Jordan Williams does this better, but…

The government’s Budget was delivered yesterday.  I’ll post a few more analytical thoughts later, but this post is just a few scattered observations on individual measures:

  • Another $10m for the SuperGold card public transport subsidies.  Really?
  • A new tax on international travel.  I wonder if the government looked at the possibility of levying these costs on, for example, the apple and kiwifruit industries, for whose benefit most of the biosecurity apparatus seems to exist?  Are those industries really economic?
  • Scrapping the $1000 sign-on bonus for Kiwisaver is a good move, and perhaps next year they could scrap the $500 tax credit, and then abolish the scheme altogether (as a statutory provision).  At present, there is no evidence that Kiwisaver has raised the national savings rate at all and for people with both Kiwisaver accounts and mortgages the effective after-tax returns on funds held in Kiwisaver accounts must be pretty low (mortgages are repaid out of after-tax earnings, and tax is paid on earnings on Kiwisaver funds).   A more thoroughgoing review of capital income taxation, with a view to lowering it, would be a better step.
  • Radio New Zealand often doesn’t find very sympathetic people for its interviews.  As I was making lunches for my children this morning, I heard a benefit recipient complaining that the $25 benefit increase would only pay for buying a couple of school lunches for his kids.  That didn’t sound quite right:  On the one hand, if he really isn’t giving his kids lunches now, the increase must surely make a considerable difference.  And on the other hand, I’m pretty sure that the total cost of my three kids’ school lunches for a week, home baking included, is less than $25.  Incidentally, the Dom-Post reports that the benefit increases are around 8 per cent.  That is not small – real GDP per capita has increased by only that much since June 2005.
  • And does the government really have its priorities right when we still fritter money away on a Retirement Commissioner, a Children’s Commissioner, a Ministry for Women, a Ministry of Tourism, and a Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.  I could go on: why are we funding a Reserve Bank museum (in what would be prime Wellington café space) or a “state of the nation” report answering the question “Who are NZ’s ethnic communities?”  And that is before we ask more serious questions about $400 million more to Kiwirail, and lots more to UFB (to which I have a jaundiced view after asking a senior minister at a forum some years ago why there had been no cost-benefit analysis of government spending in this area, to which he responded that one was not necessary because he knew the answer).
  • One hopes (surely?) that the reference in a press release to “up to $52 million” to replace a wharf on the Chatham Islands was a typo.  Then again, we are giving away money to a spa operator in Rotorua, so perhaps not.

7 thoughts on “Jordan Williams does this better, but…

  1. NZ has some of the worst rates of child abuse, poverty, and cases of preventable contagious diseases in the OECD.
    Many of these measures have worsened over recent decades.
    NZ is legally obligated to improve some of these measures, due to its ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the child.

    Why exactly do you think we should not have a children’s commissioner?


    • Generally I don’t think there is a good reason for taxpayers to fund advocacy agencies. Much of what the current Commissioner advocates represents views that might – and often are – advocated by one or other parties in the political process. In addition, the Commissioner tends to be an advocate of bigger government solutions. I don’t ever recall hearing him, or his predecessors, calling for (for example) the strengthening of marriage or the reversal of a succession of policies which have undermined families, and contributed to some of the outcomes you mention. In some ways, I wouldn’t expect a Commissioner to – again it would be the sort of political advocacy that I don’t think taxpayers should be paying for.

      UNCROC is not a consideration that I think should weigh heavily in domestic public policy formation.

      I would add that the role the Commissioner plays in monitoring CYF is clearly a legitimate and important function. It is the advocacy function that I think should be disbanded and (ugly word) de-funded.


  2. My question was not general, although you may have answered it anyway.. as I read it you are saying that a children’s advocate does not conform to your ideology.

    In the case of children, they are not empowered to advocate for themselves. One or other political parties may well advocate similar views as advanced by the commissioner, but they also may not, and children are not allowed to vote for whichever party. So I think there is an obvious case for a professional and independent children’s advocate.

    I am unsure what polices you are talking about that may have contributed to child poverty or abuse via undermining families. Giving women the vote?


  3. As I said, I don’t favour public funding of advocacy bodies, even if they happened to advocate policies I agree with.

    What children do have is parents. I reckon I have a better idea of the interests of my children than some Hawkes’ Bay doctor or (for that matter, a previous commissioner was) a former National Party minister. Of course, not all parents are particularly good.

    To show my social conservative colours – not really the material of this blog – I’d say the DPB, the divorce laws, the abortion laws, and so on all work in the direction of undermining families. As I read it the evidence is pretty clear that kids are best off in two-parent families, with two natural parents. And marriage is a more stable bond than de facto relationships.

    Having said all that, the Childrens’ Commissioner is small beer in terms of cost, There are plenty of other things to cut that may have even less benefit – the Reserve Bank Museum, the ethnicities study, and the Office of Financial Literacy to name just a few.


  4. I’m glad you say your social conservative colours are not really the material of this blog. Your blog is much better when you leave them at the door. Entitling this post with the name of a guy who would advocate for cigarettes and plus-size fizzy drinks at every school canteen was not a good start.. and especially not in a post where you then advocate getting rid of the commissioner for children.

    And what’s with “A more thoroughgoing review of capital income taxation, with a view to lowering it”? Either a review is thoroughgoing, without a predetermined view, or it is not. Less colours, more numbers, please.


  5. There is a fairly large literature suggesting economic gains from lowering capital income taxation. Perhaps a comprehensive review would undermine that case – and one should be open to that – but I think everyone approaches policy analysis with priors.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with fizzy drinks in school canteens. I don’t allow my children to patronise such establishments, and my advice to other parents would be not to do so either. But actually I care more about corporate welfare, where the Williams group has been quite appropriately critical.

    But I should say thanks for the feedback/comments.


  6. Left this comment on Offsetting:

    They have. It’s called government-industry agreements.

    Coase was the basis of this and the biosecurity funding principles I wrote when at the former MAF.

    “Furthermore, the government does not have good information about how much biosecurity is desired and efficient. With the government being the primary funder of readiness and response, MAF often gets signals from industries that everything is a top priority. Because government does not have accurate information about biosecurity needs, the government might not be spending enough on biosecurity, might be spending too much, and/or spending money addressing risks that are not priorities.”


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