Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just Wondering About Asset Sales

NZers are freaking out about asset sales. I can understand why. While we have financial challenges, do we want to sell our assets to get out of trouble?

Yet, at the same time, one of the counter-arguments is that the floating of a portion of the assets is at least to an extent a good thing for NZ, giving NZers something to invest in. This would move investments away from our incessant obsession with investment in property, or off shore. Iwi and others may find this helpful. I find this a good argument to a point. That said, do we need to sell off 49% of an asset at all?

My question then is this, why sell so much of any state owned asset? Why not place a limit on the amount of an asset that we float, say 25% or 33%, and why not limit the amount one investor can own at even lower than 10%, say 5%? We could float far more assets then, retain control, put the money to use to pay down debt to safeguard us against the effects of global recession etc. Then, if the situation permits, we can buy them back if need be?

Perhaps this would allow NZers to feel secure in NZ control and ownership, while allowing NZers to invest in their own country, but with safeguards.

Of course, I would also agree with the right’s desire to strip down government as far as possible, without of course gutting the care for the really poor and marginalised. I would also support ensuring that the money from the government for alleviation of poverty and need, actually gets to those in need, and not down the loo on drugs and booze etc.

I would also agree though with a tax system that ensured that the really wealthy pay their way in terms of taxation.

But would this alleviate some of the asset sales concern?

Perhaps there is some problem with this economically, that I am too dumb to see—that is not unlikely. I can see this could lower the market value of the sale, as it could put some off, and lower demand.

Still, maybe it is a good middle way. Just wondering? Any thoughts out there on this?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Election 2011: As the Dust Settles

So the dust is settling on another election. The people have spoken, the right rules for another three years. A few things stand out to me.

First, there is the obvious surprise at the success of NZ First, no doubt in no small part due to the Epsom Tea Party which gave him a platform. Winston appeals to the floating voter who wants neither party, cares for the elderly, and is attracted to his style—which is very winsome (Winsome Winston). As a Christian, I have some sympathy, especially for Winston’s concern for the elderly. One sign of the health of a nation is how we look after the elderly. Perhaps the move from 65 to 67 for retirement cost Labour a few votes here. After all, there are other options, like a graded system where you can take retirement earlier, but receive less, or take it later, and receive more. Raising the retirement age works for people like me who sit in an office all day, but it is a tough call for those do manual work. I wonder if this policy is a popular as some people think.

Secondly, there is the dominance of the centre-right in NZ politics. It seems to me that Conservative and NZ First are more right than left, although they will go either way if required. As such, there is a dominance of the centre-right in NZ politics with 60% of the vote. The distincly left side of the vote, Greens, makes up only 40% split between Labour, Green, and the Maori parties. This reflects the move right in the nation since the Clarke era, which has not run its course.

Of course, we could still have had a left wing government with the help of NZ First and UNF, but this was always a long shot, especially since Peters has said he would not go into government either way (of course he has changed his mind before!). So, while pundits are saying it was a close election, it was not so really. It is hard to imagine Labour on 27% getting support to cobble together a stable government.

As Christians, we need to think about this dominance of the right. One thing we should believe in is the care of the poor. We need to watch this government closely to ensure that they are held accountable for the marginalised and poor. I know that we are in a phase where we need to stimulate business and get through this economic crunch, but it is the poor who will hurt the most if things turn sour. We need to watch closely how this plays out. It may be that we will need a swing left next time around if the “right-solution” is not effective or the problem gets worse.

Third, there is the decline of Labour. They are in a bit of trouble it seems to me. Greens are on the rise, with real appeal to younger voters. Labour looks tired and needs to renew itself, and quickly, to recapture a younger generation of lefties. They need to bring through the likes of Jacinda Adern who has real appeal. This may be easier said than done, with the Greens fresh appeal—I know from younger people in our church that some were really impressed with them. Still, if Greens and Labour play it shrewd, with Green’s focussing on environmental issues and Labour the full agenda, they could easily turn the tide in 2014. Especially so if we hit harder economic times which is likely in light of the world economy.

This may be a great time for Christians with a heart for the left to get involved in the Labour party. They will be going through a lot of soul-searching and looking for solutions. Perhaps this is a good time to be salt and light in the NZ political scene.

Fourth, there is the rise of the Conservatives. Getting 2.8% of the vote is no small feat in its first election. I know from my church, that a number were attracted to them. There was a bit of false hope here, with news spreading that Colin Craig might win Rodney. This was based on flawed systems like Horizon and was a bit over played, as the the 10,000 or so National majority indicated. There seems to be a rump of Christians floating around searching for a right/Christian option. It has never gained traction to the point of getting into parliament. Perhaps Colin Craig has the ability to pull this off over time. Conservatives will have to either find a way to win a seat, or do a Winston and forget the seats, and send Colin Craig over the nation to try and raise the 5%. It is a tall call, as all these small parties, Greens alone, have been based around a big MP and figure who has left a major party (Anderton, Hyde, Douglas, Prebble, Peters etc). Then there is the question of whether this is the best approach for Christians in politics. There is a shortage of volunteers in all parts of our culture, if we get in and do the hard yards in the mainstream parties, perhaps we can achieve more. Time will tell, because Conservatives will be very hopeful from here. To do it, they will have to inpire people, prove an ability to be a "wide church", keep unity, and get the right strategy.

Finally, there is the terribly low turn-out of voters. According to today's Herald, it was the lowest percentage turn out since 1887 (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/election-2011/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503012&objectid=10769246). Perhaps it is due to the polls which indicated a foregone conclusion.

I hope Christians did not stand back, but voted. We should lead the nation in caring who rules over this part of God’s world. It is a privilege to be able to help shape our nation through casting our vote. Let’s hope for something better in 2014.

Now that the election is over, it is back  to the real work on which a nation is formed, the people working hard, living ethically and well, building strong families, communities, businesses and giving it their all. This is where the real work must be done for NZ to get through the next three years, which everyone is saying, will be tough.