31 May 2008

Short Term Memory Loss or the Rogers Return.

The re-emergence of the two Rogers - Douglas and Kerr - is a dis-quietening reminder that New Zealand appears to suffer from political short term memory loss. These two campaigners for slash & burn economics have crawled out from the shadows to hold forth on the direction the Labour Government has taken the country in since they were consigned to the political scrap heap to claim that they, and only they, have the answers that will guide New Zealand towards the economic nivarna they campaigned for during the 1980s. What both Rogers and their acolytes fail to acknowledge is that the country and economic policy has moved on and that the 90 day focus policies espoused by them have been discredited and, where they were trialled, found wanting.
The economic policies favoured by the Rogers is called “90 day focus” as they were developed in the attempt to solve a perceived problem in the shortest possible time... i.e. before sufficient analysis was done into the possible long term consequences of their implementation.
These policies were based on what Pulitzer prize winning author, Jared Diamond, in his book - Collapse - Why Societies Fail, describes as being where economists rationally attempt to justify irrational focuses to short term problems by “discounting” future profits. They argue that it is better to harvest resources today rather than leave the resource intact on the grounds that the profits from today could be invested and the interest accumulated between now and then could be more valuable than retaining the resource.
This policy relies on the fact that those who may reap the bade consequences that occur in the future from such short term initiatives can’t complain and don’t, at present, vote thus giving the advantage to those who control the government in the present.
For those who don’t suffer from short term memory loss would recall the selling off of Air New Zealand, N.Z. Rail, Telecom and the Electricity industry to private enterprise apparently to encourage long term investment in the country. The results of this policy are self evident... the transport industries were run down, asset stripped until the Government was forced, in the country’s best interest, to buy them back and pump resources into them to ensure progress.
Because of a lack of centralised planning and investment the deregulated and un-coordinated Electricity Industry pleads that it cannot survive without treating the resource as a scarce commodity that means increasing prices in order to ensure high returns to the shareholders while failing to ensure that generating capacity is maintained and increased.
While Telecom set about abusing the virtual monoploy they were given in an effort to stifle the competitors who were meant to encourage Telecom to invest in the infrastructure and keep prices down to the benefit of the consumer. Now, in the only policy officially released by the National Party, Telecom would, under Slippery John, benefit from a taxpayer funded cash injection of $1.5 billion to provide a faster broad-band system with no guarantee that the tax-payer would receive a quantifiable financial return from the private overseas company that owns Telecom.
Let’s all pray that the collective memory of the demonstrable failure of the Rogers’ economic policies returns and that those who espouse them are subject to intense and critical scrutiny before image gets in the way of substance during this election year.

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