Billions are injected into developing a Covid-19 vaccine – here’s hoping NZ can secure a supply when it is produced

New  Zealanders are still  reeling from  the  shock   they  didn’t  succeed  in  suppressing Covid-19, let  alone  eliminate it.   Having  convinced  themselves  after  100  days  without  community transmission that economic recovery, too, was  moving ahead,  the  stern  reality  is  the  country  faces  new  challenges.

These   challenges  may  not  be  overcome until  a  vaccine  becomes   available.  But news that  Vladimir Putin   claims   Russia  is the  first  nation  to produce  an  effective  vaccine   should not inspire  confidence  of such a  vaccine becoming available  any times  soon.

The  problem   is that whenever  a  safe and  effective  vaccine  is  on  the  global  market,  NZ  may well be  far down  the  queue   to  receive   it.  This may  compound   the  economic  hardship  for  NZ,  as  we will be late back into  the  international  tourism  market. Continue reading “Billions are injected into developing a Covid-19 vaccine – here’s hoping NZ can secure a supply when it is produced”

ANZ Truckometer points to an economy humming along at an encouraging pace

NZ’s  domestic  economy is  tracking  much  better  than  many predicted, as  it  adjusts  to  something closer to normality   after  the Covid-19  lockdown.  Just  how  well  may  emerge   when  the  Reserve Bank  delivers its  verdict  this  week on  whether   there is  any  need for  new  monetary  policy  moves.

Bank  economists  are  divided  on   the  issue:   some  argue   it  needs  to apply  more  stimulus  through  its  quantitative  easing programme,  others   that  because  the  economy is  doing better than  anyone expected,  there is  no  compelling reason  to  lift the cap  on QE  just yet.

The  most recent  data  on  how the  economy  is  performing  came    from  the  ANZ’s Truckometer,  which   underlines  how  NZ   is  back in business.

ANZ  chief  economist  Sharon  Zollner  reported the Light Traffic Index lifted 5.6% in July, while the Heavy Traffic rose 2.7%.

Light traffic in the month of July was 9.5% higher than the same month the previous year while heavy traffic is up 10.2% on year-ago levels. Continue reading “ANZ Truckometer points to an economy humming along at an encouraging pace”

Robertson is confident about the benefits of spending – but what’s the story about the downside from borrowing?

So is the government succeeding in steering the country through the Covid-19 crisis and what it calls a “one-in-100-year shock”. And just what is it costing?

These are questions which will be uppermost in the minds of voters when they cast their ballots in next month’s general election.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson in Parliament this week assured the nation it is weathering the immediate impacts of Covid-19 “better than expected” — even though the full impact is yet to be felt.

He reckons the employment data this week shows the government’s plan to protect jobs and cushion the blow for businesses and households has protected the labour market from the worst effects of Covid-19.

According to Statistics NZ, the unemployment rate here ranks at seventh in the OECD, better than the OECD average of 8.4% and well ahead of Australia (7%) and the US and Canada (both at 13%).

Furthermore, the employment rate of 76.8% is currently fifth in the OECD, well above the average of 68.6%. Continue reading “Robertson is confident about the benefits of spending – but what’s the story about the downside from borrowing?”

Robertson is sounding chirpy while business leaders express anxieties about the economic outlook

As Auckland business leaders and the city’s economic development agency hold a day-long summit to thrash out a Covid-19 economic recovery plan,  Finance  Minister  Grant   Robertson   is  singing  from a  different   song- book.

He  reckons  NZ’s   economy    is  doing well    and

“ … as we look ahead, there are a number of areas where the government’s support will continue, including investing in our people through policies to close the skills gap, creating jobs, preparing for the future, supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs, and positioning NZ globally to continue to trade with the world”.

While  Auckland  business  leaders  are  concerned  at the fragility of  the  city’s  economy  with 150 Auckland businesses a day  contacting a Covid-19 support line asking for help, Robertson  cites consumer  confidence  surveys  which show consumer confidence remained steady in July after resurgence through May and June. Continue reading “Robertson is sounding chirpy while business leaders express anxieties about the economic outlook”

We Kiwis are wealthier (per capita) than the Saudis? Indeed we are, according to a new natural capital study

New Zealanders  have  more  to  celebrate  than   being  virtually  Covid-free, or having  Jacinda Ardern  as  prime  minister.

According  to  a  report  in the London  “Economist”, NZ  has  more natural  capital per person ($US380,000)  than  oil-rich  Kuwait  ($US362,000)  or  Saudi Arabia  ($US180.000).

The  study which produced this  ranking   is  the  work of  economists  attempting to put a  dollar  figure  on the  value of the world’s land, forests, fisheries, minerals,  and  fossil fuels, or  what is left of them.  Their  work has  fed  into the inclusive  wealth project, initiated  by the United  Nations, directed by  Managi Shunsuke of  Kyushu  University and  advised by  Sir  Partha Dasgupta  of Cambridge.

They  estimate the  world’s  natural capital  amounted  to  over  $US91trn in  2014, or  over  $US13,000  per  person.   The  world’s  natural  capital  is  predicted to   decline   by a  fifth by  2040.

On  average,  countries  with  more natural  capital  tend  to have a  higher GDP  per person.

The  “Economist”  wonders  whether  this  is a  curse or  a blessing.  It  says  some  economists argue that  natural  bounty raises  the  level of  GDP  but  slows  its growth  rate:  it  provides an additional, steady stream of  income  that grows  less  quickly  than  the  rest of  the  economy.

Those  authorities   who carried  out  the  study    have  calculated  the future trajectory of  natural capital  under  a  variety of  scenarios.  In  a  future of  continued high energy demand,  carbon emissions can be expected to grow  by 7% in high-income  countries  and by 44% in the rest of the world over the  next two  decades.

In such a  scenario, the  world’s people  will  continue to grow  wealthier,  but natural  assets  will  diminish  rapidly as a  share  of the  portfolio. According to these projections  only  12  countries  will increase  their  stock of  natural  capital over the  next  two decades.

Point of  Order   suspects  this  will  not  provoke  a  “gee, whiz”   reaction from  NZers—but  certainly  there  is  some  food  for  thought  there.

It might be a rogue poll but the Nats must offer alluring policies – and get back to championing our rural regions

Latest  political    polling    puts   Labour   at  60.9%,   which – if  carried  through  to  the election – would   give  it  77  seats  in the  next  Parliament.    Is  anyone  (apart  from the  most fervent  National supporter)   surprised?

National’s  campaign  manager,  Gerry Brownlee,  dismisses   the   Newshub  Reid Research sampling  as  a   “rogue”  poll.    This begs   the   question  whether  he  would  have done  so,  if  it had   shown his own  party  a  bit  higher than   25.1%.

Other   polls   (even  one suspects  National’s  own  private polling)    have  had  Labour     above  the  50%  mark.

With  the  Covid-19   pandemic  raging  around the   world,  New  Zealanders  are  comforted their  government  has  got it   right:   they  only  have to  look  as  far as  Victoria  to see  what happens    when   the  governing  authorities   make a  mess  of it. Continue reading “It might be a rogue poll but the Nats must offer alluring policies – and get back to championing our rural regions”

Peters abjures pixie dust (while saving us from the nanny state) but he might need some to win seats at this year’s election

So  what’s  the wily  old  master  up  to now?   In  his  opening  campaign  speech,  Winston  Peters attacked   his  coalition   partners.  His  party,  he  says,  is   sick  of  “woke pixie  dust”  from  them:

New  Zealanders  need to know what’s out there,  and what they have been  saved  from.”  

 Surely  he is not talking   about  Jacinda Ardern  and her  party?   Haven’t  they  been  our  saviours from  the  coronovirus   pandemic?

Peters  then  spells    out   what he has  saved  us from:  NZ   First has  been  the  handbrake   on  the  “nanny state”.

We’ve used  commonsense  to hold  Labour and the  Greens to account. We’ve  opposed   woke pixie  dust. We’ve defended  socially  conservative  values, like the right to believe in  God. We’ve focussed  on the wisdom of sound  economics”.

 Will   voters  on  September   19   show  their  gratitude? Continue reading “Peters abjures pixie dust (while saving us from the nanny state) but he might need some to win seats at this year’s election”

Collins has a daunting challenge – exacerbated by resignations – but our MMP system is among the favourable factors

Back from  the dead?   National  backbenchers,  particularly  those  down the party  list, might  be  breathing   again— now  that    Judith  Collins  has taken   control, after the  political  trauma  of the past few  weeks.

Party  stalwarts,  some of whom had been drifting  off  to ACT  party,  are  rallying  again.  Collins’ ascension  has  come   just  in  time.

Even so,    she  faces  a  daunting   challenge.  Only  60    days  to  dispose of  the  wreckage,  fire up her team,  and  win  back  disenchanted   supporters.  No  time  for  the  inquest  into   what had  gone  wrong (though  questions  still reverberate   about   the panic   the  caucus   must have been in   when it  chose  Todd  Muller).

Collins,  reassuringly,  brings  vast experience  to the  task,  and  she  immediately  revived  caucus  morale   by  insisting   they  stand   with her  at  the  podium  as  she took  the  reins  on  Tuesday  night. Continue reading “Collins has a daunting challenge – exacerbated by resignations – but our MMP system is among the favourable factors”

Muller’s resignation has election implications for the smaller parties as well as for the Nats

So is the election   now  a  foregone  conclusion?  With    Jacindamania  still raging,  and the  National Party shattered  by  its  own shambolic  performance,   it  looks  like  a   walk in the  park  for  the Labour Party  and  its   coalition  partners.

Certainly  NZ  First   leader  Winston  Peters  wasn’t   slow   to rub  salt  into  the  wounded  Nats.

After  a  cursory  nod to  National’s departed  leader  Todd Muller   (“ a  good man”), Peters  said:

National has demonstrated to voters as clearly as it is able that it cannot govern itself.  During a time of crisis, when stability and real experience is what the country needs from its politicians and their parties, National’s instability and hubris takes it out of the running for the coming General Election.”

Swinging   the boot  a  bit harder,  Peters  went  on:

Leading a divided and incompetent caucus would have tested even the best leader. Continue reading “Muller’s resignation has election implications for the smaller parties as well as for the Nats”

The WHO review – it’s a task that will put Helen Clark between an American rock and a Chinese hard place

You can’t keep a good woman down and Helen Clark is no exception. Her new appointment, as co-chair of a review of how the World Health Organisation handled the coronavirus pandemic, will test her formidable political skills.

Sitting with her is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Liberian president, who handled the Ebola outbreak in her country six years ago. She is even more formidable than Clark, given her success in Africa.

The appointment is not without risks and challenges. Clark will have to manage both China and the US.

President Donald Trump served notice this week of the US withdrawal from WHO. He brands coronavirus “China virus”.  President Xi Jianping has been fierce  in defending Beijing’s response.

In effect, Clark will end up being ground between two massive stones, one from Washington DC and the other from Beijing.   Will this produce risks for NZ?.

In the US, Clark is well-known as an old leftie, given her links to the various anti-US movements that sprang from the Vietnam war. She was a member of the Labour government which effectively took NZ out of the ANZUS Alliance.

The US declined to support her campaign to become Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Around New York, it was said this was largely because in her job running the UN Development Programme she paid little heed to the US ambassador to the UN. She dealt with presidents and prime ministers only.

The present US administration rates PM Jacinda Ardern. She got on well with President Trump when they met at the UN General Assembly.   And Washington knows Clark no longer represents a NZ government. But if  the  report  is  anodyne,  the  reaction  may  be  chill.

On the  other  side, should the  conclusion  contain  any element of condemnation  of China,   the  mood in Beijing   could be sour.

The NZ Government is dancing cautiously around its relations with China, driven largely because of the vast economic importance of the trade relationship. Foreign Minister Winston Peters has been the only minister to question the role of the Chinese government in foreign policy.

If Clark  and her co-chair land heavily on China and the US in her findings,  probably it would matter more to the former than the latter. Then NZ will discover – as has Australia recently – what happens when you twist the dragon’s tail.