Rod Oram’s Star-Times column this week is Govt’s last shot at useful policy, which makes the case that “Telecom’s decision to split itself into separate network and retail businesses presents the government with one last chance to do the right thing for customers, country and telcos.”
Oram also speaks to Nine to Noon as usual, this week looking at the economic situation in Australia in the lead-up to the election year (plus the WTO decision on apples). A particularly interesting couple of snippets:
There’s very powerful arguments from the Australian Treasury in a paper it produced for the Budget in May and then a very good speech by Ross Garnaut (who’s one of the best economists over here) just last week, arguing that [Australia's] resource boom does actually significantly distort the economy, and if Australia doesn’t get policies in place to correct those distortions, then it’s going to be more of a nuisance than a benefit.
. . . if you followed the Garnaut thesis that Australia has enjoyed no productivity increase in the economy since around about 2003-2005 and all of that growth has come from debt-fuelled consumption in the housing market and the resource boom, and both those drivers of growth cannot continue, then therefore the country’s facing a real productivity question as to how it’s going to grow the economy. If you take that longer-term view, then you could see how New Zealand could strategically be more interesting about what we were doing; that could then increase our opportunities to even catch up a bit with Australia.
That’s rather an intriguing thought, following on from the productivity comparisons with Australia that I covered in a recent column (I’m not sure I buy that economic doldrums for one of our biggest trading partners is good news for us, though.)
There are three new items from Brian Easton this week:
- His latest available Listener column, Will China rule the world?, argues that such a question is “fundamentally misconceived” and that a single hegemon is not an essential part of the globalised world;
- New Zealand’s Great Bank Crisis is a draft extract from a chapter of “Not in Narrow Seas: A History of New Zealand from an economic perspective” which looks at the bailout of the Bank of New Zealand at the end of the 19th century; and
- Easton re-publishes some blog comments by himself and others in response to a post at the Dim-Post on his speech Does the Government Know What it is Doing? (which I covered a few weeks ago).
And from Colin James:
- Claiming the justice system for the people (Fairfax papers) is a sympathetic account of Simon Power’s reform agenda;
- How to house good economics (Otago Daily Times) looks at the housing advisory group report, arguing that “it makes good economic sense to fix up people’s houses so they are warm and not too crowded and are part of the sort of neighbourhood people like to live in and so live longer” and suggests that “a future cabinet might reassess the payoff from investing money in good housing”; and
- Who leads to the next business as usual? (Management magazine) revisits Jon Johansson’s book (which I discussed a while back and James has previously reviewed) and its typology of the Fourth Labour Government as transformational, Clark as a consolidator and Key as “preparatory”. James writes:
The challenge for the generation-X leaders waiting in the party ranks will be to lead the sort of policy transformation that will fit New Zealand economically, socially and politically into the 2010s-20s digital and geopolitically rebalanced world.
. . . Key has a decentralised style of cabinet management in which good ministers do well and less competent ones muck up. His take on China and the global rebalancing amounts to little more than trade, trade, trade. He is miserly and unadventurous with research funds. He has not pushed officials, researchers, business and policy wonks to see whether “clean-tech” or “green growth” will be big in the post-crash economy and, if so, how New Zealand fits.
Instead, his big word is “balance”. That sounds more like consolidating Clark’s consolidation than preparing the next big leap.
But, as polls tell him, voters have little appetite for a big leap. Business as usual is much more comfortable, even if it is the last epoch’s “usual” rather than the “usual” to come — as it surely will.
If you’ve read other insightful pieces of commentary this week, particularly from a progressive perspective, let us know about it in the comments thread below.