Silly Idea # 341,907,775 – increasing our population
From the Silly Ideas files comes this local story from the NZ Herald, regarding a proposition from ExportNZ and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER),
ExportNZ executive director, Catherine Beard, has suggested,
“One of the obvious ways to overcome these problems is to make New Zealand a bigger country with bigger companies. We need a national debate on population policy and how big we should be by 2060.
Once grown, the challenge is then keeping these companies in New Zealand so the country benefits from them. The alternative is selling out to other countries and losing talent overseas for better jobs and better pay.”
The NZIER suggested a population of 15 million for New Zealand, by 2060 .
NZIER deputy chief executive, John Ballingall, stated (with a straight face I assume),
“We need to ensure existing capability-enhancing policies are delivering value for money. Our immigration, tax, welfare and foreign investment policies need to enhance rather than restrict the ability of New Zealand firms to gain scale.
On-going efforts to cut less vital spending like Working for Families and interest-free student loans will ease the pressure on the kiwi dollar. Public spending has acted like a tax on the export sector.”
Leaving aside the issue of migration for a moment, the question that demands an answer is: do these people actually think through issues before making public pronouncements?
Because reading their comments and thinking through the issues to inevitable conclusions leads this blogger to conclude that NZEIR and ExportNZ indulge in superficial thinking and short-term, easy “solutions”.
For starters, what would be the consequences of a population of 15 million people?
This country already suffers from the following;
- 175,000 unemployed.
How does adding ten and a half million people help address those already jobless?
- More pollution.
I think most of us know by now that our “100% Pure” and “Clean and Green” reputation is now mostly a fiction to rival that of elves, goblins, hobbits, pixies, Easter bunny, Little Red Riding Hood, Mickey Mouse, et al.
With 52% of our rivers having water quality at poor or very poor, what would tripling our population do to our environment?
Think of 15 million people needing clean water to drink; cook with; shower in; and wash laundry in… and then think of 15 million toilets flushing…
How does adding ten and a half million people help our “100% Pure” image?
Do we downgrade to “75 Pure”?
Or wait for those 15 million toilets to flush simultaneously and call ourselves “100% Pure Manure“?
We already have a pressing, critical housing shortage. The cost of housing is spiralling further and further out of reach from New Zealanders.
As our population has increased, so has housing affordability and availability worsened. Housing was more affordable fourty years ago and young New Zealanders are having to migrate to Australia to buy a home of their own.
The ‘market’ has been spectacularly inept at meeting demand. And when we do build houses, they tend to “dissolve in the rain”, as Bernard Hickey said with disturbing accuracy on 28 October.
How does adding ten and a half million people help address our critical housing problems?
Something for every Aucklander to ponder: think of your roads now, clogged with cars, with a city of over 1.5 million people.
Now treble it.
Point made, I think?
Perhaps the most laughable aspect to NZIER’s comments was when John Ballingall, said,
“On-going efforts to cut less vital spending like Working for Families and interest-free student loans will ease the pressure on the kiwi dollar.“
It may “ease the pressure on the kiwi dollar” – but how much extra pressure will be put on New Zealanders; their families; and students?
And what might possibly be the consequences of putting more pressure on Kiwi families and students? Clue: Australia.
There are six countries on this planet with populations ranging from 14,478,000 to 15,883,000;
Malawi - 15,883,000
Burkina Faso - 15,730,977
Guatemala - 14,713,763
Mali - 14,528,662
Ecuador - 14,483,499
Cambodia - 14,478,000
Source: List of countries by population
None of the above nations have a GDP, per capita, higher than ours. So can we deduce that tripling our population is no guarantee of increasing our exports and thereby our wealth?
I believe that would be the first safe conclusion.
The second safe contention might be the impact on our environment, with 15 million souls living within our shores, would result in environmental degradation that would seriously harm our Destination New Zealand tourism – a NZ$9.6 billion industry according to March 2012 figures.
The damage caused to our expanding tourism industry would most likely outweigh any benefits accrued from an increase in exports.
Third and last contention; trebling our population seems a simplistic and hopelessly lazy “solution” to a problem that appears more rooted in other factors such as National’s blind obedience to neo-liberal policies, and it’s refusal to address the high value of our dollar.
It seems bizarre that ExportNZ has wandered off on some weird tangeant, and ignored the real problems affecting exporters. It’s almost as if Ms Beard; her colleagues; and NZIER, have experienced a collective - dare I say it – brain fade.
If this is the best that our business leaders can come up with, then I despair for our country.
= fs =
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