OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Two wallops of wonk, with a side of waffle

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  • Alastair Jamieson,

    We aren't going to destroy the planet. We can lead to changes that destroy human civilisation, but the planet will continue to evolve and will chew us up and spit us out as it goes along.

    I don't buy this attitude - or really understand it. I tend to think we have some kind of responsibility - at very least ourselves and our descendants - to keep the place in a habitable condition. It's not like it's impossible.

    Perhaps "the planet" would survive, but what about all the other species that would go with us? Would all those tigers, kokako, dolphins and trees that go extinct just be some kind of inconsequential collateral damage that didn't require any consideration while we decided to consume our way down the gurgler?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    One of the things I enjoy about NZ. Obama builds a Maglev from LA to Vegas and Key builds a cycle track from Bluff to the Cape.
    It makes yer smile.

    The colony of Western Australia only signed up for Australian statehood on the condition that the trans-Australian railway be built. In 1917, 16 years after Federation, they got it. As more than one Australian's observed, if the somewhat shorter rail distance to NZ could've been bridged, we'd probably have signed up.
    Cycle track to Singapore?

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3384 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    i agree with Alastair.


    (hi Alastair...enps)

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 630 posts Report Reply

  • icehawk,

    If the government's going into the business of make work schemes, surely there are endless opportunities to address actual issues that are already plaguing the country, rather than making sh*t up?

    I think you've hit the nail on the head.

    If they want Keynesian stimulus then they could do it. That means that the govt wants to divert a reasonable share of GDP to schemes to improve NZ's infrastructure - ideally things that pay themselves off longterm by boosting the economy then they should decide to do so and then assess projects. The whole point of Keynesian stimulus is that in depression your economy has people and resources sitting idle, and so the govt should take up that slack and employ them until things get going again - at the cost of some govt debt which you need to pay off later.

    But the govt has gone into this declaring that money is tight, so they want things that give great returns for little govt cash. If that's true then they aren't really planning Keynesian stimulus because it's EXPENSIVE. So what's the damn cycleway doing here?

    Wellington • Since Sep 2008 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • icehawk,

    The suggestion is that the government funds the 10th day *in return for a commitment that there be no redundancies for a certain period*. So they get a one-off 10% reduction in labour costs, but then they're stuck with that cost, even if, say, their revenue falls 30%.

    The more I think about this the less sense it makes. You're assuming a manufacturing business where

    1) Fixed costs are not a killer.
    2) You can afford to keep 90% of your workforce, short term.
    3) You can't afford to keep 100% of your workforce.
    4) You will, long term, be a healthy business which needs no subsidy.
    5) Natural turnover rates won't winnow down your employee numbers from 100% to 90% for you.
    6) The huge change in the NZD over last year isn't enough of a help.

    That last one's interesting: if the big change in NZD isn't helping them much then probably their primary competition is other NZ firms. In which case we're talking about subsidizing one NZ firm so that they can compete better against other NZ firms. Is that really smart?

    I can imagine a manufacturing business where the subsidy would make sense - good enough to be worth saving, bad enough to need it, good enough that this would be all they need, and not in a situation where the work they lose is going to another NZ firm down the road. But I can't imagine that they're all that common.


    Maybe. Maybe there's a real policy in here trying to get out. But really I think it needs a lot of careful analysisy.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2008 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • Blake Monkley,

    NZ needs to invest in R & D green technologies, for a new economy, energy technology will be the next great thing for the world. Key should support NZ inventors and companies that are focusing this way.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    innovation and entrepreneurship doesn't come from prime minsterial edict

    Keith, you side-stepped the part of the question about R&D. I think it's fair enough to ask if any plans were revealed in passing yesterday to make up for canning the tax credits (which was by edict). Or do our new leaders think our economy consists of farms, banks and construction projects?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16495 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    Or do our new leaders think our economy consists of farms, banks and construction projects?

    Yes, and real estate agents.

    Everyone else is a non-frontline bureaucrat who produces no wealth.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    John Armstrong has a thoughtful story about those bureaucrats.

    It looks like much of this change will take place below the radar. The less information available to opponents to build a broad picture of what is going on, the easier it will be to force change. Programmes will end and staff will be shifted or sacked without fanfare.
    ...

    National is promising there will be no "slash and burn"approach. Partly, that is out of self-interest. The indiscriminate short-term slashing of departmental budgets on some fixed percentage basis is too blunt an instrument and only ends up backfiring on the Government as bureaucrats cut services in response.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16495 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Sacha & DCRed:

    I think it's fair enough to ask if any plans were revealed in passing yesterday to make up for canning the tax credits (which was by edict). Or do our new leaders think our economy consists of farms, banks and construction projects?

    Yes, and real estate agents.

    Everyone else is a non-frontline bureaucrat who produces no wealth.

    So it sounds like it's about giving people more money to keep them keeping up with the Joneses, rather than making us into a Silicon Isles. That approach will just delay the visit by the repo men, the foreclosure agent, and maybe even the IMF.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4158 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    4 Day weeks....(no discussion allowed on your last post, Keith)

    Of course, if the alternative is that the business goes bust, leaving them and their workmates jobless, then maybe this is the less shitty of two evils.

    Maybe. France has tried the 4 day week idea. Can't say it has been stunningly successful. They haven't had unemployment down below 7.5% for at least a generation.

    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/Economics/Unemployment-rate.aspx?Symbol=FRF

    I do think if an individual employee wants to work 4 days they should be able to, maybe making that option easier is worthwhile.

    But subsidising 4 day weeks, gah, where will it end?

    Not fucking up the economy with hardline monetarist policy (i.e. bowing to Dr. Brash and friends) seems like a much better thing to talk about.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    And Liam Dann cynically dissects the rugby metaphor.

    But in general yesterday's results looked more like a throw the ball to Jonah and yell:"run Jonah, run" approach to saving the economy than any kind of rolling maul as called for by Key.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16495 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    DeepRed, I'm genuinely interested to hear if anything about innovation was discussed. I don't believe senior pollies or business leaders are all stupid or evil, so they must have some thoughts beyond lining the pockets of the obvious suspects.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16495 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Don, I can see the logic for certain businesses in not having to lay off valuable staff now just because you can't afford to keep them working until markets pick up in "a couple of years". Probably not your industry, and the underlying assumption is false without further strong action.

    Taxpayers are being asked to take on some of the risk, in exchange for businesses not laying workers off right away. The Act party and the dryer Nats must be spitting.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16495 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    And Fran O'Sullivan manages to distort yesterday's gathering into a cry for easier foreign investment, conveniently ignoring the impact of that on our current indebtedness. To a woman with a hammer, I guess..

    Business participants at the summit were clear that Key must keep his Government focused on what really matters: Ensuring New Zealand comes out of this tough period with policy settings that result in the economy being more internationally competitive - not the reverse. This means corporate tax rates that incentivise investment to come here rather than chase it away...

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16495 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Taxpayers are being asked to take on some of the risk, in exchange for businesses not laying workers off right away. The Act party and the dryer Nats must be spitting.

    I am *not* against the spending of tax payers' money. Just not on such an unproven idea. I am happy for it to be easier to have 4 day weeks if that is what an employee wants, but I would rather our dollars were spent in other, more productive ways.

    If there was absolute proof that 4 day weeks worked well, reduced unemployment then I would reconsider. I haven't seen anything that suggests it does.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I actually agree, Don. Do you know if any ideas that would benefit knowledge industries like software were discussed yesterday?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16495 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Have we got any recent statistics on the numbers of employees being put onto short time (reduced hours) or lay-off (no hours but not dismissed), either by agreement or by contract? Or even agreed pay-cuts?

    Here in the UK the above solutions have become incredibly popular as you might expect (generally employers/employees try to save jobs before cutting them) and I expect they will back home as well, if things are getting to a similar level of bad.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 880 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Reserve Bank Governor Dr Bollard told the job summit that the global recession is thought by some to be the "biggest destruction of global wealth ever".

    He said the amount of money lost was in the trillions of dollars and that if one dollar notes were strung together, they would reach the sun.

    This, in itself, speaks volumes.
    The Global wealth we so often hear about is all smoke and mirrors. Any economy that is based upon anything other than pure trade relies on the confidence the participants have in the currency that that trade is conducted in. By bandying about terms such as "Global Recession" or "Financial Crisis" you create a self fulfilling prophesy. The "conspiracy theorist" within tells me that something is rotten and it ain't just in Denmark. By "destroying" this imaginary wealth the big players have sold the public a dead puppy and run off with the real loot, the power to control the masses to their own evil ends. So let's talk about how to save jobs, let's talk about you losing your livelihood, your home, all you have worked for, by giving a hand out to those that already have enough. Here's an idea. Let us give them that pile of one dollar notes, because their chief bean counter seems to think we still have dollar notes, It's all about confidence anyhow and if the man named after a short post believes in an imaginary currency then we have no problem other than the collapse of a totally ficticious financial system.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4684 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Sasha, dunno :-)

    Here's something interesting though:

    http://www.realhelpnow.gov.uk/

    and some background

    http://andrewlewin.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/innovation-v-transformation/

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    I, for one, am feeling distinctly underwhelmed at the results of this summit for jobs - a 9-day fortnight and a bike-path???

    Surely, given the status of the majority of the participants/invitees, they could have come up with something a little more substantial or (how's this for naive?) visionary perhaps? From my personal perspective I'd prefer to see something about changing the basic paradigm of the NZ economy but I guess that might take leadership, vision and an independence from the cosy embrace of "big business".

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 563 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And Liam Dann cynically dissects the rugby metaphor.

    Oh, let's very cynically dissect what the brains trust of the NZ Herald op-ed roster has contributed to meaningful discourse on the subject. The words "Sweet Fuck All" come to mind -- if you took that particular organ's advice we'd all be assuming the foetal position and whimpering softly.

    Surely, given the status of the majority of the participants/invitees, they could have come up with something a little more substantial or (how's this for naive?) visionary perhaps? From my personal perspective I'd prefer to see something about changing the basic paradigm of the NZ economy but I guess that might take leadership, vision and an independence from the cosy embrace of "big business".

    Fair enough, Stewart. From my perspective, when anyone comes out of a room after eight hours with a 'vision thing' (As George Bush Snr. so charmingly put it) clutched in their damp paws, I start looking for the blow encrusted mirrors and the real bar tabs.

    And considering the general consensus that the whole exercise was a coven meeting of the VRWC (with a smattering of "beards" likes Andrew Little), did you really want to see them talking about "changing the basic paradigm of the NZ economy"? Be careful what you wish for, Stewart, because someone will give it to you. And hard.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11867 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Check the Job Summit's beehive page for a list of the "top 20" ideas and powerpoint listings of all the rest for each workshop.

    Much of it sounds like the Act manifesto and their MoU with National. All those "impact statements" on regulations would seem to require extra bureaucrats or lucractive contracts to friends of the party.

    Despite the confidence of Mr Tindall on telly last night, I'd have to agree these results are hardly inspiring stuff - which might explain Key promoting the cycleway from the back pocket to seem otherwise.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16495 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    Craig,

    I understand your cynicism re "the vision thang"[sic] but it all just seems so fucking lame. One day off a fortnight and a bike-path... <sigh> With the current shit-storm of meltdowns, foreclosures & job losses it would seem to be a good time to envisage something a little bolder.
    (My naivete and my cynicism are having a ding-dong battle.)

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 563 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Here's part of a solution from an American venture capital background:
    Lew Burton: On the hunt for a Kiwi Google

    In regards to Fran O & others, NZ has had little or no trouble attracting foreign investment. The problem is, it's often been of the wrong sort - too few of the asset-building Heinz-Watties or Google variety, and too many of the asset-stripping FayRich variety.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4158 posts Report Reply

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