New Zealand's been in economic decline for decades…
… but never mind, we’re good at rugby and it’s a great place to bring up kids.
It’s a good point, except that hundreds of thousands of those kids are brought up in Australia.
New Zealand’s economic goose has been gradually cooked by half a century of poor political decisions and short-sighted economic policies. Sadly, like the proverbial frog in the slowly heating pot, most New Zealanders aren’t yet aware of the seriousness of the problem.
We’re teetering on the brink of third world status.
- In 1900 we had the highest per capita income in the world. By the 1950s we were still in the top 4 or 5. We’re now about 45th and we’re still sinking.
- On current trends we’ll be overtaken by Botswana and Kazakhstan by 2025.
- 20% of New Zealanders—1,000,000 Kiwis—live in other countries. So tens of thousands of Kiwi grandparents never see their grand-children. Most families have sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, living in Australia and elsewhere. They’re there because that’s where they’re richer.
- Each person in Luxembourg produces 2.5 times more wealth than each New Zealander, despite the fact that we work longer hours. They’re far less well endowed with natural and human resources than we are.
- Many communities in New Zealand can no longer attract medical staff. Those that can, have to accept doctors for whom English is a second language. We accept the payment of multi-million dollar packages to the heads of Telecom and Westpac but we simply don’t have enough in the kitty to pay doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers and tradesmen the salaries they expect from a First World economy.
- Since the 2008 election we have fallen further behind Australia. By a lot.
- So far, nothing has been done to halt the decline.
- Our parliamentary democracy has turned into a 3-yearly bidding war. The winner is the party or coalition that offers the biggest bribe to an ill-informed and short-sighted electorate. Unfortunately, we don’t have the money to pay for those bribes so student loans must be paid out from funds that should go to health, education, defence and R&D.
- Our education budget is funding our best and brightest to build Australia, leaving an ever-dwindling proportion of productive people to generate the wealth to pay the piper.
The good news?
There isn’t much of it.
- We could fix this problem—perhaps within 5 or 6 years—if we got stuck in.
- We have the natural resources and the talent required.
- We know what needs to be done to halt and to eventually reverse the decline.
We’re not doing any of that.
The leaders of the current government and the previous government are fully aware of the mess we’re in. They choose to turn a blind eye. They’re doing alright. Even without their subsidized jet-setting, as long as they con us into giving them three terms in Parliament they retire on a very nice package. (I remember an occasion many years ago when they increased their own retirement benefits within weeks of reducing mine.)
Prominent people in the media and business are aware of the problem but most of them are doing little to spread the message. It’s easier to move your business overseas than it is to stay here and deal with a broken system.
One exception is Professor Paul Callaghan, a world-renowned scientist, a top academic and a high tech entrepreneur. He’s worked to spread the message but it’s not being heeded. Please set aside an hour to watch his presentation here. It will disturb you and if it motivates you to demand change it could change your life.
“So what?” I hear you cry,
“New Zealand is still a great place to live, and what’s more we’re near the top of the rankings in the Great Happiness Index.”
Depends upon whom you ask. Nigeria, Nepal and Vanuatu have come top of various such indices I’ve seen. The average New Zealander wouldn’t find life in any of those countries totally appealing. New Zealand is still a good place to live, but relative to other countries that compete for our people we’ve fallen behind and the decline continues unabated. If it continues for much longer, we won’t remain at the top of any list for long—except perhaps the list of countries in steepest decline.
Next we’ll consider the direct tangible effects of our poor performance on your health and happiness.