The work programme covers a period of approximately one year, although some topics may be ongoing over two (or more) work programmes.
Archive: Work Programme for 2010
The current work programme commenced at the beginning of April 2010 and finishes at the end of March 2011. It comprises the following topics:
- A Progressive Path to Prosperity
- Theoretical Foundations
- Progressive Fiscal Policy – Lessons from the Fifth Labour Government
- Child Poverty and Cycles of Disadvantage
A Progressive Path to Prosperity
What is wrong with New Zealand’s economic performance, why, and what can we do to improve it?
This will be a major focus during the 2010 work programme, but may also continue over into the 2011 work programme. Three components have been identified for this topic:
Stream 1 – Identifying the Problem
How bad has New Zealand’s economic performance really been compared to other OECD countries? Do the standard statistics present the full picture? And what does that really mean for the average New Zealander’s standard of living?
Stream 2 – Obstacles and Challenges
What features of New Zealand’s economy and institutions can be identified as past and future obstacles to our country being able to achieve its economic goals? In addition, what emerging economic challenges is New Zealand likely to have to deal with? How can progressive policy prescriptions help to address these obstacles and challenges?
Stream 3 – Towards an Economic Vision
To what extent has the lack of a clear and wildly-held vision about our overall economic direction and goals held us back as a nation? To what extent do other countries have such a vision and how has that assisted them? What could we learn from overseas experience and past experience in New Zealand regarding how to go about developing such a vision?
Many non-progressives profess that any significant state or collective action to try to achieve social and economic goals is bound to be ineffective or even counter-productive. They often use complex yet elegant theories and models drawn from neoclassical economics to prove this. This topic looks at the work that progressives have done to develop a robust, well-grounded and logically consistent alternative theoretical framework that can justify and help guide progressive state or collective action.
The scale and pace of work on this topic will be guided in part by the emergence of new theoretical insights from the current generation of thinkers, perhaps influenced by the lessons from the financial crisis of 2007-08. This will influence the balance of work between the 2010 work programme and subsequent work programmes. Three components have been identified for this topic:
Stream 1 – Economic Policy
This stream will look at the primary terrain for theoretical debate, the economy, and whether the state can effectively intervene either to improve economic performance or to redistribute wealth and income in a fairer way. To what extent do progressives have a compelling and consistent rationale for action, along with perhaps an understanding of the limits of action?
Stream 2 – Social Services
This stream will look at the main ‘essential services’ where progressives seek to ensure quality and fairness through public spending and regulation. This includes in particular health and education. Do progressives have a clear theoretical case to show how this intervention leads to better outcomes, and is that reasoning consistent across policy areas?
Stream 3 – Regulating Behaviour
This stream will look at the contentious area of public action to influence, incentivise or legislate the behaviour of citizens towards what are considered socially desirable goals. Is there a strong theoretical underpinning for this kind of intervention, and what can it tell us about the issues and methods of intervention where this is most likely to be effective?
Progressive Fiscal Policy – Lessons from the Fifth Labour Government
Progressive governments come into office facing great expectations, spending commitments and often pressures built up during a period of underinvestment. How much additional spending can they realistically hope to afford? And what sort of trade-offs are they likely to have to make? This topic treats the Fifth Labour Government as a case study, from which we can gain insights into the challenges of fiscal management that the next progressive government will need to face.
This topic will primarily be a numerical analysis and is expected to be completed within the 2010 work programme period. There will be three stages to this topic:
Stage 1 – The Big Picture
An initial profile of the overall increase in expenditure during the Fifth Labour Government, and its breakdown by broad expenditure areas, based on publicly available information.
Stage 2 – Detailed Analysis
A detailed breakdown of government expenditure by year, with identification of increases that were the result of discretionary government initiatives and those that resulted from baseline adjustments (e.g. benefit CPI increases, additional Superannuation recipients, more students in schools).
Stage 3 – Commentary and Lessons
What drove expenditure growth during the period? To what extent did some portfolios crowd out expenditure in other areas? What was the balance between discretionary and non-discretionary initiatives? What was the cost of simply ’standing still’ in terms of inflation and wage pressures? How might different choices on a few major spending areas have altered the government’s overall expenditure profile? And what can the next progressive government learn from all of this?
Child Poverty and Cycles of Disadvantage
Addressing child poverty is one of the greatest moral imperatives facing progressives, and indeed all New Zealanders. This topic will try to discover the most effective options that not merely lift poor families above the administratively-designated ‘poverty line’ but materially improve their quality of life in an ongoing way and break the cycle of disadvantage.
Initial work and thinking about this topic will commence in 2010 but the bulk of work (including report-writing) will be undertaken in 2011.