Michael Reddell

Switzerland of the South Pacific: cargo cult thinking? - The Dismal Science

Mar 29, 2016

One of the odder articles to appear in the local media over the holiday weekend was Fran O’Sullivan’s piece in Saturday’s Herald, headed “Key’s vision: Switzerland south”.  I’ve been critical of the Prime Minister in a few posts recently, but when I first saw the O’Sullivan piece I wondered if she was really reporting the Prime Minister or building up a creation of her own.  But after several re-readings, I think she must really be reporting the views of our Prime Minister. Of course, we have been this way before.  In the midst of the 1980s reforms, before the commercial property and equity bubble burst leaving us with a serious financial crisis, people like Michael Fay and David Richwhite used to give speeches talking of building a Switzerland of the South Pacific here in New Zealand.  Implausible as … Read More

The Ombudsman on the OIA - The Dismal Science

Mar 21, 2016

The new Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, had some encouraging comments in his interview about the Official Information Act with TV3’s The Nation that was broadcast over the weekend (transcript here). In some cases, they involved walking back some earlier surprising comments.  In an interview with Fairfax only a couple of months ago Boshier said that, despite the huge backlog of complaints and very long delays Turning to parliament for more resources and money wasn’t tenable, he said, But now he tells us that he has a request before Parliament for more budget resources That request should fall on receptive ears.  In their recent financial review of the Office of the Ombudsman, Parliament’s Government Administration Committee noted that, despite the efforts of the previous Chief Ombudsman to improve efficiency Nevertheless, we believe the Office is under-resourced and over-worked, and … Read More

Five years on – perspectives on the Christchurch economy - The Dismal Science

Feb 22, 2016

This week saw the  fifth anniversary of the most destructive of the thousands of earthquakes that have hit Christchurch and its neighbouring areas since September 2010. Christchurch is “home” to me. I haven’t lived there for decades, and don’t suppose I will again. But almost all my wider family live there, and my ancestors for 150 years or more have lived in and around Christchurch.   Many of my family were, and are, badly affected by the 22 February quake: my elderly parents managed to get down the damaged stairs of their multi-storey apartment block, but never even got inside the building again. The church where they had been raised, and married, and where several generations had been buried from, lay in ruins. On Friday, presumably to mark the anniversary, the Reserve Bank released an issue of the Bulletin looking at how the economy … Read More

Charging for official information - The Dismal Science

Jan 26, 2016

Debate over the Reserve Bank’s new charging policy has continued.  Under a heading “The perils of user-pays democracy” Bryce Edwards had a nice summary of the articles and commentaries that had appeared by late last week.   And since then the flow has continued –  including a Rob Hosking piece in NBR, a Dominion-Post article about, and interview with, the new Chief Ombudsman, and an op-ed this morning from Bronwyn Howell at Victoria University, run alongside the hard-copy version of Geoff Bascand’s defence (that first appeared last week). If the Reserve Bank is monitoring the reaction and debate, which I’m sure it is, it can only conclude that it is losing in the court of public opinion. It isn’t just about journalists, bloggers, academics etc, but in the comments sections to the various articles the balance of … Read More

OIA: changes in RB practice and in law needed - The Dismal Science

Jan 19, 2016

Just before Christmas, I drew attention to the Reserve Bank’s new policy of charging for Official Information Act requests.   At the time, this paragraph appeared on the Bank’s website. The Reserve Bank has a policy of charging for information provided in response to Official Information requests when the chargeable time taken to provide the information exceeds one hour, and charging for copying when the volume exceeds 20 pages. Our charges are $38 per half hour of time and 20c per page for copying (GST inclusive). That text has now been removed and they appear to have provided some rather more extensive material outlining the approach they are now planning to take.  This is what is now stated on the website: The Official Information Act allows the Reserve Bank to charge for preparing information that we send in … Read More

The OIA: a rather egregious abuse - The Dismal Science

Dec 07, 2015

The outgoing Ombudsman’s report reviewing OIA practices in the public sector is to be released this week.  The Dominion Post wrote a scathing editorial about her tenure and her approach to the Official Information Act.  As it notes: Her retirement is welcome.  We don’t expect much from her review. The Ombudsman’s office is badly under-resourced, limiting the extent to which she can do her job properly, even if the inclination was there to do so. Funding choices are made by politicians, who should be – but clearly aren’t – embarrassed by the backlog of complaints and the way in which that backlog deters others from even bothering lodging complaints. But the cast of mind the current Ombudsman has brought to the job is something she has control over.  Her approach seems not to be what the country needs from an Ombudsman … Read More

Is promoting R&D New Zealand’s path to prosperity? - The Dismal Science

Dec 02, 2015

The Productivity Hub yesterday hosted a symposium in Wellington with the title “Growing more innovative and productive Kiwi firms”. “Growing” things is usually something gardeners do – people doing stuff to things. So the title perhaps carried somewhat unfortunate connotations of successful firms being the products of government action. That probably wasn’t their intention, at least not wholly, but then again it wasn’t entirely out of line with the list of attendees – 161 names, of whom at least 150 would have been bureaucrats, academics, and the like. There appeared to be only a very small handful of people from the (non-consultancy) private sector. The Productivity Hub is a partnership of agencies which aims to improve how policy can contribute to the productivity performance of the New Zealand economy and the wellbeing of New Zealanders. The Hub Board is made … Read More

Last bus stop before Antarctica - The Dismal Science

Nov 26, 2015

I was having a discussion the other night in the margins of the Goethe Institute event about the extent to which we should think about New Zealand’s economic advantages and opportunities as natural resource based.  I’ve been running a proposition that the only thing really going for us is the land, its attendant resources (fish, wind, geothermal, as well as pasture, forests, and –  at the low value end –  tourism opportunities), and the technologies and management skills that enable us to sustain reasonably good incomes from them.  Those resources can support really good incomes, but I’m sceptical as to how many people they can support such incomes for. The person I was talking to posed an interesting angle which I hadn’t thought of before.  What if the North Island and South Island disappeared and New Zealand just … Read More

Temporary safeguards, crises, and TPP - The Dismal Science

Nov 09, 2015

I still have no idea whether the TPP agreement our government has reached is, on balance, a net benefit to New Zealanders.  Without a proper independent assessment and analysis, undertaken by an agency that is both competent and independent (in the New Zealand case, think of the Productivity Commission), it is going to be difficult to know.   Imposing more regulation, across a range of quite diverse countries, doesn’t have the same presumption of economic benefit that lower tariffs do.  And the addition of yet more international meetings of officials and politicians seems like pure loss. I’ve printed off, but not yet read, the modelling exercise done for MFAT –  the government’s negotiators –  that suggests annual benefits of as much as 1 per cent of GDP, at least for the subset of provisions they looked at.  And on Saturday, … Read More

China’s fertility rate in an Asian perspective - The Dismal Science

Oct 30, 2015

The media are full of stories of the Chinese government/party decision to abandon the evil one-child policy and replace it with a marginally less evil two-child policy.  It is interesting to see the change presented by the authorities as a response to an ageing population, and I’ve seen various commentaries over the last few years suggesting that this easing could make a difference to the economic prospects of China, even perhaps only over the shorter-term as some couples took advantage of the slightly less repressive regime. As a rank outsider, I’ve been more than a little sceptical since I started paying attention a few years ago to birth rates in the rest of Asia, and especially in the wealthier bits of Asia, to which China has been making some progress in converging.  As far as I know, in none of these countries have … Read More