The problem with treating a country like a business

Recently I have been challenged in my perceptions of what this Government is really trying to do with New Zealand. And although officially the fifth National Government of this country that 4.6 million people call home are the elected officials, one wonders whether they are more suited to a corporate boardroom meeting than running a country.

I do not think I need to explain the difference between a country and a business. The differences are too obvious as is the justification for them. That said, it is worthwhile examining the philosophy behind the governance of a country as if it were some sort of commercial enterprise – if for no other reason than to see why fundamentally businesses are not nations, and vice versa.

So, where to begin – or more to the point, how far back does one wish to examine New Zealand’s history?

Prime Minister John Key is well known as a former banker. What is not so well known is a quote that can be linked to him, about how he viewed New Zealand, saying if it were a company, he would buy it. And perhaps it is here that one might tentatively say the Government started to view New Zealand as a commercial entity as opposed to a sovereign one. The divestment in assets viewed as excess to the company’s need or poorly performing on the whole has been a stark reminder of the hazards that go with electing people whose philosophical standpoint is based on dollars.

Mr Key’s comments are not the only suggestion that New Zealand be run as a company. The centre-left blog, The Standard, queried this very notion in 2013. It concluded that no, it is not appropriate conduct. The Standard pointed to ministers gloating about stripping assets taxpayer owned infrastructure companies.

Nor would Mr Key be the first to actually attempt such activity. New Zealand Railways certainly needed to be made efficient as it could not justify the depots, the large numbers of staff doing not much with their time or all of the tracks that had been laid down. However, the gutting that followed and which continues to this day has become so bad that core services the length and breadth of the country are no in question. When I have challenged rank and file National Party members on the subject the stock response is there is no place in New Zealand for trains.

Although Mr Key’s Government is not the first to attempt the asset stripping, it is certainly an active participant in it. One such example is the outsourcing of jobs, not so much by letting them go overseas as enabling large numbers of immigrants into New Zealand. They take jobs at a lower wage rate than ordinary New Zealanders and are not made aware of their legal rights. Other examples include a bill that is currently before the House of Representatives that says people who protest at seas would be considered terrorists before the law.

New Zealanders are citizens of New Zealand. Not employees of New Zealand Ltd. It is time the Government stopped treating us as such.


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