The idea of the taxpayers owning a bank was such an anathema to me that I didn’t step foot in a post office for more than two years after Kiwibank was established. So deep is my aversion to it, I still enter one only when there is no alternative.
National made a pre-election pledge that it wouldn’t sell any assets this term and made it clear that if it had plans for any sales after that it would make that quite clear before the next elections so voters would know.
They have more than enough on their hands at the moment without worrying about a possible second term, but when they start to look ahead they ought to consider this suggestion from Peter Macdougall, chair of the NZ Cooperatives Association and a director of Ballance, in the association’s latest newsletter:
Before becoming the Government, National didn’t see why a government should be involved in banking. All the major trading banks in New Zealand, however, are owned offshore and their profits go to their investor shareholders.
If Kiwibank were to become a cooperative bank, expanded rapidly into the agriculture sector, would it be supported?
I believe it would, I believe it should, and the timing is clearly right – “Kiwibank, owned by New Zealanders for the benefit of its cooperative members”.
I don’t have a problem with foreign ownership but many people do so this idea is worth investigating because it would get the bank off the government’s books while still satisfying those who want it to stay in New Zealand hands.
Aiming at agriculture isn’t silly either because the growing demand for food means that primary producers are likely to lead the recovery from the recession.
There is already a very successful example of co-operative ownership of a bank which is active in rural financing. Rabobank , which is owned by the Dutch, has a triple A rating which shows the model could work.
UPDATE: Anti-Dismal says no and explains why.