Yesterday National Party leader Simon Bridges released his party’s policy for economic growth should National form a government after the 19 September 2020 General Election.
It is almost as if Mr Bridges is determined not to acknowledge that the out worn out National Party formula of tax cuts for what it sees as middle class New Zealanders simply does not work any more. When economists who generally support more liberalised economics start suggesting that social welfare benefits need to be increased and recognize that the market will suffer from a growing portion of New Zealanders simply not being able to participate in it, that is a warning written in red ink.
National claim to be working for ordinary New Zealanders. They claim that their policies are better than those of a government that is “not delivering”, not keeping promises and whose Ministers of the Crown do no know what they are doing. Whilst no one should be surprised – and indeed this is what an Opposition is meant to do – given the lack of progress National made on socio-economic indicators during its nine years in office, the allegations that a not-quite one term Government is failing to deliver ignores a detailed list of smaller announcements.
But even without cutting taxes, Mr Bridges could free up substantial money without too much effort. I and others have long had questions about the fiscal accountability of the District Health Boards, especially after the Minister of Health David Clark found that an audit of the D.H.B.’s had $1.25 billion of red ink. Mr Clark blamed the previous Government for it, but this incident reminded me of an estimate that D.H.B.’s might cost $750 million per annum to run.
Another thing Mr Bridges could have his Government do is make good on the recommendations of any large scale reviews into the Ministry of Social Development, its form and function. It is well known that the unwieldy ways of the Social Welfare Act and associated pieces of legislation go some way towards creating the toxic relationship that sometimes arises between social welfare providers and the recipients.
There are infrastructure projects which could boost some of New Zealand’s not so wealthy provinces, which Mr Bridges could be looking at. They include a Waste-to-Energy plant that could burn waste, and generate electricity in doing so on the West Coast, an idea that has already been mooted by West Coast business leaders, but shot down by Minister for Conservation Eugenie Sage. Another one, which might be of use in Southland would be a hydrogen plant to support New Zealand’s transition to clean energy, and would create hundreds of jobs designing and building the plant, as well as many more operating it.
And then there is tax legislation itself. The tax code is like a leaky hydroelectric dam, constantly leaking and unable to reach full capacity because of said leaks. Closing the loopholes that makes New Zealand get viewed unfavourably when it comes to money laundering and other organized crimes. As well as tax evasion it would not only improve how the rest of the O.E.C.D. view us, but also bring in extra revenue that we were meant to have had all along, but which leaked through the dam.
So, if we look at what I have suggested and what Mr Bridges suggested in his speech, who has the more original approach to economic growth? And why?