RIP Kiwibank

By now most Kiwibank customers will have had their email from CEO Paul Brock telling them he wanted them “to be the first to hear the big news”. Though most would have already read about it in their daily newspaper.

The big news is that the ACC investment fund and the National Superannuation Fund have bought a 47% stake in Kiwibank. Evidently Kiwibank customers are expected to be over the moon with this deal.

Sorry Mr Brock, don’t expect us to join the celebrations. Kiwibank as we know it has gone. Continue reading

Social Investment: Social Failure?

The terms ‘social’ and ‘investment’ are an unlikely combination. Proof economists have crossed the final frontier and sallied forth with their spreadsheets into social services. Social investment means, “investment to achieve better long-term results for people and helping them to become more independent. This reduces the number of New Zealanders relying on social services and the overall costs for taxpayers” (Treasury briefing paper on social investment 2016).

To be blunt, the social investment approach is too narrow and too nasty. It involves too much invasion of privacy, too much blame, too much resentment about sharing our collective wealth for our collective benefit. And it paves the way for government-funded social service delivery to be just another profit-making opportunity for overseas corporations. Continue reading

Over-balancing the Books

Good news, of sorts; the nation’s books balance, even over-balance. It transpires there is a spare $1.8 billion left in the coffers, according to our Minister of Finance Bill English.

If running our nation were a business, this would be a great success. But it is not a business. Our government’s job is not to make a profit. Our government’s job is to manage our collective wealth in a way that benefits everyone who lives here. Underspending has dire consequences. Continue reading

What We Could Do With Our Superannuation Fund Today Instead of Squirrelling It Away

Our national superannuation fund will never completely cover annual superannuation payments. It will just provide a small top-up, eventually, maybe. The fund currently stands at $30.1 billion, but it could all disappear in a puff of smoke if there is another financial crash. Continue reading

30 Years of GST is 30 Years Too Many

The 1st of October 2016 marked 30 years since Roger Douglas and his Labour government dropped the tax rate for New Zealand’s wealthy from 66% to 48% (and later 33%) and gave the rest of us GST.

GST was a bad idea in 1996 and it is an even worse idea today. It means that everything we pay money for is 15% more expensive than it needs to be – from doctors visits, to prescription charges, to school uniforms, to food. Continue reading

International Basic Income Week

Monday 19th September to Sunday 25th September is International Basic Income Week. A universal basic income (UBI) can perhaps best be described as a social dividend for the modern world, generated by all the work that has been done by previous generations to build the technology and infrastructure and develop the society we live in today.

The basic tenets of the unconditional/universal basic income are that everyone is entitled to receive this dividend on an individual basis. UBI is independent of marital status or household configuration. As a human right, UBI does not depend on any preconditions, such as an obligation to look for paid employment or to be involved in community service. Nor is it means tested. Everyone gets it whether they are in paid work or not. And the amount should provide for a decent standard of living. It should prevent poverty and provide the opportunity to participate in society and to live in dignity. Continue reading