Two perspectives on the NZ economy – the business outlook (grim) and Robertson’s emphasis on resilience (ebullient)

Listen  to  economists, and  you  will hear  that New Zealand is ploughing through rough  waters. Inflation expectations  are soaring, business  confidence   is  falling, investment intentions   are  down.

In fact, the  ANZ  Business  Outlook data  for  November record declines in all forward-looking activity indicators except employment intentions.  A net 9% of firms expect lower profits ahead.

This is likely related to extreme cost pressures, with a net 89 % of  firms   reporting   higher  costs.

If you want an antidote to this pessimism, listen  to  Finance Minister  Grant  Robertson in Parliament – the  story he tells is very  different.

Answering  a  “patsy” from Mana  MP Barbara Edmonds,  Robertson  celebrated the  resilience of  the  NZ  economy  which – he  said – had been demonstrated by last week’s Statistics New Zealand job figures for the September 2021 quarter.

The data showed the unemployment rate fell from 4%  in June to a record-equalling low of 3.4% in the September quarter, last recorded in December 2007.

Whoopee. Continue reading “Two perspectives on the NZ economy – the business outlook (grim) and Robertson’s emphasis on resilience (ebullient)”

Opposition to Three Waters reforms doesn’t wash with Mahuta: councils and the public should just pipe down

National MP Nicola Willis – we trust – learned a wee bit more about the Government’s Three Waters reforms this morning than she learned from Finance Minister Grant Robertson at Question Time in Parliament yesterday.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta today confirmed her determination – and the Government’s – to over-ride widespread public disquiet and local authority objections.  She will press ahead in establishing four publicly owned water entities to take over and look after  our drinking, waste and storm water infrastructure.

“These reforms have been long signalled. In our manifesto we committed to tackling big issues that others have long neglected in order to future-proof New Zealand. We are taking action to ensure safe, clean water for all communities in New Zealand for generations to come, protecting households from ballooning costs, and better preparing for the compounding impacts of climate change,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

Here’s hoping the water that flows from the taps in the restructured system is more palatable than the answer we got when we visited the Labour Party website for whatever it had to say about water reform in its 2020 manifesto.

We typed “water” into a search function box only to be advised: Continue reading “Opposition to Three Waters reforms doesn’t wash with Mahuta: councils and the public should just pipe down”

We won’t think too badly about the deficit in the govt’s books (perhaps) if we are reminded how much worse it might have been

Finance  Minister  Grant   Robertson  is  not  averse    to  talking  up  how  well  the  NZ   economy  is  performing.  In  fact  he  positively  revels  in  it.

And,  of  course,  the  inference  to be drawn by anyone  who  listens  to  his  rhetoric  is that  we have  a  superbly  talented  Minister   to  guide  the  good  ship New  Zealand through  the rough  seas  of  the  pandemic.

This  week  in Parliament,  responding  to  a  patsy  from one  of  his  fans,  he focussed  on  the Crown accounts,  saying  they were  in better  shape  than  expected.

“For the year to June 2021, the Crown accounts show the operating balance before gains and losses—the OBEGAL—was at a deficit of $4.6bn. This was $10.6bn better than had been forecast in the Budget in May.

“Net core Crown debt stood at 30% of GDP, $11.6bn less than forecast and well below the average for advanced economies, of 90%. In addition, the cost of servicing that debt remains very low by historic standards”. Continue reading “We won’t think too badly about the deficit in the govt’s books (perhaps) if we are reminded how much worse it might have been”

Govt should count the deportees sent back from Oz, then phone Canberra for tips on how to be rid of trouble-makers

In a lame explanation for the state’s failure to prevent the stabbings inside Coundown LynnMall on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says the government has acted as quickly as it could to bring in changes to terrorism laws that will cover the planning of a terrorist act.

The Crown tried – and failed – to charge Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen under the Terrorism Suppression Act because planning to commit a terrorist attack is not an offence under current law.

Robertson said legislation to cover planning a terrorist attack, introduced this year, is well progressed and the select committee is close to completing its deliberations.

Slowly but surely – we are told – is the way to do things.

“In these areas it is important to get this right,” he told Morning Report.

“The consequences of getting it wrong are large, and from the government’s perspective we think the policy work has been done, the bill is in and the public have now had their say we now get on with passing that law.”

Oh, and let’s not forget the Immigration Act.

Robertson said work was under way with this legislation, too.

But could he and his government try picking up the pace?

At Point of Order, we say yes, it could – and if it wants to find out how, then a quick phone call to Scott Morrison across the ditch should provide some ideas. Continue reading “Govt should count the deportees sent back from Oz, then phone Canberra for tips on how to be rid of trouble-makers”

NZ economy must remain nimble and agile, says Robertson – but then NZ went into lockdown and a hobble was applied

It   seems   an aeon  ago,  but it  was  only  last  week that  New Zealand’s wellbeing-focused government was  contemplating   how  to connect the country safely   with the rest  of the  world.   Now, achingly,  the  question is how  long the  lockdown  will last.

Whereas  last  week   the  headlines (like   this one from Newsroom) chorused “Covid success  weighs on Ardern’s  shoulders”, feelings among the  team  of  5 million might now be  deepening over why  such  a  relatively  small percentage  of  the population  is   fully  vaccinated. 

Or  why  the  elderly, in particular, are  not  queueing  for  booster  shots.

NZ,   by  some counts, has  had the slowest  vaccination rollout in the developed world.

The  PM’s  insistence that her government’s Covid response and recovery path has been dictated by the “best evidence we have about how to protect people’s lives and livelihoods’’  accordingly rings  a  bit  hollow. Continue reading “NZ economy must remain nimble and agile, says Robertson – but then NZ went into lockdown and a hobble was applied”

Robertson relishes the patsy questions – when the Opposition quiz him, he is not quite so ebullient

Finance   Minister  Grant  Robertson  can’t  resist  seeing  the  sunny side of  the  economy.  When Parliament  resumed  this  week, he  was   first  up  at  question  time  to  tell  New Zealanders that –  thanks to a strong  export  performance – the economic  recovery  is  going  well.

But  Robertson  didn’t  sound  quite   so  ebullient  when later  he  faced  some  harder  questions  from the  Opposition   benches.

Clearly  the party’s  internal  polling  has  shown rising  dissatisfaction on issues  outside  the Covid  realm, a trend reflected in  polls  like  those  of  Newshub  Reid Research,  which indicated  support  for  Labour had  fallen  nearly  10 points  from  the previous  sampling.

Even  inside Labour there  have  been  rumblings, as  indicated  by its elder  statesman Sir Michael  Cullen contending  the  $15bn  Auckland light  rail  project could be a disastrous waste of taxpayer  money.  And it has been  followed by suggestions the  government itself  is  backpedalling  on the proposed  $700m  Auckland bridge for  cyclists  and  walkers. Continue reading “Robertson relishes the patsy questions – when the Opposition quiz him, he is not quite so ebullient”

A question about the $55m media fund made Ardern laugh… but not for long

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This article was written for The Democracy Project by Graham Adams, a journalist, columnist and reviewer who has written for many of the country’s media outlets including Metro, North & South, Noted, The Spinoff and Newsroom.

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Surprisingly for a Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson is an ebullient, jolly sort of fellow and it is not unusual for him to barrack from his seat next to the Prime Minister in Parliament to support her.

This week, Judith Collins had barely finished putting a question to Jacinda Ardern about media funding when he guffawed derisively.

Collins asked:

What does she say to people who are concerned that her $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund — which includes numerous criteria for media to adhere to — is influencing the editorial decisions of media outlets in New Zealand?”

The Prime Minister — perhaps encouraged by her deputy’s derision — rose from her seat to reply.

“Mr Speaker,” she declaimed emphatically, “I would abso-loot-ely reject that!”

With Robertson continuing to chortle at the ridiculousness of Collins’ question, Ardern was emboldened.

“But, better yet, Mr Speaker,” she said, grinning broadly and stifling a laugh: “I would put the question to the media and ask whether they agree with that sentiment.”

Despite the Prime Minister’s obvious glee and that of her colleagues, this was an exceedingly stupid retort. Presumably she is not acquainted with Mandy Rice-Davies’ contribution to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as a result of the Profumo scandal in 1960s Britain. When legal counsel pointed out that a peer had denied having had an affair with her or even having met her, Rice-Davies uttered the immortal line:

“Well he would [say that], wouldn’t he?” Continue reading “A question about the $55m media fund made Ardern laugh… but not for long”

Robertson relishes responding to patsy questions and enthusing about the economic outlook – but is he missing some grim realities?

Grant  Robertson,  perennially  exuberant  as  finance  minister  when  it  comes  to telling  the  country  how  well  the  government  is  handling  the  economy,  has  been in  top  form on  the  subject in  Parliament  in   recent  days.

Whether  the  same   buoyancy is  being  felt in  every  sector  of the  economy  could be  another  story.

But here’s  how  Robertson  was  responding  in  the  House  this  week.

On  Tuesday  he  was  saying the government’s efforts to secure  the  economic recovery have been reflected in the latest measure of the country’s economic health. Statistics New Zealand reported last week that GDP rose by 1.6% for the March 2021 quarter, exceeding the expectations of even the most optimistic commentators.

“New Zealanders confidence in the recovery saw a boost in retail spending, particularly on big ticket household items, hospitality, and holiday accommodation. Importantly, activity in the construction sector returned to near record levels, while business investment in plant and machinery jumped by over 15 percent. The higher COVID-19 alert levels during the quarter only had a limited impact on the economy thanks to the quick response which provided cash flow and confidence. Quarterly activity in March has now exceeded the December 2019 quarter pre-pandemic level.

“Nevertheless, the data does show the volatility that NZ has to deal with during the pandemic. This 1.6% increase followed a 1% decline in the December quarter and a record 14.1% increase in the September quarter”. Continue reading “Robertson relishes responding to patsy questions and enthusing about the economic outlook – but is he missing some grim realities?”

How our present and future needs have been balanced – by lumbering each household with $95,000 in govt debt

As  all   the  lobby group  shouting  fades in  the  wake of the  budget,   how    is  the  real  verdict  shaping  up ?

If  from the  Labour  camp,  you’d  say it was  a   financial  triumph,  balanced  but  with a  bold  vision.  And,  as Sir  Michael Cullen asserted,  there  is   “a  real degree of  bravery”  in the benefit  increases.

According  to Sir  Michael,  Finance  Minister  Grant  Robertson

” .. has  done  a  superb  job   in writing a  budget  which  balances  present  and  future  needs,  begins  to  address our  social inequities and  provides a  solid  foundation for  future  sustainable  growth”.

For  Sir Michael,  this  is  just the  beginning:  he  sees this  as the  first  part of a trilogy  of  budgets.  Roll  on  the other  two!

On the  other  side  of the fence, the   drumbeat was  a   bit   more  discordant.  The praise  certainly was  not  quite  so  fulsome. Continue reading “How our present and future needs have been balanced – by lumbering each household with $95,000 in govt debt”

A budget to keep the Jacinda bubble from bursting might blunt NZ’s productivity and spur Kiwis to better themselves in Oz

Finance  Minister  Grant  Robertson  won’t  want to do anything  to disturb  the  waves  of  euphoria  washing  over  New  Zealanders when  he  presents  the  budget  this  week.  The  country is  still basking    in  the  recognition accorded  the Prime  Minister  with  the  top spot in Fortune magazine’s list of the world’s greatest leaders.

The annual list, which was published on Friday,  praised Ardern’s leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as her “world-leading climate and gender-equity policies”.

Fortune magazine has been ranking and publishing top 50 world leader lists since 2014. Although Ardern has featured on it in the past, this is the first time she has been ranked  number  one.

Even  one-time National   supporters  line  up  in  the  queue   of  Ardern  worshippers.

So  Robertson   will  strive to  avoid  any  discordant  notes in  the  budget.  Yet  the  fact  is  that  the  NZ  economy,  though  it   has  survived the  Covid   pandemic  with  a  surprising  degree  of  success,  is  facing  many  challenges,  some  of  them  with  very  sharp  edges, as  it  moves  into  the  next  cycle. Continue reading “A budget to keep the Jacinda bubble from bursting might blunt NZ’s productivity and spur Kiwis to better themselves in Oz”