going to be a 60 percent income gap between ourselves and Australia in 20 years’ time.

And the best:

I don’t see any reason we couldn’t overtake Australian incomes within the next 20 years or so. Australia only overtook us 30 years ago. If we wanted to invest heavily in our primary and secondary industries, but also in education, R&D, and high speed broadband; if we had a real view about growing firms and attracting firms from overseas; and if we create an environment that’s conducive to the growth of scale firms, then, yeah, I think it’s possible.

It’s really up to us. Many of the trends globally are breaking in our direction. We need to seize the opportunities.

Head & heart


Idealog asked New Zealand Institute chief executive David Skilling why economic growth is important. He said:

It matters in terms of the quality of health, education and social services that we can afford in this country. Also, importantly, it gives a sense of confidence and momentum.

If you look across history and across countries, periods of sustained economic growth go hand in hand with improvements in welfare, better treatment of immigrants and minorities and more generous attitudes towards social and environmental issues.

And we’re losing 70,000 New Zealanders permanently each year, and we have done for quite some time.

Simple really – it’s not economic growth or social services, it’s both. We need economic growth to pay for social services. 

A stronger economy sustains a better society which in turn helps the economy fuelling a virtuous cycle of head and heart.

The full interview with Skilling is on Idealog TV here.

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