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Posts Tagged ‘Finland’

Mediaworks, Solid Energy, and National Standards

17 June 2013 3 comments

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Solid Energy looking to sell Southland land

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – TV3’s owners in receivership

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Stupidity heaped upon government incompetence – there is no other way to describe the fiasco that Solid Energy has become since National took office in 2008. Whether it was National Ministers  encouraging Solid Energy to expand their operations during a time of  recession or  forcing it to borrow huge sums and then pay it to the National government as “dividends” – Key, English, Joyce, et al have a lot to answer for.

It is not often that a government will run a SOE into the ground and then blame others for their incompetance. (See previous blogpost: Solid Energy – A solid drama of facts, fibs, and fall-guys )

News that Solid Energy may be planning to sell 3,500 hectares of land, and which may be purchased by offshore investors, is the final humiliation.

At this stage, I will make the following point;

  1. I don’t care if a foreign purchaser resides in Boston, Berlin, or Beijing. The negative economic consequences to New Zealand are all the same.
  2. Rightwingers maintain that it doesn’t matter if the land is sold into foreign ownership; “no one can take it away”. But that’s not the point. It’s not the land that is removed – but the profits  generated for owners. It is dividends  to overseas investors that can be “taken away”, thereby reducing our income; worsening our balance of payments; and ultimately pushing up interest rates.
  3. Land sales to overseas investors denies the birthright of  all New Zealanders to participate in land based enterprises. It is difficult for young people to buy a farm when competing with wealthy  investors from Boston, Berlin, or Beijing. In the end, those young New Zealand may end up tenants in our own country – which Dear Leader himself said was not desirable (see: PM warns against Kiwis becoming ‘tenants’ ).

The most common sense solution to this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) is simple and straightforward.

If local buyers cannot be found, the land should be transferred to SOE Landcorp, to hold it in stewardship. Good, productive farmland could be later sold/leased to young New Zealanders who want to get on the first rung of the ladder to farm ownership.

Selling/leasing to the next generation of New Zealanders – our children – is a sound way to give them opportunities in our own country.

Why we would deny them that birthright and instead prefer to sell to faceless foreign investors, sitting in offices halfway around the word, defies understanding.

As Bruce Jesson said in his book, about the neo-liberal mentality to sell off everything to the highest bidder, and bugger  the consequences; Only their Purpose is Mad.

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MediaWorks in receivership

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – MediaWorks in receivership

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It is a great shame that Mediaworks is in this position. Their flagship broadcaster, TV3, has raised the quality and standard of programming in this country. Unlike the mediocre rubbish on state-owned TVNZ, TV3 has treated the viewer with a fair measure of respect.

Programmes like Campbell Live, Outrageous Fortune, and Inside Child Poverty have been nuggets of gold at a time when mainstream media is dumbing down faster than John Banks’ integrity post-Skycity and Dotcom donations scandal.

This leftwing blogger wishes the company all the best for the future; fervantly hopes that no one loses their job; and looks forward to more high-quality programming  from TV3.

See more at The Daily Blog by Selwyn Manning: Breaking News: New Company Newco Positions To Purchase MediaWorks Off Receivers

Breaking News: New Company Newco Positions To Purchase MediaWorks Off Receivers – See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/06/17/breaking-news-tv3-radiolive-owners-mediaworks-has-gone-into-receivership/#sthash.YBRLNczb.dpuf

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Teachers to boycott trial of national standards computer system

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Teachers to boycott trial of national standards computer system

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The biggest problem and greatest threat from National Standards is the American phenomenon, “Teaching to Tests”. As Gordon Campbell wrote, four years ago when National Standards were first mooted by the Nats,

The main risk is that national testing will foster mechanical ways of assessing of children’s learning, as teachers get pressured into ‘teaching to the test’ – thus narrowing what they teach, and fuelling a focus on simplistic measuring rather than on creating a richer, and more child-oriented environment.

Quite simply, what this means is that for schools to “look good” in league tables (another right wing invention that inevitably follows National Standards), they will be pressured to teach  students solely to answer tests. Nothing more, nothing less.

Because otherwise, a school risks looking poorly in National Standards results. Couple this with “performance related pay”, and “teaching to the test” to guarantee a high ranking in League Tables, becomes a dead cert.

Parents should not only be worried – they should be downright angry. This undermines our education system and turns it into a farce. Kids become expert at answering tests – but not much more. Problem-solving, initiative, increased knowledge, and even more tradition curricula, become secondary.

Because, really, if we’re going to have “performance related pay”, then teachers will make damn sure that their school doesn’t fall behind in any National Standard and subsequent League Table.

Interestingly, China, Sth Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong are also at the top of the OECD PISA scale.  International education scholar, Yong Zhao (see bio here), pointed out why in December 2010;

… China has become the best education nation, or at least according to some experts and politicians. Chinese students (a sample from Shanghai) outscored 64 countries/education systems on the most recent PISA, OECD’s international academic assessment for 15 year olds in math, reading, and science…

[…]

I don’t know why this is such a big surprise to these well educated and smart people. Why should anyone be stunned? It is no news that the Chinese education system is excellent in preparing outstanding test takers, just like other education systems within the Confucian cultural circle—Singapore, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong…

[…]

That’s the secret: when you spend all your time preparing for tests, and when students are selected based on their test-taking abilities, you get outstanding test scores.

Acknowledgement:  A True Wake-up Call for Arne Duncan: The Real Reason Behind Chinese Students Top PISA Performance

Is this education?. Or is this a  corruption of education and turning our children into mass-trained cogs, able to pass tests, but not much more in terms of free-thinking and expanding knowledge?

Make no mistake. This is setting us up for failure in the decades to come.

Perhaps, instead we should be looking at the Finnish experience,

In his country, Dr. Darling-Hammond said later in an interview, teachers typically spend about four hours a day in the classroom, and are paid to spend two hours a week on professional development. At the University of Helsinki, where he teaches, 2,400 people competed last year for 120 slots in the (fully subsidized) master’s program for schoolteachers. “It’s more difficult getting into teacher education than law or medicine,” he said.

Dr. Sahlberg puts high-quality teachers at the heart of Finland’s education success story — which, as it happens, has become a personal success story of sorts, part of an American obsession with all things Finnish when it comes to schools…

[…]

Both Dr. Darling-Hammond and Dr. Sahlberg said a turning point was a government decision in the 1970s to require all teachers to have master’s degrees — and to pay for their acquisition. The starting salary for school teachers in Finland, 96 percent of whom are unionized, was about $29,000 in 2008, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, compared with about $36,000 in the United States.

More bear than tiger, Finland scorns almost all standardized testing before age 16 and discourages homework, and it is seen as a violation of children’s right to be children for them to start school any sooner than 7, Dr. Sahlberg said during his day at Dwight. He spoke to seniors taking a “Theory of Knowledge” class, then met with administrators and faculty members.

“The first six years of education are not about academic success,” he said. “We don’t measure children at all. It’s about being ready to learn and finding your passion.”

Acknowledgement: New York Times – From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model

Solutions?

1. Don’t vote for National in 2014.

2. Look at Finland for our answers to improve education – not the US which is lower on the OECD PISA ranking than us. (Finland is near the top.)

3. Be wary of simplistic rightwing agendas.

Other Blogs

Gordon Campbell: National Education Tests, And Michael Jackson

The Political Scientist:  National Standards and Neanderthals – “They will know what is required …” – Part I

The Political Scientist: National Standards and Neanderthals – “They will know what is required …” – Part II

The Political Scientis: National Standards and Neanderthals – “They will know what is required …” – Part III

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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Growth

9 January 2013 7 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Growth

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Recent history:

In the past, whenever National (or the right wing “Labour-ACT” government of the 1980s) came to power, the result was never very good,

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Decline in economic activity

Source: Dunedin Star

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Highest jobless rate in 2 years - 7 May 1998

Source: Otago Daily Times

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Redundancies hit Tranz Rail workers hard - 2 Oct 1998

Source: Otago Daily Times

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Current Account deficit blows out to 10-year high - 28 Jan 1997

Source: Otago Daily Times

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The rhetoric:

The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.

* We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.

* We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.

* We will cut taxes, not just in election year, but in a regular programme of ongoing tax cuts.

* We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.

* We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.

* We will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy.

* We will reduce the burden of compliance and bureaucracy, and we will say goodbye to the blind ideology that locks the private sector out of too many parts of our economy.

And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect.  ” – John Key, 29 July 2008

See: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Growing the economy is the Government’s number one priority, and science and innovation have a key part to play in that growth.

Indeed, this Government has made science and innovation one of the six cornerstones of its economic growth agenda. We’ve done this because New Zealand needs an economic jolt. Our productivity and economic growth have been sluggish for decades and as a result we have slipped down the OECD’s ranking of national wealth per capita.

Our performance compared to other smaller advanced economies has been uninspiring at best. For example, in 1976 our per capita income was slightly ahead of Australia. It was nearly 20 percent greater than the OECD average.

We are now 20 percent behind the OECD average. Australia, by contrast, is still about 20 percent ahead.

Finland is another example of our relative decline. In 1979 our per capita income lines crossed – New Zealand going down and Finland going up. The Finns are now about 20 percent ahead of us.

So, how do we turn the situation around? ” – John Key, 1 July 2011

See: National Economic Development Forum

Present  reality:

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Declining traffic bad for the economy

Full story

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Unemployment up to 7.3pc - a 13 year high

Full story

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KiwiRail under fire over job cuts

Full story

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Current account gap narrows as trade balance shrinks

Full story

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Two things would be fair to say,

    1. National inherited an economy with low unemployment and net government debt at an all time low of 5.6% of New Zealand’s GDP, net. (Far from being fiscally profligate as National claims, Labour actually behaved more responsibly than National has done, as the information below clearly illustrates.)
    2. The Global Financial Crisis was not an event of National’s making. (Though the ideology of corporate greed, profiteering, and minimal government oversight which contributed to the Crisis is most certainly one that National shares.)

As Treasury data shows, New Zealand’s net government debt situation worsened from 2008 to June of 2012,

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NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012

Source: Treasury – Financial Statemement of the Government of New Zealand

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NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012 table 16

Source: IBID

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Table 16 above opened with a net government debt of 5.6% – left by the outgoing Labour government.

It closed with 25% net government debt – a fourfold increase – courtesy of National’s “prudent fiscal management”.

As the Treasury document explained,

Net debt increases as a result of cash deficits and
declines as a result of cash surpluses. It also
fluctuates in line with valuation movements in the
underlying financial assets and liabilities of the Crown
and movements in the amounts of currency issued to
New Zealand banks.

Net debt increased this year, continuing the steady
increase since the global financial crisis (figure 11).
Net debt increased from last year primarily due to
additional borrowings over the year to meet the
residual cash deficit (refer table 17).

Source: IBID

In other words, National took in lower revenue – taxes – which  inevitably resulted in increased borrowings; slashing of State services and funding; increasing user pays for other state services;  mass redundancies of state sector workers, and impending partial state asset sales.

The Treasury document goes on to show how much revenue was lost between 2008 and 2012,

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NZ Government tax revenue 2008 - 2012

Source: IBID

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A recent NZ Herald report has updated Treasury’s expections. The tax-take, GDP growth, and unemployment outlooks are not good,

A weaker economic outlook over the next four years has taken a bite of nearly $8 billion out of the Government’s forecast tax revenues for that period.

Nevertheless the Treasury is still forecasting a return to surplus, though only just, on schedule by 2015.

The forecasts in yesterday’s half-year economic and fiscal update are in line with the latest consensus forecasts, which means they are significantly weaker than in the Budget.

The growth track is lower by around 0.5 percentage points a year.

It reflects downwards revisions to expected growth among New Zealand’s trading partners, and a kiwi dollar expected to remain around present levels until the first half of 2014, so that net exports subtract from growth for the next couple of years.

Unemployment has been revised higher; it is 7.3 per cent now and still expected to be 5.6 per cent by March 2016.

See: Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b

The forecast rate of tepid growth is on top of low to negative growth in the last four years,

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NZ GDP growth rate 2000 - 2012

Source: tradingeconomics.com

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So what caused the drop in government tax revenue? And why did the lower tax revenue impact on higher unemployment and lower domestic growth?

The answer, in part, is not hard to uncover, and the following reports tell the story of how National undermined (sabotaged?) our nation’s government accounts.

First, we were offered The Bribe,

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National's 2005 tax cut plans still credible - Key

Full story

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Then we got the warning signs,

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Treasury to Rescue Fannie and Freddie

Full story

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Russia Halts Trading After 17% Share Price Fall

Full story

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Lehman folds with record $613 billion debt

Full story

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We were not exempt from the looming storm that was the coming Global Financial Crisis ,

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Recession confirmed - GDP fall

Full story

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National’s response?

The prudent step to take would have been to cancel the tax cuts as simply unaffordable.  (Labour’s Phil Goff generously promised to support National had it taken such a prudent measure. See: Labour would support deferral of tax cuts)

As a nation, we  would then maintain social services (education, housing, healthcare, justice system, early childhood education, superannuation, etc)  – or cut taxes. We could not have both. Not without even further massive borrowings from overseas.

National’s decision to persevere with their taxcuts beggered belief for those who understood the seriousness of the GFC and the recession we had fallen into,

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Key - $30b deficit won't stop Nats tax cuts

Full story

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The consequences of  National’s irresponsible cutting of taxation revenue was utterly predictable,

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Govt borrowing $380m a week

Full story

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Govt's 2010 tax cuts 'costing $2 billion and counting'

Full story

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Writing for the NZ Herald, Brian Fallow put the cost of taxcuts at $8 billion. (See:  Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b)

Only a fool (or devoted National supporter – the two are not mutually exclusive) could believe that we could give away billions in tax cuts without resorting to massive borrowings to cover the shortfall.

The result was a government deficit rising fourfold from 2008 to 2012, as the above Treasury stats clearly show.

National then desperately needed to balance the books. It scrimped and scrapped by cutting the state sector; raising taxes (gst, fuel tax, ACC levies, government charges, etc) elsewhere; closing tax exemptions for property investors; and cutting back on services (see: Student allowances a thing of the past for post-graduate students ).

Even paper delivery kids were not exempt from the grasp of this Scrooge-like ‘government’. See:  Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour)

It also desperately needed to proceed with it’s state asset sales.

A cynic with a conspiratorial ‘bent’ might suspect that National deliberately manufactured it’s own debt crisis so that it could justify the partial privatisation of Meridian, Genesis, Might River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand, to it’s corporate/investor/aspirationist constituent-base.

In doing so, not only was the door left open for their privatisation agenda – but the side-effects of tax cuts left National with few options and manouvering room for job creation policies.

With net government debt quadrupling in four years from $10.2 billion (2008)  to $50.6 billion (2012), and taxation revenue falling from $56.7 billion (2008) to  $55 billion (2012), their hands were seemingly “tied”.

Compounding matters,    National cut back state services and  fired thousands of state sector workers, resulting in a further drop in  expenditure, all of which  impacted harshly on the economy.

Whether Free Marketeers like it or not, the state is the #1 business generator in our economy and society. When it cuts spending, the flow-on effects on  other, down-stream businesses, is inescapable.

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Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low - RBNZ

Full story

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With higher income earners either saving their tax cuts or paying down debt, tax cuts failed to “fire” the economy as Little Leader said in 2009 and Dear Leader adamantly predicted in  2010,

By taking firm, early and decisive action, the Government is managing the downturn to cushion the immediate impact on New Zealanders and to enhance future growth.” – Bill English, 28 May 2009

See: Budget 2009 – House goes into urgency

We’ve cut all personal income tax rates, GST has increased to 15%, and we’ve boosted NZ Super, Working For Families, and benefit payments by 2.02% to compensate for the rise in GST.

Today’s changes are just one part of our comprehensive plan to grow the economy, create jobs, boost incomes, and raise living standards for all New Zealanders. The tax package improves incentives to work, and tilts the economy towards savings, investment, and exports.” – John Key, 1 Oct 2010

See: Tax cuts today

In May 2010, Key had even used the migration issue as justification to cut taxes for higher income earners, professionals, and others in top brackets,

We can be envious about these things but without those people in our economy all the rest of us will either have less people paying tax or fundamentally less services that they provide.

They include doctors, entrepreneurs often, scientists, engineers, lawyers, accountants, school principals and nurses.

On Thursday you will see a deliberate attempt to make sure those people stay and put their skills to work here in our economy.” – John Key, 18 May 2010

See:  Key again defends tax cuts

BS. All of it is, BS.

None of it worked, of course. The economy not only failed to grow – it  stagnated or contracted (see:  Economic recovery stagnates – NZIER). And despite two tax  cuts, migration to Australia skyrocketed – ten thousand higher than under the previous Labour government’s last four years.  (see related blogpost:  Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration)

Up until 2011, two of our most important  industries – manufacturing and construction – contracted, at a time when the Christchurch re-build should have been growing their turn-over and profitability. The downturn in manufacturing and construction had a flow-on effect on the  Wholesale Trade sector,

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New Zealand in Profile_2012_economy

Source: New Zealand in Profile: 2012 – Economy

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Other measures of the economy show no sign of improvement,

Bank profits back over $3 billion while economy stagnates (24 April 2012)

then “good news”,

Pickup in economic growth predicted (29 Aug 2012)

followed two months later by bad news,

Businesses gloomy about economic growth (9 Oct 2012)

Current Account Deficit Widens (19 Sept 2012)

 Trade deficit widens as dairy values fall (27 Nov 2012)

Terms of trade continue to drop (4 Dec 2012)

Govt deficit up as tax take dips (5 Dec 2012)

Deficit $169m wider than predictions (6 Dec 2012)

Growth forecast cut, debt seen higher (18 Dec 2012)

Current account gap narrows as trade balance shrinks (19 Dec 2012)

Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b (19 Dec2012)

Whichever way one looks at it, it’s a mess.

And it’s simply a bad joke for Key to reassure us,

While I think we have to acknowledge that the last three years have been pretty tough with the Global Financial Crisis, on a relative basisNew Zealand’s been doing a better than a lot of other countries.” – John Key, 17 Nov 2011

See: Key and Goff Q&A: Creating jobs

Trying to suggest that we  are nowhere as bad off as other nations such as the US, Spain,  Greece, etc – so our current stagnating economy is somehow  acceptable – is sheer rubbish.

One might as well justify National’s poor performance and reckless decision-making by stating we are better off than Zimbabwe, Haiti, or Bangladesh,

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catching-up-with-bangladesh

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We should not be “worse off” than those nations – we headed into the Global Financial Crisis with relatively good economic indicators!

There is Always An Alternative!

A responsible government would have abandoned any prospect of taxcuts and prepared policies to keep people in work; off the unemployment queues;  paying taxes; and contributing to the economy.

Policies such as,

With Option #3, National appears to have missed the obvious.

Injecting several billion into a crash-programme to build ten thousand homes for New Zealanders, who are currently struggling to buy their own houses, makes sense.

The Christchurch re-build has proven this to be the case, as the NZ Herald reported on 20 December 2012,

The economy grew at an annual pace of 2.5 per cent, and was 2 per cent higher than the same quarter a year earlier. Revisions to previous quarters showed New Zealand dipped back into recession in the second half of 2010, with two 0.3 per cent contractions in each quarter.

 The New Zealand dollar dropped to 83.33 US cents after the figures were released, from 83.60 cents immediately before.

Construction kept the economy ticking over with a 4.5 per cent expansion, contributing 0.2 of percentage point to overall GDP. Electricity, gas, water and waste services grew 4.4 per cent in the quarter, contributing 0.1 of a percentage point in growth to GDP, underpinned by an increase in hydroelectric generation.

“Residential and non-residential building activities were both up strongly this quarter, and both were boosted by Canterbury,” Statistics NZ said in its report. “The upper North Island also contributed to the growth in residential building activity.”

The Canterbury rebuild, which is expected to top $30 billion, is widely seen as the saving grace for an economy that has struggled to recover from its deepest recession in two decades, and has been getting some help from a resurgent property market in Auckland in recent months.

See: Economy grows 0.2pc – saved by construction

Statistics NZ national accounts manager Rachael Milicich didn’t split hairs. She bluntly stated,

 “The growth in the latest quarter was driven by construction.”

See: Economic activity up 0.2 percent

As for the tax cuts stimulating the economy with extra spending – you can forget that pipedream. According to Statistics NZ,

Household consumption expenditure, which measures the volume of spending by New Zealand households, was flat this quarter (0.0 percent).

See: IBID

National not only bought the 2008 election with promises of unsustainable, unaffordable tax cuts – Key, English, Joyce, et al, squandered an opportunity to keep 70,000 New Zealanders in paid employment (see: Employment graph, 2008-2012).

It was all so unnecessary.

Addendum

In March 2008, the then Finance Minister, Michael Cullen said,

Even before these challenges hit home John Key wants to increase our debt to at least 25 per cent of GDP. But he does not pretend he wants to borrow more to pay for more services and he does not really believe he needs to borrow more to pay for roads. He only wants to outspend Labour on tax cuts.”

See: [Labour]Government will not borrow for tax cuts

According to Treasury, the current net government debt as at 30 June 2012  stands at… 24.8% of GDP – just shy of 25%,

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NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012 - Cullen's prediction

Source: Treasury – Financial Statemement of the Government of New Zealand

Cullen called it 100%.

It’s a shame that 1,053,398 voters couldn’t look past their own selfishness, and the lure of cash dangled before them, by a Party that was hell-bent on it’s own agenda to win power at any cost.

For New Zealand, that cost measured $50 billion and 175,000 unemployed.

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Report_Card_growth

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Dear Leader – takes one to know one…

2 November 2012 12 comments

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Source

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John Key calls David Beckham “thick as batshit”?

What a coincidence…

 

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Guest Author: David Cunliffe on Scandinavian Economic Development

– Hon David Cunliffe, Labour Economic Development and Associate Finance Spokesperson, Clean-tech Cluster Chair

Published 30 September 2012

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Scandinavian Economic Development Speech: Fast Forward – Growing Good Jobs

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Speech to Laingholm District Citizens Association, Laingholm, 30 September 2012

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Robert Louis Stevenson, the man who wrote ‘Treasure Island’, once said: “Everybody lives by selling something”.

In these days of economic treachery, this sounds like a very negative statement.

Everybody lives, today, by selling something.

But actually, the phrase: ‘Everybody lives by selling something’ is merely stating a simple truth.

In order to survive I must breathe air.

In order for me to breathe air, there need to be green plants producing oxygen.

So, when I breathe in, I’m breathing in air that was mostly made in the green plants.

But this is not a one-sided trade.  I don’t just breath in air, I breathe out carbon dioxide, which is in return breathed in by the green plants, and converted back into oxygen, for me to breathe once more.

The green plants and I need each other. We trade what we produce, and both sides survive and prosper as a result of our necessary partnership.

Ecologists call this process of mutually-beneficial trading ‘symbiosis’.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Motivational speakers have a simpler term: they call this process ‘win-win’. There’s no winner and loser when I trade my carbon dioxide to the green plants and get oxygen in return. I need the oxygen; the plants need my carbon dioxide in order to convert sunlight into food.

Provided both sides play fair, this is truly a win-win situation.

The problem is, too often over the last 30 years, and some would say for much longer, the world’s economic system has not been win-win for the average person, indeed for most of us. It’s been win-lose: they win and you lose.

The rich speculators and traders get richer, while the rest of us get poorer. Like it or not, our country is going backwards.

What happened? This widening gap isn’t the Kiwi way. What’s changed over the last thirty years?

Let’s have a quick recap of history. As a result of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the New Zealand Labour Party – like its counterparts around the world – legislated to rein in speculation, to protect jobs and to protect human rights.

Most of New Zealand’s great economic assets, such as our farms, our roads and our forests, grew and prospered as a direct result of these policies. As our nation grew more prosperous, the wealth was widely shared. No children needed to starve in the New Zealand I grew up in.

However, the 1980s and ’90s saw the rise of a philosophy developed by the rich, for the rich. It was called Neo-Liberalism.

Neo-Liberalism is based on the idea that it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Neo-Liberalism is based on the idea that greed is good, that we’re all locked in an economic life-and-death-struggle with each other. Neo-Liberalism says that compassion is for suckers. Neo-Liberalism says that if the world is going to the dogs, it might as well be the top dogs. Indeed, to borrow from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, not only is greed good, “it’s legal.”[i]

When the British Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher was asked about the effects that her Neo-liberal policies would have on society, she replied:

There is no such thing as society… There are individual men and women.[ii]

The amazing thing about the Neo-Liberals is their wilful blindness to how badly their ideas have failed. Not just once, but repeatedly. Neo-Liberal policies directly caused two of the largest financial crashes in history. Did they apologise? No way. Like some mad doctor, when the first dose of medicine didn’t work, they wanted to double the dose.

And so, the Neo-Liberal bandwagon rolls on. Right here in New Zealand, the National Party is still trotting out the same discredited economic policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

I have just returned from Denmark and Finland, and I am convinced there are lessons for us all in how these Scandinavian countries run their economies. In particular, we need to take note of why the Scandinavian countries are slowly winning while many other European countries are rapidly losing.

Let’s take a quick look at the ‘Scandinavian model.’

The ‘Scandinavian model’ isn’t really Scandinavian at all. It could also be called the traditional New Zealand model. A model based on the idea that the economy is like a farm or garden. If you want a garden to grow, then you have to dig the soil and plant the seeds. You have to feed and nurture the plants and you have deal to the weeds when they grow up amongst the crop.

If this sounds like simple common sense: it is.

Any farmer will tell you that you get back from a farm what you put in. If you let weeds grow, you get a farm full of weeds. If you nurture your soil, livestock and crops, you have a good chance of a healthy farm, and a healthy return on your investment.

Which countries are currently surviving the recession best? The ones with the Scandinavian economic model.

According to Neo-Liberal economic theory, the Scandinavian countries should have collapsed by now. After all, they have large numbers of public employees on decent wages. Large trade unions. Very high taxation. A huge amount of government spending. I’m not arguing for a carbon-copy, but it has worked for them.

While the Neo-Liberals in America, Britain and New Zealand have been targeting those on welfare, blaming them for the world’s problems, the Scandinavian countries have been doing the opposite. That is, they’ve been helping those on welfare to get jobs, not blaming them for being poor.

After taking a big hit from the global financial crisis in 2009, the Scandinavian economies have bounced back strongly, while most of the rest of Europe seems stuck in reverse.

What’s the Scandinavian secret? The Scandinavian people have mastered the art of win-win.

For example, on my recent visit, I saw the Danish approach to economic development.

Denmark doesn’t tell its businesspeople what to do. Instead, Denmark sees its businesspeople as partners. The Danish government sits down with its key business groups. The two sides plan a workable strategy. After listening to its voters, workers and business partners, the Danish government doesn’t muck around. Incentives, sector plans, skills training, research and development, industry investment, targets and timetables are all actively used to get the economy moving and to keep it moving.

There is real symbiosis; it’s a win-win partnership, and the whole country benefits.

No surprise then, that Finland and Sweden came third and fourth respectively in the latest World Economic Forum competitiveness survey.[iii]

This competitiveness is driven by a government that understands how to invest in its people. According to the World Economic Forum, the key to the Scandinavians’ success is largely the result of a high level investment by the government and industry in education and training.[iv] The Scandinavians understand that ignorance is poison.

The Scandinavians know they cannot compete with China for low labour costs. They don’t bother to try. Instead, the Scandinavians have learned the value of working smarter instead of merely working harder.

Scandinavian bosses and workers don’t see each other as natural enemies. They may not always get along and they may not always agree, but they understand clearly that bosses and workers need each other.

I wish our government understood this.

GROWING JOBS, NOT WEEDS

So what would a good farmer do to grow the farm called New Zealand? What practical tools and lessons can we take from the small, smart countries of Scandinavia?

Good soil

A good farmer ploughs the soil to create the conditions for healthy growth.

Getting the economic basics right is important.

The first economic basic that we need to get right is trust. Whether it’s with respect to John Banks skirting around the truth or John Key burying his head in the sand over the Dotcom saga, New Zealand’s reputation as an honest country in which to do business is under serious threat.

We have to restore trust, both in New Zealand and overseas. Investors won’t come to New Zealand if they think we’re a banana republic.

And make no mistake about it: Labour welcomes investors to New Zealand. However, we welcome investors who come as partners, not masters. Our country is not for sale. New Zealanders do not wish to become tenants in their own country.

We also need to stabilise our currency, so that businesses have some certainty. We need to keep the New Zealand dollar from continually rising, because if the dollar is too high then our exported goods become too expensive. Other countries do this – so should we. The high New Zealand dollar is making life hard for exporters and it’s simply ruining manufacturing in New Zealand.

As my colleague David Parker has said recently, targeting inflation alone is an old orthodoxy that few countries support[v]. We need more balanced objectives, and a broader range of tools to achieve them.

We also need to stop the housing market from spinning out of control. Not only do high housing prices make homes unaffordable for many ordinary families, but housing booms are usually followed by housing busts. We’ve had quite enough economic train wrecks in recent years, thanks very much.

But economic and financial stability is about more than just keeping prices stable.

Watering the soil

Good farmers don’t just dig the soil, they keep it watered.

The lifeblood of business is capital, but many private investors have taken flight since the crash of 2008. A business community without investment is like a field without irrigation: without some water, the crops will wither and die.

I’m not advocating the government dolling out taxpayer funds to big business. There’s been too much of that already. Taxpayers are sick of it. I’m sick of it.

However, there’s no reason that the government can’t help those who are helping themselves.

For example, suppose a private company needs to do some expensive research and development, and this research and development benefits the whole country.

As another example, suppose a private company is researching a cure for Kiwifruit disease? Labour’s research and development tax credits would help that company find a solution.

Accelerated tax depreciation for short-life technology, and other measures soon to be announced, would also assist the innovation process.

Those kinds of policies could be part of a broader win-win approach. That’s how things work in the Scandinavian countries. That’s how the Scandinavians gets results.

Investment also comes from savings. For those who don’t know it, New Zealanders in recent times has had some of the lowest levels of savings in the developed world.[vi] This is wrong for two reasons: one, without savings, our citizens have no fall-back position if something goes wrong. Two, because when people save these savings can be invested wisely.

That’s why Labour’s universal KiwiSaver plan lifted our savings rate four times faster than National’s alternative. Under Labour’s policy, New Zealand would have more capital available for local investment, rather than relying so heavily on foreign-owned banks.

That’s a lesson the Scandinavians have learned and that our Aussie mates have also got right. We need to get it right as well.

Another area in which Labour is streets ahead of National is in the area of capital gains tax. Let me explain this very briefly: many New Zealand businesses have given up investing in useful and productive areas. Why? Because the New Zealand tax system encourages business to invest in the wrong places. That’s because many of the richest New Zealanders have grown rich from capital gains. They buy a piece of land for a million and sell it for three million. That’s a cool two million dollar profit, much of it tax-free. Regardless of how they earn their income, everyone should pay the same rate of tax.

Investing in property for capital gains not only makes home buying unaffordable for many families, it sucks billions away from productive investments.[vii]

Worse still, history has shown that what goes up generally comes down, and often with a crash.

What a capital gains tax does is encourage all investors to put their money into areas that produce something.  This will have the effect of dampening the current property bubble, while freeing up billions for investment in areas like computer technology or energy production.

This is not some freak theory; it’s acknowledged internationally. That’s why there are only two other developed countries that don’t have a capital gains tax.

Pro-growth tax reform, including a capital gains tax and the restoration of tax credits for research and development, is needed to water the soils: feeding real Kiwi businesses and creating real Kiwi jobs.

Planting the seeds

Good farmers carefully sow and nurture the seeds and tend the crops as they grow to maturity.

The seeds of our economy are the innovation and ideas that can be raised in our universities, businesses, garages and garden sheds.

Kiwis are an innovative, creative people. Our capacity for working wonders with reduced resources has led us to developing the world’s first electric fences, jet boats and so on. The list is almost endless and the ideas are often brilliant. But too often, unless the inventor has deep pockets, too many good ideas don’t get off the shelf. Once the seed capital from ‘friends, fools and family’ runs out, often, so does the business. The sad fact is that – even during the economic good times, four out of five Kiwi business start-ups withered and died in the first two years.

In Japan and Korea, four out of five new businesses survive past two years[viii]. The difference is that in Japan and Korea, there is comprehensive government support for small business development. Support with budgeting. Support with obtaining investment. Support with business plans. Support with taking successful products and showing them to the world.

Last week, the New Zealand Herald told the sad story of how 32 of New Zealand’s biggest high-tech companies have been sold off overseas at an early stage[ix]. That’s like ripping out a crop when it’s half-grown. It’s madness.

Labour welcomes positive investment, but we want to avoid the best and brightest of our young companies being continually hollowed-out from Kiwi ownership.

We need policies that will help young Kiwi companies grow for longer, and become stronger, right here in New Zealand. We know the main problems: a lack of capital to support growth, a lack of experience in trading outside of New Zealand, difficulty communicating with overseas customers and a difficulty delivering the product or service around the world. David Shearer, who is also our Innovation Spokesperson, will be speaking more on our ideas in this area shortly.

Labour also believes that government should try to buy Kiwi-made products where possible and appropriate, and ensure that Kiwi companies have a fair chance to sell to their own government. Taking a hard look at government procurement is also a part of Labour’s policy mix.

The government should also have a strong policy of avoiding products that cause significant environmental harm and those that rely on the cynical exploitation of workers, especially women and children.

Rebuilding manufacturing, sectors and regions

Good farmers have a plan for every paddock on the farm. We need a sustainable growth strategy for every industry sector and region.

Sadly, however, since National took over many regions have slipped backwards, and this is no accident. The East Coast and Northland have skyrocketing youth unemployment. Wasting a generation of young Kiwis in our regions is not good enough. Take forestry for example. We don’t build enough quality products with our own wood. Instead we cut down the trees and ship the logs to ‘sweatshops’ overseas. Under the current New Zealand government policy, there’s simply no incentive to do otherwise.

A similar thing happens in dairy. Our milk is mainly shipped overseas as commodity products like milk powder, while too often those that develop these ingredients into branded products get most of the benefit.

It’s even worse with our seafood. Did you know that for the next four years it is legal for New Zealand companies to catch fish in our waters using Korean boats manned by Filipino sailors who are treated like slaves?[x] This fish, in some cases, is then sent to Asia for processing, then shipped back to New Zealand for sale in our supermarkets. This is madness.

Both the International Monetary Fund and the credit rating agencies have said New Zealand’s biggest weakness is that too great a share of our total exports is selling raw commodities like milk and logs at low prices. Instead, we need to be making something more valuable out of our milk and timber before we export them[xi]. That’s the Scandinavian way.

In case anyone has missed the headlines of the last few weeks about massive layoffs at Tiwai Point, Norske Skog’s Kawerau mill, Solid Energy’s Huntly and Spring Creek mines, Nuplex and APN in Auckland, and many, many others – manufacturing is in crisis in New Zealand.

40,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2008 when National came to government and there are more layoffs to come[xii].  Some 65,000 more New Zealanders are unemployed[xiii] and that’s not counting what Bill English now calls the “safety valve”[xiv] of 54,000 other New Zealanders giving up and moving permanently to Australia in the last year alone – an all-time record.

So we desperately need a high-value manufacturing strategy in this country. Gone are the days when manufacturing was just some unskilled worker bolting two parts together. That style of manufacturing is now inevitably done in low-wage countries. In most cases, we simply can’t compete with Asia when it comes to large-scale, low-cost manufacturing.

However, we’re not out of the race, by any means. According to Statistics New Zealand, there are about 22,700 manufacturing businesses in New Zealand[xv], which together produce about $20 billion of sales[xvi]. $20 billion.

I believe we could triple that, not by lowering our environmental standards or paying our workers less, but doing what we do so well.

New Zealand is very good at thinking small and thinking smart. We can do small production runs of specialist items. We can process raw materials that were gathered nearby. We can produce products on demand for our local market or international markets.

Above all, we can think smart. We can take an idea from concept to manufacture, often on a budget that wouldn’t pay for lunch in America or Germany.

Should the government be backing the manufacturing sector? Absolutely. Just look to the Scandinavian example.

Prof Göran Roos, a leading Scandinavian industrial economist, points out that every dollar in manufacturing business leads directly to $1.74 in turnover elsewhere in the economy[xvii].  And he and others point out that with increasing linkage between manufacturing and high value services in global trade, you can’t win without manufacturing capability. Buy a new car, get a regular servicing package.

The Scandinavians understand that a successful manufacturing strategy provides high-value jobs, good incomes, and helps reduce our overseas debt.

Labour will work with unions and businesses to enhance skills training to help support a strong manufacturing heart. The heart of a high-performance manufacturing sector is highly-productive workplaces with excellent training and decent living wages.

Like in the Scandinavian countries, we want workers to have the training and support to adapt to changing jobs with ‘flexicurity’ throughout their lives. Flexicurity: it means ‘flexible security’[xviii].

This is important. Look at what’s happening with the West Coast coal miners. After a lifetime of hard work in the coalmines, these miners are now facing the economic scrapheap[xix] thanks to National’s plans to railroad the sale of Solid Energy. The miners must now adapt to a changing world.  Can they do this overnight? Of course not.

That’s where the government can help, not with a handout, and not by lowering environmental standards or strip-mining national parks, but with an investment in the future of those workers and an investment in the future of our entire country. It’s time to recognise that our most valuable resource is not just our land, but our people.

Clean and green

Another crucial sector is clean-tech. Labour leader David Shearer has called for a clean, green and clever economy for good reason – there are almost seven billion people on the planet[xx].

It’s obvious now to most governments, including not only the Scandinavians but also most of Europe, China, Korea and Japan, that we simply can’t keep living the wasteful and destructive ways of the past. As government regulations around the world get tougher, there’s a huge global market for clean technology. That is, technology that makes more effective use of our precious resources while reducing pollution and wastage.

You may rest assured; our competitors are investing heavily in clean technology. Why is New Zealand not doing more to win in the global green race – the $6 trillion export market for clean-tech[xxi]?

There are already some great ideas being developed, but building a strong clean-tech sector will only happen if the government sends the right signals. For example, the more we require our power generators to act responsibly, the more we are encouraging the development of alternative ways of generating electricity.

But the National government is going the other way – scrapping Labour’s biofuels obligations and effectively wiping out the infant biofuels industry.  Now they have the gall to say biofuels will save Kawerau[xxii]. Shameful.

Labour believes there is no inherent conflict between positive business and the environment.

Labour is not opposed to environmentally responsible mineral and energy exploration. However, Labour never forgets that most of New Zealand’s export dollars come from living things. A wise government, like a good farmer, needs to protect and nurture the source of our wealth.

We are interested in investments that have a win-win outcome. Investments that create jobs and exports, balanced with appropriate responsibilities to our communities and the environment.

Nobody in Parliament, and nobody in this room, will still be here in 100 years. However, those who follow us will enjoy the gifts we give and will endure the mistakes we make. That thought alone should make us pause.

GROWING JOBS AND HOPE

We need better from our government. We need a comprehensive strategy that includes planning, research, financial incentives and assistance with helping local companies sell their products overseas.

It’s not rocket science; it’s common sense.

Kiwis are very decent people.  They know they’ve been conned by Neo-liberalism and its National-Act acolytes. They want to do something about it. They want to reclaim that wonderful sense of fairness, safety and honesty that used to be the hallmark of this country.

In my remarks today I have stressed three key things:

First, contrary to the failed Neo-liberal policies that got the world into this mess, it’s really clear to you, to me and to the incoming Labour government, that we all do better together when we all win together. Think Scandinavia. Think symbiosis.

Second, it’s in Kiwi DNA to understand farming – the role of government in helping to create an innovative, job rich economy should be like a good farmer.

  • Tending the soil to get the fundamentals right.  Irrigating it with capital and fertilizing it with skills and technology.
  • Planting the seeds of future success through a step change in innovation.
  • Having a plan for each paddock – our industry sectors and regions – so we can be the best we can be.  Understanding that it is crucial to have high value manufacturing and clean technology developed alongside making the best sustainable use from our resources.
  • And never forgetting that our most valuable asset is always our people. Investing in education, skills and lifelong learning; building decent high performance workplaces, and using the power of government to reward good business practices.

Third, we need a government that listens, that works in partnership, then takes action. We can rebuild this economy. We can make this country the envy of the world again. But we need a government that acts, like a good farmer, not one that just sits on the fence, watching the weeds grow, and letting the farm go to ruin.

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REFERENCES AND READINGS

[i] Internet Movie Database, Gordon Gekko quotes, available at http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0012282/quotes

[ii] Keay, D. (1987, September 23), Margaret Thatcher interview, Women’s Own.

[iii] Schwab, K. (ed.), ‘The Global Competitiveness Report 2008–2009’, World Economic Forum, available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GlobalCompetitivenessReport_2012-13.pdf

[iv] ibid.

[v] Hon David Parker’s recent Finance portfolio statements are available at http://www.labour.org.nz/portfolios/finance

[vi] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2012, June 7). Household saving rates – forecasts: Percentage of disposable household income, DOI: 10.1787/2074384x-table7.

[vii] New Zealand Labour Party (2011), David Cunliffe talks about the debt propelled economy (video), available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjyHctIljPM

[viii] Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan. Briefing note.

[ix] Wishart, S. (2012, September 24), ‘Kiwi high tech for sale’, New Zealand Herald, available at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10836029

[x] Ministry for Primary Industries (2012, February), Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels, available at http://www.fish.govt.nz/en-nz/Consultations/Ministerial+Inquiry+into+Foreign+Charter+Vessels/default.htm

[xi] International Monetary Fund (2012, June 7 and prior), New Zealand and the IMF series, available at http://www.imf.org/external/country/nzl/index.htm

[xii] Newson, B. (2012, September 12), ‘Nothing ‘inevitable’ about mass redundancies’, EPMU statement, available at http://www.epmu.org.nz/news/show/173416

[xiv] Cited by Tarrant, A. (2012, September 21), ‘Record loss of migrants to Australia in year to August, Stats NZ says; Nearly net 40,000 cross Tasman to the ‘lucky country’’, interest.co.nz, available at http://www.interest.co.nz/news/61231/record-loss-migrants-australia-year-august-stats-nz-says-nearly-net-40000-cross-tasman-lu

[xv] Statistics New Zealand (2012, September 10), Survey and methods section, ‘Quarterly economic survey of manufacturing’, available at http://www.stats.govt.nz/surveys_and_methods/completing-a-survey/faqs-about-our-surveys/quarterly-economic-survey-of-manufacturing.aspx

[xvi] Statistics New Zealand (2012, September 10), Table 1: All Manufacturing section, ‘Economic Survey of Manufacturing: June 2012 quarter’, available from http://www.stats.govt.nz/~/media/Statistics/Browse%20for%20stats/EconomicSurveyofManufacturing/HOTPJun12qtr/esm-jun12-qtr-tables.xls

[xvii] Roos, G., (2012, June 29), Is Manufacturing in Decline?, special presentation.

[xviii] One European interpretation of ‘Flexicurity’ is detailed at European Commission – Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion section (n.d.), Flexicurity, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=102&langId=en

[xix] Sabin, B. (2012, September 25), ‘Spring Creek miner’s 5th redundancy’, 3news, available at http://www.3news.co.nz/Spring-Creek-miners-5th-redundancy/tabid/421/articleID/270538/Default.aspx

[xx] World Bank estimate cited in Google Public Data set. Granular global population analysis is available from the WolframAlpha knowledgebase (2012), available at http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=world+population&lk=4

[xxi] Innovas, cited in Pure Advantage (2012, May), New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race, p. 2.

[xxii] Hon Steven Joyce, National Party MP and Economic Development Minister, cited by Radio New Zealand (2012, September 11).

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Previous related blogposts

Guest Author: David Cunliffe, Get your invisible hand off our assets

Guest Author: David Cunliffe, A Bold New Direction?

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

Finland, some thoughts

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Paula Bennett on unemployment: spin baby, spin!

9 April 2012 8 comments

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All ministers have a coterie of staff. They consist of  PAs, researchers, speech writers, policy analysts, media experts, and… ‘spin doctors’. Actually, any of the previous list can be labelled a “spin doctor”.

“Spin Doctors” take a piece of information and presents it in a certain, carefully constructed way, that makes their respective Minister look good to the public.

Example; National’s recent policy on 16 and 17 year old unemployed youth was “reformed”, announcing that they would be issued “purchase cards”, to eliminate wasting their benefit on cigarettes and alcohol.

End goal: to make National look good in the public eye, by getting “tough on welfare”.

(Except for one thing. It’s already against the law for retailers to sell tobacco and alcohol products to 16 and 17 year olds.  The law is already in place to deal with this issue. And if retailers are selling these products to 16 and 17 year olds, then it’s a RETAIL problem – not a welfare problem.)

But the Spin Doctors quietly ignored that salient fact and simply pushed the message: National is “getting tough on welfare”.

That’s the message being spun and put out to the public to absorb. One simple line.

Anyone who doubts the efficacy of spin doctoring of  such messages should check letters-to-editors and on-line fora to see how many low-information, National-friendly “armchair experts” now repeat that one, simplified Official Line; the government is “getting tough on welfare”.

That’s “spin”.

Today, Bennet’s media people released this apparently positive news into the public arena,

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Source

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But not before her Spin Doctors got their hands on it first,

More than 5000 people cancelled their unemployment benefits because they found jobs last month.”

It could well be that 5,000 “cancelled their unemployment benefits”.

But as to how she could possibly know that they all “found jobs last month”? How could she possibly know that?

Those 5,000 could easily have been part of the exodus of New Zealanders moving to Australia,

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Kiwi exodus to Aussie at new high

11:30 AM Wednesday Mar 21, 2012

New Zealanders continued to abandon their home country for Australia, with the speed of annual departures accelerating to a record 53,000 last month.

New Zealand lost a net 39,100 people to Australia in the 12 months ended February 29, 4,100 of whom left in the month of February alone, Statistics New Zealand said today.

That’s the biggest-ever annual net loss to Australia, as just 13,900 people crossed the Tasman to live in New Zealand, though short of the monthly record of 5,000 in February 2001.

People have been quitting New Zealand for Australia for years as they seek higher wages and a better standard of living across the ditch, and in 2008 the National Party won office campaigning on a promise to stem the outflow. ” – Source

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If any one of those 5,000 entered into a relationship or marriage/civil union with a working partner – they are no longer eligible for welfare.

If any of those 5,000 began a part time or seasonal job – they may no longer be eligible for welfare.

If any of those 5,000 went on to ACC; a programme of some description; jail; or died –  they’re no longer eligible for welfare.

Nek bit,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the number of people on that benefit is now at 53,479, which is the lowest March level since 2009.”

When they’re raising welfare as an election issue, National spins the figures high, and quotes all recipients of  state assistance,

More than three quarters of all beneficiaries will be forced to seek work or face cuts to their payments under sweeping recommendations from the Government’s Welfare Working Group…

That would more than double the numbers required to look for work from 133,200 of the 360,000 people presently on a benefit to 277,200. ” – Source

At such times, it suits National’s agenda to “spin” the figures as high as possible and accentuate them in the media.

When it suits their purpose to paint themselves in a good light, they quote low figures, and focus on those. The “spin” is more positive.

Moving along,

Ms Bennett is particularly pleased that 2800 young people who were beneficiaries moved into work last month.”

Let’s give Minister Bennett the benefit of vthe doubt. Let’s assume that every single one of those 2,800 young beneficiaries is now in  paid work. Let’s assume that work is full time, and not a part-time burger-flipper. Let’s assume it’s ‘permanent’ and not seasonal fruit-picking.

What  has the media release not covered?

Answer: it doesn’t state how many young beneficiaries there were to start with. And the figures are tragic,

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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Full Story

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Though undated, Duncan Garner’s blog-entry was written during National’s party conference in August last year.

So in one month, 2,800 young people moved into employment. Let’s hope that those jobs are permanent, because at 2,800 young people per month, it will take National just under two years to move all 58,000 into employment. That’s not counting new school leavers, graduates, young people returning to New Zealand, etc.

Next,

The National Government has shown real leadership with initiatives for youth employment, including the recently announced Job Ops with Training.”

That’s highly arguable. In fact, National has made a fetish out of leaving job creation to the market. Aside from the cycleway, it has created very few new jobs. Quite the opposite, they’ve thrown 2,500 state sector workers onto the unemployment scrap-heap.
As the media story states,

Overall the number of people on benefits fell by 6698 in March to 322, 951.”

And again, there is no way of telling where those 6,698 ended up.  In employment? Gone overseas? Prison? Shifted on to ACC? Entered new relationship? Died? Kidnapped by aliens?
As a point of interest, New Zealand’s ranking of NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) Youth 15-24, is near the OECD average. We are stacked between France and Portugal.
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By contrast, our Scandinavian/Nordic cuzzies are all within the top twelve on the ranking list.

Finland is #9.

We are #19.

I think Gerry Brownlee needs new Spin Doctors. Maybe he could borrow Paula Bennett’s?

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Gerry Brownlee – Diplomat (Part #Rua)

27 March 2012 3 comments

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Brownlee’s “apology”,

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I’m sure that New Zealanders have been the butt of all sorts of jokes at various times and not taken offence at such a thing,” he said.

“If I’ve offended people, I’m sorry about that, all I can say it was meant to be humorous and I apologise for people not seeing the humour in it.

Source

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Gerry Brownlee is sorry because “people [did not see]  the humour”   in his obnoxious comments?! How does that constitute an “apology”??

Gerry – shut the hell  up! You’re digging a bigger hole for yourself and continuing to insult a nation and people that have done nothing to earn your mis-guided  derisory “humour”.

You are an embarressment, Gerry.  I suggest you take a holiday. A longgggg holiday. In fact, don’t bother coming back.

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Additional

Facebook Page: Send Brownlee to Finland

Scoop: Lyndon Hood: Brownlee Fighting To The Finnish

Finnish Embassy in Canberra Email address:   “Juha Parikka” <sanomat.can@formin.fi>

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Gerry Brownlee – Diplomat

26 March 2012 11 comments

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Source

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Brownlee’s apalling gaffe requires a full apology. He has not only needlessly insulted an entire nation of people – but has brought our own country into disrepute.

Mr Brownlee is a lazy, obnoxious, narrow-minded bigot who has exhibited gross incompetance as Minister in charge of Christchurch’s re-build.

Accordingly, I have expressed my own views on Brownlee’s repulsive remarks, to the Finnish Embassy in Canberra,

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Subject: An apology
Date:       Monday, 26 March, 2012 5:32 PM
From:    “Frank Macskasy” <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
To:          “Juha Parikka” <sanomat.can@formin.fi>

Dear Sir,

It is with utmost regret that one of our elected representatives, Gerry Brownlee, has made uncalled-for derogatory remarks about your country, Finland.

Mr Brownlee is not a very cultured man, and has been elected largely on the popularity of our current Prime Minister. Many New Zealanders view him as a clown; with disdain; and he does not speak for our country.

Please accept my sincerest apology.

Regards,
– Frank Macskasy

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“Frankly Speaking”——————————https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com
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Of course, my words are “essentially humorous and satirical“.

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Previous Blogpost

Finland, some thoughts

Gerry Brownlee – “In the public interest”

Additional

Helsinki Times: No room for complacency in Finnish schools system, expert warns

Helsinki Times: Lessons from the Finnish classroom

Yle.fn: New Zealand Minister attacks Finns as uneducated, unemployed

Video of Gerry Brownlee’s comments in Parliament

OECD Country statistical profile:  New Zealand 2011-2012

OECD  Country statistical profile:  Finland 2011-2012

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