From good to great

Roger Partridge
Insights Newsletter
20 January, 2017

At the beginning of 2017, New Zealand finds itself probably in the best position it has been in for decades.

Key figures like economic growth, unemployment and inflation show a country in great shape. The government’s finances are in good shape, and a majority of New Zealanders believe the country is broadly going in the right direction.

Compared internationally, New Zealand fares well. On many international rankings, we appear at or near the top. These rankings show a country in which it is easy to do business, which is getting more competitive and which is delivering a great deal of prosperity to its people.

So we have every reason to be optimistic about New Zealand. Having said that, we have no reason for complacency. In some areas, our country does not deliver prosperity to all our people. In others, we are just performing poorly.

Most obviously, house prices are out of control. Next week, we are expecting the release of Demographia’s new report on housing affordability and we can already guess what it will tell us once again: that we need to get serious about housing reform (whether we have a Housing Minister or not).

In education, we no longer feature on the leaderboard in the international education league tables. The real tragedy is that our education system, though working well for many, is failing children from the least prosperous backgrounds. In this sense, education has become an obstacle to social mobility. We need to work together as a country – parents, teachers, unions and politicians – to improve this situation.

We also need to address productivity growth. As Paul Krugman famously said, productivity is not everything but in the long run it is almost everything. New Zealand is not doing well on productivity, and as a consequence, our GDP-per-capita languishes in the bottom half of the OECD’s rankings. We need to discuss how to do better.

These are the issues that we need to talk about in this election year. Yes, let’s celebrate what is good about New Zealand. But let’s make it even better.  And let’s challenge our politicians to confront the big issues and come up with solutions.

You can count on the team at the Initiative to play our part. We have big plans for 2017, and we look forward to sharing them with you. 

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