The lack of any serious transparency

People can agree or disagree with the government and its official agencies on the various numerous specifics of the handling of the coronavirus, up to and including yesterday’s decisions.  But whether you, or I, agree with individual choices that have been made –  and I’m sceptical of more than a few of them – isn’t the point of this post, which is about the serious lack of transparency of official advice etc through this period of wrenching dislocation, in which lives were at risk, civil liberties shredded, the ability of people to earn their living badly disrupted, Parliament suspended and so on.   Perhaps most or even all those decisions were the right ones –  something that will probably be debated for the next 100 years, as aspects of the 1918 flu or much about the Great Depression still is-  but no one can argue they were normal, routine or inconsequential matters.   And yet the government and its agencies have revealed only what suits them, when it suits them, exposes itself to little serious scrutiny, and treats the public like children, or subjects, not citizens (I gave up reading the full page propaganda in each day’s newspaper after one particular piece of official condescension –  implying, as I recall, that I was doing the government a favour by looking after my children – got too much for me).

Once upon a time, almost 40 years ago now, a government (it and its leader still widely reviled by many) passed into law the Official Information Act.

OIA purpose

Fine words, admirable principles.

Come forward in time and less than three years ago we find a Cabinet minister in the current government –  the minister responsible for open government no less –  telling Parliament

Hon CLARE CURRAN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My priority is that this will be the most open, most transparent Government that New Zealand has ever had. We will do this in several ways, including requiring proactive disclosure of some official information,

Of course, she didn’t last long.  And if the rhetoric lingered for a while, it never seemed to have very much substance at all.  Little, for example, has been seen of the promised overhaul of the Official Information Act, to help better align agency practice with the intent of the Act.

Even many public servants quite like proactive disclosure –  it takes less work than dealing with Official Information Act requests –  but not this government apparently, and certainly not as this crisis has unfolded.    For them, it seems as though they’ve taken the “war” rhetoric to heart and decided to act as if some enemy is listening, and never mind citizens –  whose country, whose lives, whose livelihoods, whose freedoms are being upended.   Perhaps the government acts from the best of motives, but so what?  Being human they’ll make mistakes too.  Facing an election, they’ll make partisan calls under the guise of responding to a crisis (we saw several of those in last month’s economic package).  And even if they operated flawlessly and only with the best of motives, official information is presumptively our information.  Our taxes paid for it.   And when politicians claim to be acting on advice –  which may or may not be the right thing to do, depending on the quality of the advice and the alignment of the interests/rersponsibilities of those giving the advice –  surely it is only reasonable that citizens (mostly not being children) should be able to see that advice, now when it matters,  not in a year’s time when, with luck and a favourable wind, the Ombudsman finally compels release?

As far as I can tell, we have seen not a single pro-active release by the government or any of its ministries or agencies of any analysis or advice generated with those agencies and relevant to decisionmaking, or evaluation of decisions, on responding to the coronavirus, or the economic or social effects of the virus and private or public responses to (the risk of) it.  Perhaps worst is the Ministry of Health, which appears to have a central role in advising the government, and exercising some powers itself: they have belatedly released some (questionable) Otago University modelling, and belatedly released the Verrall report on contact tracing, but we have seen not a word of their advice or analysis, or of any frameworks they are using to shape their advice.

It is no better on the economic side.   On the purely economic response side, the Reserve Bank and its Monetary Policy Committee has appeared consistently complacent and slow to react, then lurching into the extraordinary commitment not to cut the OCR further no matter how bad the economic and inflation situation gets.  But none of their supporting analysis or advice, for far-reaching unconventional interventions (and not), has seen the light of day –  and, despite the Official Information Act, is unlikely ever to do so, successive Ombudsmen having proved extraordinarily deferential to the Bank.

On The Treasury side, pro-active release of papers relating to the annual Budget has long been a very positive feature.  But we’ve seen nothing at all of the analysis and advice that contributed to the large economic package –  some coronavirus related, some just electioneering –  announced a month ago, or any of the interventions since.   And, of course, we have seen not a hint of any advice or analysis provided to the government or the Ministry of Health in advance of either the inital partial lockdown decision or the latest extension of restrictions announced yesterday.    Is there even a hint of any sort of serious cost-benefit analysis in The Treasury’s approach/advice?  Are they even seriously near the top table at all?  We simply don’t know.   Even the economic scenarios paper released last week –  useful in its way – masked as much as it revealed, because most of the underlying analysis –  eg just how large are the economic losses at each of the government’s “levels” –  is hidden.

And, of course, we have seen precisely none of the Cabinet papers –  of which there must be very many, large and small, relevant to decisionmaking around the crisis over the last three months.  The Epidemic Preparedness Act can only be invoked on the advice of the Director-General of Health, but we’ve not seen the substance of his advice or recommendation.  We are told that yesterday Cabinet acted in accordance with the advice/recommendation of the Director-General, but we’ve seen no sign of that either –  including, thus, no ability to assess the Director-General’s advice on aspects that he (and his agency) know precisely nothing about –  not just the economic dimensions of choices, but those around liberty, rights, civil society and so on. It would be good some day to see, for example, the advice that led the government to acquiesce in the barbarism of banning funerals –  and, recall, they are still banned until next week.  At present, instead, we have nothing.

Now, no doubt in time at least some of this material will emerge, whether in response –  typically very slow response –  to Official Information Act requests, or perhaps to the Royal Commission which a growing number of people have called for but which calls the government continues to ignore (it might be a little easier to cut them some slack now if there were a serious commitment to open and transparent ex post accountability).  But generally openness and transparency –  perhaps taken to the limit, deluging people with material – is a good way to win trust and confidence.  Unless, that is, the processes are so chaotic, and the analysis/advice so flimsy and insubstantial, that actually confidence might be eroded. But if things are really that bad –  and just on what we know it wouldn’t surprise me at all if much of it is –  surely citizens, whose lives, health, livelihoods, and freedom are at stake –  have a fundamental right to know.

Instead, all we are left with is a “trust us, we know what we are doing” approach, accompanied by communications that treat us as children not citizens.

Perhaps some of you have some great confidence in one or more of the sets of individuals, or institutions, involved.  I can only say that I wish I shared your confidence.

At a political level –  the people we elect, the only people we can toss out –  we must be the only country in the world where the Minister of Health is banished and invisible amid a major public health event.      Before he went invisible he was pretty consistently upbeat and complacent –  nothing to suggest he saw the most stringent lockdown in the western world on the horizon (that lockdown is, after all, a sign of relative failure not of success).  That Minister was appointed, and left in place, by the Prime Minister –  the same one who promised that last year was going to be her government’s “Year of Delivery”, which didn’t quite eventuate.  The Minister of Finance seems to be competent enough within established bounds, but there is no sign of any developed framework for thinking about the economic issues and challenges from him either.

Then, of course, there is the Ministry of Health.  Everyone in Wellington recognised how degraded its capability had become under the previous Director-General.  And while it remains all the thing in some circles to praise the current Director-General, it isn’t really quite clear why.   Wasn’t there a measles epidemic going on just a few months ago (although in coronavirus-time it is easy to lose track of the months)?  As I noted on Twitter yesterday, I went back and looked at the most recent Ministry of Health Annual Report and the Ministry’s output plan, and found no substantive references to epidemic/pandemic issues at all, but a lot of right-on Wellington public service rhetoric.  It isn’t as if there have been no pandemic threats this century, and if the Ministry of Health isn’t keeping these issues/risks front of consciousness, including public/political consciousness, they aren’t really doing their job.

What about after the coronavirus itself became an issue?  As I’ve noted in earlier posts, there is little practical sign of much urgency about their approach, or their advice.  We can see this, for example, in how other government agencies (including the RB) did or didn’t respond.  We can also see it in how the Director-General was talking in public, including constantly playing down the risks of asymptomatic infections. We can see it in the Ministry’s official Twitter feed: as late as 29 February it was still telling us there was more of a threat from fear, rumours, and stigma than from the virus itself, and as late as mid-March was still sounding quite unconcerned about major events (no doubt a bit constrained by the Prime Minister’s indifference).

So perhaps the Ministry of Health has had everything just right for the last month or more – although the Verrall report didn’t suggest so –  but even if that were true, and it frankly seems unlikely (where was this excellent capability – including, for example, in integrating economic and health perspectives – going to spring from?) we shouldn’t simply have to take their word for it.  It is one of those principles of open government.

I could go on.    Thanks to Peter Hughes, the State Services Commissioner, in whom few in Wellington (his acolytes apart) seem to have much confidence, we have a new Secretary to the Treasury with no past experience whatever in national policymaking, in charge of an institution that under its previous head had become more interested in, and recruiting for, luxury fluff around “living standards frameworks”, “wellbeing budgets etc” than around hard analysis, including the contigency planning for really severe adverse events.  Perhaps the agency has been offering consistently superlative advice through this crisis, but it would be a surprise –  whether given the starting disadvantages, or the evidence of complacency seen in the Secretary’s involvement in Reserve Bank decisionmaking. But again, it would not  natually be the assumption I’d make.  And we should’t have to assume, we should have timely access to relevant advice and analysis.

And then, of course, there is the Reserve Bank.  They talk a little more than most agencies, but unfortunately little of it is reassuring in this context.   There was the public minimisation of the issue as late as late February –  when they were still expecting an upturn this year – the sluggish monetary policy response, the inexplicable pledge not to cut the OCR further no matter how bad things get, the misrepresentations to Parliament about the scale of what they have been doing, the public flip-flops over just a few weeks on negative interest rates, and so on.  All this from a Governor who had previously seemed much more interested in climate change and infrastructure than in doing his job, and who spent last year telling us how much more capital our banks needed to just be up with international peers, and now tries to tell us (more correctly in my view) that without any increases we have one of safer banking systems in the world.  Oh, and then there was that strange strange Stuff op-ed in which Orr sought to present the coronavirus economic shock as something akin to a summer shower of rain, from which the economy would emerge refreshed and vibrant.    Based on what we see, there is little reason to have any particular trust in the analysis and advice they will fight hard to ensure we will never see.

There simply is no class of superb mandarins, to whom we might prudently and confidently defer. The systematic degrading of the public service has seen to that.  Even if there were such people, they need to be open and accountable.  Even if there were such people, their values –  inevitably statist in nature –  aren’t the only ones.  But if there are any such superb mandarins at all, it isn’t obvious where in the relevant bits of the public sector they are hiding.

It isn’t really clear what the government thinks it has to gain by the secrecy.  Perhaps things really are worse than even sceptics assume.  Perhaps the Prime Minister is allowing herself to be led by the nose by officials who are routinely averse to scrutiny and transparency, and really do think the public –  citizens, voters –  really are just best kept in the dark, treated as children –  while the adults sort things out.    Whatever the explanation, there is no adequate justification.  And responsibility for the failure –  the secrecy, the obstruction –  rests totally with the Prime Minister.  If she wanted an open and transparent government – amid a wrenching crisis with no real precedent –  she could have it tomorrow.  By her (in)actions, she reveals her preferences.

37 thoughts on “The lack of any serious transparency

  1. In my opinion, much of the country (and nearly all of the media) are exhibiting Stockholm Syndrome. They have fallen in love with those who can tell them when to go out, when to stay home, what events (including funerals etc) they can attend…
    This is best exhibited in the adoration of Ashley Bloomfield, despite the fact he rarely gives a straight answer to even moderately inconvenient questions and his own ministry has been found to be woefully lacking in preparedness, which continues to be the main reason for the lockdown (and its extension).

    Liked by 8 people

    • $9 billion has been paid out to employees which is $7,000 tax free per person to 1.3 million workers to sit at home and relax for 4 weeks. The pain of mass redundancy will soon start as employers realise that $7,000 will not last more than 4 weeks even though the government thinks it is 12 weeks payment, it is gone by next week. Another 2 weeks of Level 3 lockdown even though with access to KFC will still see an escalation in redundancies as companies pull the plug.

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  2. Couple of thoughts:

    1 – the decision making is actually quite thin… paper thin one could imagine and the analysis even thinner… part of the problem would be lack of data on what is happening and what has proven to be (see Otago modelling) to be quite flawed. This is a common problem not confined to NZ, though… its a general problem that will be a rich source of research in the future.

    2 – The decision making and analysis is as robust as it can be, however, ‘now is not the time’, or ‘you don’t need to know that’ is the approach – the MoH could easily be portrayed as hunkering down and keeping everything to itself… so that means inevitably that the OIA process will roll on to everyone’s eventual cost (time wasting etc).

    If we are to be on a ‘war footing’ so to speak, then we need a leadership that can operate on a war footing… however in that department there is a sad lack of well… pretty much everything… As the Leader of the Opposition noted – you are either in an emergency or your not; so why is the Govt still pushing through legislation that is ‘nice to have’ (giving prisoners the vote) but is clearly not urgent.

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  3. A bit like the Punch and Judy show..

    Its the Puppeteers pulling the strings ….amongst them:

    Helen Clarke and her nemesis Heather from Invercargill….
    Tony Blair, Mandelson and Alistair Campbell ..UK New Labour Inc…old teachers and more spinning than Torvill and Dean.the world stage
    Mike Williams ex Labour seer filling his lobbying pockets from the likes of Lime E scooders
    Beardy Mentor come nightwatchman..at her shoulder between collecting lobbying cheques

    The one thing they have in common besides their lack of integrity…losers on the world political and memorable STATESMEN stage.

    Interesting election in the making, all smoke mirrors and timing !

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  4. Another excellent analysis Michael. Yes the economy and the country are suffering greatly because of the degraded condition of our public service, where competence is no longer the cornerstone of appointment and advancement. Sadly in their understandable fear of the virus New Zealanders have become childishly obedient to the government at present and resent efforts to hold it to account. How long this will last is anyone’s guess, but the deluge of redundancies and bankruptcies that is about to hit us will test the faith of many. It concerns me greatly that this extreme lockdown could have been avoided if the government had acted in a timely fashion to control our borders as many were recommending through correspondence with Ministers and Ardern’s office as early as in late January. Instead, according to a recent Stuff account, we had to wait for Ardern’s friends overseas to warn her in mid March to “go hard”. There must be a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

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  5. There must be a Royal Commission.

    The banishment of the Minister of Health is a bonus. Some countries manage their daily epidemic report without any politicians. I’ll admit I prefer our combination of a bureaucrat (except for Dr Bloomfield they all seem delightfully bothered by public speaking) with a politician. An occasional opposition politician might be an improvement.

    Transparency? Do we need it – total transparency is of debateable value – maybe the Verrall report deserved a short delay before publishing just in case it caused panic. What is certain is we do not need Ms Ardern saying the word ‘transparent’ and then being the opposite. Doublespeak.

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  6. Congratulations on another great analysis Michael.

    I think I would agree with Bob that “total transparency is a debatable value” in all circumstances. It is more a load bearing fiction that can never hold fully true. Even the OIA is ‘built’ this way. For example, it allows information to be withheld when, subject to a test weighing other considerations in the public interest, it might allow the maintenance of “the effective conduct of public affairs” through exchange of free and frank opinion and so on: see section 9.

    But I totally agree that the transparency has not been nearly up to scratch, or given any confidence in the decision-making. I recently argued this closely in a letter to a couple of members of the ERC (both govt and opposition). They’ll be busy, but few will be surprised to hear that one has received no real response.

    If I may, in my view comms (and I would add institutional arrangements) in these times must serve the ultimate goal of maintaining an alteration to the social contract.

    In a “lockdown-social contract”, the authorities and public strike a temporary deal where the public accept temporary curtailment of their usual freedoms and livelihoods, and of their substantive ability to affect decisions about them. They do so in exchange for something like an undertaking from authorities that the decisions being made about them are and will be in their best interests over the full time-horizon of those decisions (a generation? two?). This requires the public to give unswerving trust to the authorities, especially with weakened constitutional checks.

    But if the nature of trust is that it is reciprocal, as we all know to be true from the experience of our own lives, then public trust in the authorities requires a reciprocal trust of the public from authorities.

    While the public have been given welcome explicit messages to this effect, some repeated just yesterday, trust from the authorities requires something better than assurances. As we also know from the experience of our own lives, trust requires not only affirmation, but something performative. Ie it requires a vigorous affirmation and demonstration of honesty from the authorities, and probably also something like a willingness to expose decisions to a range of voices before making them. It probably would not involve a police pretence to certainty about enforcing uncertain law, and welcoming the public to join in that pretence through a dob-in service. Or many many other of the things we’ve seen.

    Some will argue that what we’ve seen is “needed in a crisis”. But it would surely be hurbis to think “things are going well now”, and relate this to successful comms or even the causative effect of specific interventions. All we have to do is consider a worst case Christmas. At that Christmas, unless trust between the public and officials has been cultivated and demonstrated at every opportunity, the chances of a frayed or broken lockdown social contract are clearly heightened. It’s not nice to image what this might look like on the streets or in our homes.

    For now, we happen to be doing well on a small range of the public health indicators, albeit important ones. That is to be welcomed and celebrated. We may also be doing better than other nations. We might also celebrate that, but only after engaging with the consequences of succeeding in ‘elimination’ (did we pick well?
    can we pivot? has the meaning of ‘elimination’ ever been fixed?).

    Whatever the case, the comms, transparency (and institutional arrangements) simply do not serve the long-run maintenance of the lockdown social contract. They serve other proximate goals, like electability in 2020 or bringing a smile right now at the cost of all else. That is not “what leadership looks like”.

    I suppose it’s good to see some really interesting questions coming out of all this: the shape of a New Zealand exceptionalism; of the relative strengths and weaknesses of a gambit of ‘kindness’, viz a viz things like ‘compassion’ (which doesn’t necessarily imply kindness all the time); of the stuff like the moral question at the heart of our medical profession and current politics – that the immediate lengthened life should always be the primary concern; and of the ‘physics’ of “knowing best” when it seems mathematically true that only a very small number of people not acting in according in the spirit of distancing could indeed cause wide repeated outbreak.

    Kind regards

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    • THanks. Useful thoughts. (And, to be clear, I’m not suggesting all the internal arguments/emails etc within each agency shld be released, altho do not that section 9 of the OIA has a public interest override, and I’d say the public interest case for erring on the side of openness is pretty strong in a dislocation like this).

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    • That is to be welcomed and celebrated. We may also be doing better than other nations. We might also celebrate that,
      ———-

      Is this a contest? I shouldn’t think so…

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  7. Here is a question: is there a single country on earth that has released this information?

    I don’t think the contrarian nature of your blogging adds anything of value to the discourse I’m afraid. It may be the case that you don’t understand things, or are skeptical about this that and the other thing, but that isn’t inherently a sign of wisdom in and of itself – its more just a sign of an inflated feeling of importance. This used to be a lot more interesting blog some years ago. It’s a shame.

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    • I don’t know how much others have released, but (a) the point generalises, (b) we’ve had some very weak institutions, (c) we’ve had some very very stringent restrictions and (d) we have fewer formal checks and balances on executive overreach.

      But people are, of course, entirely free to choose to read this blog or not. For now at least, more seem to be. Different topics interest different people at different times.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Well, may I suggest you look into it then? It seems a more fundamental point than more quibbling over whether one country or the other has a more stringent lockdown at the margins (preferably beyond Australia, as there are many other countries out there – a good third of the worlds population). It may also be more interesting than more stone throwing about how inept and weak you consider basically every single institution to be. Just a thought!

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      • Personally I’m most interested in the govt of my own country. It is hardly that contentious that the quality of nz public sector institutions has been degraded – always a risk when they are so small to start with.

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      • With you 100% on this Michael.
        I had a steaming go at a family member today who said “the international media are applauding Jacinda, so should we. At least we don’t have a Boris Johnson”.
        To which my reply was – she sought the highest office in the country, from which she receives both a healthy salary and a great deal of fame (omitting of course the post-politics career on company Boards etc). She should be held to the highest standard, not the weakest (I may have uttered an obscenity at this point).
        These choices have consequences that are intergenerational. Excess debt, company failure, unemployment etc caused by an unnecessary over-reaction (I have my own opinion on this, but I’m not saying that’s for certain at this juncture) is a largely avoidable thing. The best way to avoid it (and to avoid capture by any and all lobbyists) is greater transparency, to allow leverage the wider population for peer review.
        Then be a real politician and make the hard calls in the face of the counterveiling opinions.. not a spin-manager in front of a crowd. Perhaps the time she spent working in Tony Blair’s office developed in her precisely the wrong outlook on transparency and accountability?
        Either way – give me a leader who can exercise quality intellect and judgement, and hire a newsreader to put a face to the public. Selecting a PM on their ability to spin fairy tales seems an avoidable tragedy to me.

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      • “” the quality of nz public sector institutions has been degraded “” – what evidence is there? I only arrived 18 years ago but reading your blog you often refer to decisions and policies that have clearly been failing for seventy years in NZ – for instance poor productivity growth and excessive immigration distorting the economy. There seems to have been some major economic revolution in the mid-eighties so either before or after it NZ’s public institutions must have been giving poor advice. Is there any independent report indicating a recent decline in our institutions?

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      • Interesting question. The deterioration in the last 10-15 years is pretty widely accepted as fact, although people my age have to be careful not to impose rose-tinted spectacles on memories of the heroes of our youth, in the days of the great reforms. Over the longer-term, I guess the quality probably wasn’t consistently high – in a small country perhaps inevitable. One difference of old was that top public servants had tenure, rather than on fixed term appointments. Both models have downsides.

        Not a fully satisfactory answer I know, and as regards the institution I know best – the RB – as I noted in a post the other sday many other central banks are making much the same substantive policy mistake as our RB. and yet there is generally regarded as being more intellectual heft and depth in most of those institutions. Whether it makes much difference to their citizens, who knows.

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    • I don’t think the contrarian nature of your blogging adds anything of value to the discourse I’m afraid
      ————————-

      It actually does. A great lot. In view of the sycophantic attitude of the legacy media, which are more interested in sanctifying the current PM than in providing serious analysis, this blog is a breath of fresh air, one of a very few places where such analysis can be found. It doesn’t mean that the readers have to agree with all of its conclusions; I, certainly don’t, but Michael Reddell makes me think and that’s what it’s really all about.

      Liked by 4 people

  8. Okay, that’s a no then. Best of luck with tapping away at the next ‘everybody who isn’t me is stupid, and everything should just be better’ post. Cheerio

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    • This Labour Government is either stupid or a bunch of power hungry fascists that just spits out lies left right and center. Just about every word that comes out of Jacinda Arderns mouth is calculated and exaggerated propaganda.

      There was no justification for this Police State level 4 emergency when it was first brought in. Only 2 people in ICU and zero deaths at the time. It was a panicked Youtube analysis to justify our Emergency which has cost the taxpayer already $9 billion in wage subsidies to stop people starving from joblessness. The economy has lost already $35 billion in GDP with another 3 weeks in lockdown that cost will push past $50 billion.

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      • Alas the only thing conceivably worse than the Ardern government responses to this crisis would be a Bridges government response.

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      • If our govt had followed your advice and had either no lockdown or a totally voluntary one or a very weak one we still would have no international tourism and fewer international students and a serious disruption to imports and exports. That would mean many small businesses closed down. I walked through my local usually thriving shopping area and noticed 3 shops shut from before the shutdown;with no shutdown my guess it would double and we are not a tourist area. My point being the economy would have been in trouble – obviously not $50 billion but at least a few billion.

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    • That must take the cake for a petulant and childish reply.

      Since when in a democracy is asking for transparency a bad thing, not the least during a crisis in which today’s decisions will have implications for decades?

      Supposedly the information has been produced, so it is a case of it being disclosed. If it hasn’t been produced, then that is alarming in the extreme and we should know.

      If the information is released, then we can all consider it and have an informed debate, which will enhance the decision making.

      What alarms me is how so many in this country have suspended their critical thinking and now treat the PM as some sort of Saviour from the plague and accept without question every single one of her decisions and statements; and (like your postings) attack anyone who asks for basic accountability from this PM-Saviour.

      The media are absolutely hopeless. Not one has asked why this government chose a highly restrictive “bubble approach” that seems to prioritise the elimination of all risk over every other consideration, whereas the Australian’s “activity approach” seems to be a more nuanced and balanced approach.

      We are in the midst of what could prove to be the biggest single economic disaster that has occurred in this country. We the citizens have a right to know what decisions have been made and on what basis.

      I’m very sorry that may appear disquieting to you, might open the possibility that we have made a huge mistake, but such is the price of democracy.

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  9. We have some transparency:

    International flight crew are exempt the mandatory 14 day quarantine

    Absurd MOH decision

    Absurd AirNZ decision not to go to voluntary 14 day quarantine.

    We have no transparency on the number of crew with covid19.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’ve tended to focus on international news coverage and global expert opinion around the crisis as I’ve found local disclosure shallow, local commentators largely uninformed on the whole and a near total analysis vacuum (just the occasional non-expert trying to shout louder and in a more virtue signalling way than other non-experts). It was good to see some economic reality discussed on Sunday this week, even if it was only for about 12 minutes. We are in for very tough times ahead, tougher than the rest of the world given our dependence on travel for economic activity, and we need to prepare not be kept in the dark and force fed koolaid; there does seem to be a deliberate attempt to dumb things down here and batter/troll independent commentators into submission.
    We were relatively poor going into this and will be much poorer coming out so I’d like to see information to help people position, initiatives for long term support and proactive programs to start reskilling people now. Overseas Family, friends and punters interviewed on international news are worried about jobs and income. Here they seem more worried about access to takeaways and coffee.
    Incidentally I saw a stuff article today saying the Notorious RBG was talking about government becoming more of an equity investor in private businesses. This would be a disaster. Large bailouts of a select few systemic entities (as happened previously with banks, airlines) may be debatable at the extreme, depending on how structured (preferably short term with clear exit plans) but the sentiment in the article was more about state creep which would only impair our long term productivity even more.

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  11. The question of what is the best response must be considered on the longer term (20 years is probably a good place to start), economic decline has a fatality rate all of its own. The assumption that there is going to be a vaccine in a useful time frame doesn’t look to be really robust. Which leads to the unpleasant observation that the resolution of this virus issue may still require full blown herd immunity (tracking and controlling is ultimately expense and only works till some other crisis causes a loss of control).

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I would be interested to see comparisons with other countries who do this better. Either routinely pro-actively releasing government information, and or doing the proactive release during the covid situation.

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