March 20, 2013

NZ's debt to rest of world grows

Net foreign liabilities - a measure of what New Zealand owes the rest of the
 world - rose to $150 billion or 71.7% of GDP in the year according to a Radio NZ report

For a small economy, distant from world markets and reliant so heavily on one export sector this news should be cause for concern.  We need a coherent strategy to develop at least two other major export sectors.  ICT looks as if it could grow into one of those.  Either way an economy owing so much to offshore financiers will remain vulnerable to external shocks until it has a plan to diminish that vulnerability and then executes against that plan.

One element towards a comprehensive solution is that the government must get back to surplus at the earliest opportunity.  But wouldn't it also be smart to look to the private sector savings levels and reduction of household debt to contribute to this overseas-debt reduction cause?

March 18, 2013

Businesses opposed to new tax on mobile technology


Inland Revenue's latest tax tightening proposals will hit smaller businesses the hardest with extra compliance costs, the Employers and Manufacturers Association says in a recent EMA media statement
"The impact of the new taxes on car parks along with the proposal to tax the personal use of mobile phones and laptops will aggravate compliance costs for all businesses but especially SMEs," said Kim Campbell, EMA's chief executive.
"It's absolutely not worth IRD proceeding with this.  A recent national survey of ours found 47 per cent of employers allow the personal use of smart phones, and 35 per cent allow personal use of tablets and laptops provided for business purposes."
Certainly if you accept the principle that governments should tax those things they want less of then taxing mobile technologies seems like a backward step in the move towards more efficient 21st century business practice. 
The IRD should not be trying to determine the extent to which households or businesses should use new technology. That is the practical effect of this tax proposal.  Like the carpark tax the costs and unintended distortions of this new tax proposal outweigh any meagre benefits.  

Disclaimer: the author is employed by a telecommunications provider.

February 21, 2013

Minister welcomes investment in New Zealand

Minister of Communications, Hon Amy Adams, today welcomed the news that another hi-tech company was opening up new jobs in Wellington. Centrist Comment says this is precisely the sort of new hi-tech investment Wellington requires. 

February 20, 2013

Govt operating deficit smaller than forecast | The National Business Review

According to a recent media report Govt operating deficit smaller than forecast | The National Business Review the government's books are in better shape than expected.  However, the main reason is that budgeted expenses did not arise when they were expected.  They will however arise later on so there is no room for complacency in terms of the government's goal of achieveing a budget surplus in 2014-15.  Given the high level of private debt its important that the government finances are brought back into shape sooner rather than later.  The challenge is how to balance a tight fiscal policy against keeping the emerging economic growth rates going.

January 4, 2013

2012 climate events - a cause for concern

This article appeared listing all the events linked to climate change.  There is no doubt that the world's weather seems to be changing or that the polar ice cap is melting.  There also seems to be little doubt that sea levels are rising. In the face of the evidence it seems reasonable to be taking measures to do what we can to reduce CO2 emissions and to re-orient our economy towards renewable energy.

Nations around the world are considering ways to reduce CO2 emissions that are aligned with economic development and full employment.  New Zealand is well placed with its bountiful use of hydro-energy.  But we should be moving towards further reduction in our reliance on imported oil and look more towards tidal, wind and solar energy.  Progress in these areas can both reduce the impact on the environment and help improve our poor Current Account deficit.  http://hot-topic.co.nz/the-year-the-earth-bit-back-top-climate-stories-of-2012/

December 24, 2012

Yes - the guns are the problem

"Seven years ago an elderly Los Angeles woman who had agreed to move out of her daughter's apartment bought a handgun. She cleared the background check, passed the safety test and practiced on targets at the local shooting range. Then she shot and killed her daughter and her daughter's fiance -- my brother David."

Seven years ago Jenny Price penned this column following the shooting of her brother by someone who had passed a gun safety check and was registered to use a gun.  The Washington Post published the story back in 2005.  Only 3 percent of such deaths are accidents, since most murders are committed with legally purchased firearms. 

The problem is with guns being too easily available in the USA.  As Jenny Price wrote on Christmas Day 2005:

"The problem is that 65 million people in the United States own handguns. The gun used to kill my brother was a Glock 19, a light and portable semi-automatic. These guns are designed to kill people: That's their sole purpose. Nearly 12,000 Americans annually use guns to do just that, and the majority use handguns. Twelve thousand: that's comparable to the number of AIDS deaths each year in the United States. (Great Britain has about 100 gun deaths each year.) ".

The organisations that benefit from lax gun laws are primarily the arms manufacturers.  Certainly the tens of thousands of Americans who are killed by gunfire each year do not.  Nor their families or communities.  Most civilised societies have a full time police force to maintain order.  They choose to do this instead of letting citizens arm themselves in a "law of the jungle" mentality which was more suited to the 18th and 19th century wild west.

President Obama has done much to restore America's tarnished image in the international community.  But Americans need to take back their nation and tell the gun lobby that enough is enough. One of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the constitution is "life" - the freedom to live.   The biggest threat to that freedom right now is not the US government .  It is the Gun Lobby.

 

December 23, 2012

What do Centrists stand for?

Someone asked me the other day what centrists stand for?  The assertion they made was that centrists just make themselves equidistant from the left wing and the right wing and become a kind of bland unprincipled lot.  The truth of course is very different.  

Most centrists have their own, often strongly-held, principles.  However, they do share a common distrust of both extreme State Socialism where government agencies are expected to solve all of a country's problems.  The Soviet Union showed that such a system becomes dysfunctional and will eventually collapse under the weight of its own inefficiencies - as well as its abuse of human rights.  At the same time most centrists abhor the injustices perpetuated by unregulated monopolies and the large gaps between rich and poor that deny many people equal opportunities on the basis of race, class or gender. A healthy and stable society will have a high degree of social cohesion where all citizens can participate.  The institutions of civil society - such as families and religious, sports or cultural organisations help build such belonging and cohesion. 


History has shown that allowing people to trade goods and services freely usually results in innovation, prosperity and improved relations between cultures and nations. But governments have a legitimate role to play in developing effective laws and regulations that protect the environment, help the disadvantaged, protect the security of all citizens and ensure that everyone has access to good quality health, education and welfare. In general centrists believe in a property-owning society under the benign guidance of a fair and just government.  


In many ways centrists act as the glue that holds political processes together.  They can see the effectiveness of the policies they seek to implement and are prepared to work with legislators to improve policy settings. 


In the US context, for example, the need for principled centrist legislators has never been greater.  Whether they be in the Democratic Party -or the Republican Party - centrists need to find common cause and ensure there is progress - particularly on the control of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles.  Dwight Eisenhower, a moderate Republican, showed during the 1950s that Congress and the White House can work effectively for change. President Kennedy showed the same thing during the 1960s. It's time for ideology to be put to one side and the safety of children to be put first.