GDP per capita, Politics

NZ – 77th out of 80 Anglo States

My last post showed where New Zealanders’ incomes would rank if we were a state of Australia. (9th out of 9.)

What if we extended that comparison to the whole of the Anglo world?

In such a union, we’d be one of 80: 50 states and 1 district of the USA; 6 states and 2 territories of Australia; 10 provinces and 3 territories of Canada; 4 countries and 2 Channel Islands of the UK; plus Ireland and us.

Of the 6 countries, we’d be the smallest. But of the 80 states, we’d be 36th. 

50 of those 80 have populations between 1 and 10 million – 20 of those 50  between 3 and 6 million.

So at 4 million, we’re right in the middle of the pack. A bit smaller than British Columbia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Ireland and Queensland. And a bit bigger than Oregon, Alberta, Oklahoma, Connecticut and Iowa.

But when we rank the same states by standard of living, the pack shuffles. And poor old NZ just about falls off the table…

77th out of 80.

And if you said, “At least we’re richer than Northern Ireland and Wales,” don’t be too sure. Their figures were taken a year earlier than ours.

The only one of the 80 states we definitely pip is Prince Edward Island – a Canadian pimple with the population of Hamilton.

Now let’s decolour all states apart from New Zealand and our ten closest neighbours in the population rankings.

Again, you can see we’re by far the poorest. From $11,000 a year poorer than Queensland to $60,000 a year poorer than Alberta.

All of which begs three questions:

Are all 76 of New Zealand’s economic superiors awash with oil, gold or other natural assets that we lack?

Does our remoteness account for our failure to keep up with our population peers?

Or could it be that our poor performance is the legacy of a history of poor management?

I look forward to the government’s ambitious plan to catch up with Mississippi and Tasmania and keep our noses in front of those plucky Prince Edward Islanders.

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2025 Taskforce, Allan Bollard, Don Brash, John Key, Politics, Singapore, Tasman Wage Gap

Can NZ catch Tasmania?

People who make excuses for our economic decline say it’s only natural we should be poorer than Australia.

After all, those convict larrikins lucked into a continent-sized treasure chest fair groaning with minerals.

As excuses go, it’s plausible enough. Till your mind  flicks to a little pinprick up north and a bit to the left.

Singapore. That micro-state that accommodates half a million more citizens than New Zealand, on a rock the size of our biggest lake.

Only Singapore’s ‘lake’ has no water.

Yet somehow its people earn more money than both New Zealanders and Australians.

Which goes to show that when it comes to generating wealth, size isn’t anything.

That convenient excuse also doesn’t explain how, for over a century, we used to be just as rich or richer than our sunburnt neighbours.

And it collapses completely when you realise that we’re no longer just Aussie’s poor cuzzie. We’re now poorer than every single Australian state.

Yes, even Tasmania.

So when John Key and Bill English consigned Don Brash’s 2025 Taskforce plan to the too-hard basket, they seemed to be doing their bit to ensure that New Zealand remains a basket case.

If Allan Bollard is right that we’re now only fit to catch the crumbs from Australia’s table, would it be too ambitious to hope that by 2025 we might have caught up with Tasmania?

2025 Taskforce, Don Brash, Emissions Trading Scheme, John Key, Politics, Tasman Wage Gap

The widening Tasman Wage Gap (AKA the John Key Credibility Gap)

I left National in 2008 because I could see that John Key had no ambition for New Zealand, only for himself and his party.

Two years later, Key and National are riding high on their wave of false promises, while the Sunday Star-Times reports the all-too-predictable reality: Kiwi wages slip further behind.

For once I can’t help but agree with Phil Goff, who describes Key’s promise of catching Australia as “reckless and dishonest”:

“He was undertaking to the New Zealand electorate that he had a secret plan whereby he could catch up with Australia, and the truth is he had no such plan. And, far from catching up, New Zealand has fallen further behind.”

Key’s motto, as far as I can see, is “You can fool most of the people most of the time.” And it seems to be working a treat…

Say you’re ambitious for the country. (When you’re not.)

Say you’ve got a plan for growth. (When you haven’t.)

Join forces with a party that actually has a plan. (And ignore it.)

Say you agree with the ‘catch Australia’ goal. (When you don’t.)

Commission a plan to catch Australia. (Then reject it.) 

Chide your central banker for saying we can’t catch Australia with your policies. (When you know damn well he’s right.)

Press on with your Emissions Trading Scheme. (When the country you’re supposed to be catching has put the brakes on theirs.)

(And when the science increasingly supports your first instinct that man-made global warming is a hoax.)

So why is our prime minister doing these things?

And why did he take such a ‘principled’ stance in defying his core supporters on the anti-smacking referendum?

The answer is simple.

It’s because John Key is not running New Zealand for his core supporters. He knows he’s got their votes in the bag.

Nor does he have to worry about those righteous ACT know-it-alls, since they’re hardly likely to cuddle up to the reds or Greens.

No. He’s running our country for the benefit of a few female urban liberals of the Lucy Lawless ilk.

Women to the left of Jeanette Fitzsimons, as he calls them.

Women who took one look at his cheery smile and all-things-in-moderation patter and saw someone they could take advantage of.

A Helen Clark with a feminine side.

Women who couldn’t care less about boring male obsessions like money and Australia. But who care lots about carbon footprints and wrapping their kids in cotton wool.

That’s why, when Lucy and Keisha and co. said, “John, go to Copenhagen,” off to Denmark he dutifully trotted.

That’s why, when the lib-fems said, “John, legalise smacking and we’ll smack you,” he was happy to give 85% of Kiwis the fingers.

And that’s why, when wise heads bombard him with sound reasons to delay the ETS, he’ll be obeying Lucy and the liberals and putting planet before people.

It’s great politics. It’s also negligent leadership. 

Of course, Bill English and others would say, “There’s no point making unpopular changes then getting voted out.”

Yes, there is.

If you really cared about your country, you’d run that risk, knowing that successful reforms tend not to be wound back.

But you can reduce the risk by explaining to people why we need to change – just as a responsible parent explains to his family why they can’t keep living beyond their means.

Roger Douglas took that risk in the 80s. And guess what? The public didn’t like it.

But they understood it.

They returned Labour with an increased majority, and a mandate to finish the job. 

Key could do that too. It would hardly be a huge risk, since the Brash report only calls for cutting spending to 2005 levels.

As Don Brash said, John Key has the communication skills to pull it off.

But does he have the courage?

To find out, keep an eye on that Tasman Wage Gap. Because it’s also the John Key Credibility Gap.

If it closes, he’ll have silenced many a doubter. 

If it keeps widening – as we all said it would – the PM’s political epitaph could well be (to paraphrase Julius Caesar):

 I came, I smiled, I tinkered.