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NZ presents some of the most alluring property in the Western World; particularly given the greater easy of residency, the low cost of property, and the liveability of the country. In addition, there is no capital gains tax, transfer taxes, VAT/GST or wealth taxes in NZ, so rest assured that NZ property is tax-effective! Learn more now!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wanganui - the best property value in NZ

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The latest property affordability survey results place Wanganui first in NZ as the most affordable for living. I have lived in Wanganui for the last 3 years. We bought when the NZD was 0.53-0.55 to the USA, and that rate is now $0.80. We expect it will be fairly stable at these rates for the foreseeable future. NZ has healthy exposure to food exports, albeit premium product. We expect some trade off in volumes and prices, and otherwise a soft economic outlook. Not as bad as offshore, and we see monetary policy (i.e. yields) as a weak influence on exchange rates.

If you'd like to know more about Wanganui, take a look at this article in the local newspaper.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Is John Campbell smoking weed?

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One gets a sense that Conservative heads control NZ politics. On Campbell Live, we have John Compbell criticising the ACT Party for having two candidates with two different attitudes on a particular policy - the decriminalising of cannibis. This is a weird position to take. Surely, whatever their position, the fact that they are allowed to display an independent perspective is good in itself. Why is this so controversial? Now, we can have a debate about the merits of the issue. Oh story, John Campbell was not interested in the issue. He was far too cynical for that. Instead, he comes out with another claim....that the ACT Party purposefully caused this controversy in order to get media attention. Well, good for them!
When you consider that the media gives no air time to the minor parties, any strategy they take for getting attention strikes me as good policy. The media loves scandal, and they provided one. And then, the media (aka Joh Campbell cynically rebutts that they were looking for media attention). So why did they engage on this basis. Why don't they engage ACT on any issue, simply because exposing all significant political discourse is desirable. No, that is not the role of the media. The role of the media is:
1. Appeal to the interests and values of the two major parties because they are alligned or relevant to most people
2. Attack minor parties for scandalising issues in order that they may gain some media exposure.

Sadly, the minor parties once again get the short straw. No wonder we have no hide of a chance of getting a third force in parliament. Your choice? No choice. Just a pretense of one.

The poll conducted by Campbell Live showed that 72% of voters believe in decriminalising cannibis. Rest assured that this sample is not representative of the population. Why? Because:
1. The affirmative voters care a great deal about the issue
2. The repudiating voters care less because its just one issue, and they probably don't think it will change.
There is a symmetrical distribution of sensitivity to the issue. Remember - the issue was knocked down by ACT Party Member for Epsom - John Banks, so this issue is going nowhere.

Cannibis should be delegalised, but in a specific context:
1. In the short term 'strictly' for health reasons
2. In the long term when people display a respect for facts and rationality
There is no prospect for that under democracy, because it places perceptions above facts and evasion/repression above rationality.
Brash's rationalism and Bank's pragmatism are both wrong, but then, its not core policy, and at least as a party, they have the freedom to display their own views. Where is the personal integrity in the other parties, which are in fact governed by a form of majoritism-based extortion. Take for example, my local National MP Chester Burrows. He complains to people opposed to the closure of a local DoC's office. "My hands are tied. I've vented my views to the caucus. Its all I can do. You will have to accept my assertion on faith". Even if this were true; it does not serve the electorate he represents to have just a 'vote' for his electorate, but a voice outside the caucus as this will have influence beyond his electorate. Mind you, that would be extortion too, but at least he would be representing his electorate, if that was ever his objective. Nope, as he made clear, its his position first, electorate 2nd, and there is a huge conflict of interest in between. Compare that with the ACT Party representative. He expressed both party and non-party positions at a political meeting.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NZ net immigration numbers

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Have you been wondering why Kiwis living moving abroad has come to an abrupt halt. I can think of several reasons:
1. The earthquake threat has waned. There are a few 4+ earthquakes; but after a 6+ magnitude quakes, anything less starts to look commonplace; particularly after you realise that all the weakly constructed buildings have fallen; and that anything which posed a threat to life was probably in the CBD. Why? Most houses are made of wooden construction or are single floor dwellings. The greatest threat is probably the old brick chimneys.
2. The strong commodity prices are falling back as punters take their money off the table. These falls have yet to take their toll on the NZ rural market, nor the currency. In any respect, these revenues tend to be protected by corresponding falls in commodity prices. They do however provide a window to buy new machinery offshore. The fact remains, the important agricultural business activity in NZ is going to be doing ok.
3. The World Cup - Who is going to be going overseas during the World Cup - unless you are leasing out your house for $3000/month.
4. Australian slump - The commodity price slide is likely to take the strength out of Australian markets, though it will recover. Nothing can keep them down; as lower commodities denominated in USD are offset by weakness in the AUD, which spared the local economy much impact, as long as volumes are maintained. Australia is closer to China and Asia, than Chile, Brazil and South Africa, so it tends to benefit on the volume side.
5. British visas for NZ'ers look like being severely restricted. Given the lack of business confidence in the UK, this is likely to be a bigger threat to existing UK residents than those contemplating going over. Thus we might expect a flood of Kiwis to return to NZ. This of course will mean more Kiwis going to Australia, given the relative strength of its economy.
6. Earthquake reconstruction - You might not want to live in Christchurch anymore, at least not for the lack of things to do, but consider that most of the 'earthquake threats' have been knocked over by the series of earthquakes, and anything new is going to be built to NZ standards. Japan has greater vulnerability to earthquakes, and has been living with them without much trauma. The tsunami threat was under-estimated or even ignored. A single governor in the north made provisions. In that city; they lost just one life. Praise to that critical, conceptual thinker who 'saw around corners' what others chose not to acknowledge. The reconstruction of Christchurch will become a source of employment over the next 5 years; the question is - will it attract new job hunters or result in higher home construction costs. My guess is the later.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hostility towards Australians

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Kiwi hostilities towards Australians are deep-seated and they are not a recent development. The bitterness has come to the attention to Aussies here for the World Cup because the two nations are placed in a position of drinking, competitiveness, and being placed next to each other at a game for several hours is likely to result in spitting, etc. The fact that it can happen to multiple people, and because the issue is 'timely' because of the disparity in treatment of Australians, we might expect the media to comment. But my experience tells me that there is deep-seated and long-term issues with NZ's collective self-esteem. Let me give you a flash back to when I first came to NZ in the 1990s.
Experience 1: Having just landed in Auckland, I made the mistake of presenting a $A10 instead of $NZ10 to the car park attendant. Yeh, you'd think I'd realise that I was in the wrong country, but they are so similar, it did just feel like I was in Australia, most particularly perhaps because I was in a mundane looking car park and tired. The response by the attendant was less than courteous. As if I had insulted her.
Experience 2: Talking to a NZ'er in a bar he was surprised that I had pleasant things to say about NZ...as if we were only negative about the place. I must admit to joking with an American about how backward Wellington was in 1990. Why? Because there were weatherboard homes next to the airport, and so close to the city. NZ cities are far more cosmopolitan now, and there are many more choices to go. And unlike at those times, you can now go out without people being polarised by the rugby....as if that was life. The reality is that...NZ is boring, quiet and 'undeveloped'. That is a point of derision if you appreciate the excitement, fun and choices of a big city. The feeling is the same if I fly from Tokyo to Sydney, my home town. NZ is more boring, and I can't even credit it with being different.
Experience 3: In the early 1990s I bought a Korean girlfriend to NZ. We went to a bar and joked at a bar that I needed to split my Australian and NZ coinage. I expected a barb of some type, and even set her up for it. I was surprised when her 'We expect that from Australians' was far more bitter than I expected. No mistake; she was adamant when I queried her. I wondered what I'd done to offend her. Two possibilities occurred to me at the time. (i) She was a racist and disliked that I had bought a Korean into their bar, (ii) She resents tourists because her local customers resent tourists, and I was an Australian, so that was worse. (iii) I failed on both issues.
Experience 4: I was listening to the radio when I heard some radio station play an advert with the advertiser saying 'Product on sale....come and get them before the Aussies do'. This was very funny to here, but clearly suggests even the advertisers see a deep-seated disdain for Australians they can use.

In the end, you just learn to shut up. They don't even know you're an Australian unless you tell them. Clearly not all NZ'ers are too proud to love Australians. My mother's boyfriend is NZ. He's a charming guy in NZ when I met him here, but so uptight in Australia.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NZ - we steal your thunder

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As an Australian living in NZ for the last 3 years, I care little about rugby, but I know that my house would be vandalised if I placed a flag up for the World Cup - or for any other reason - if anyone even differentiated the flags. When I first arrived here, a Kiwi who's be living in London warned me that Kiwi's take criticism very personally. When I came for a holiday here a few years ago, and said how great the place is, a Kiwi was surprised, arguing that we could only say bad things about the place. I think Kiwi corporate advertisers do not help because they accentuate the vitriol, i..e One advertising campaign "Come and get (their products) before the Aussies".
I thought this funny, but wondered about how deeply-entrenched this loathing for Australians, because you would never see adverts like this in Australia. We look to the world, and we see opportunity.
Kiwis look to Australia, and see their relatives enjoying higher incomes, a better, sunnier life, and they hate us for it. There is nothing unique about it. The Canadians hate the Americans; the French hate the English, etc.
Our banks rip you off (like they rip Australians off), we take your workforce (after you paid for them), we are bigger, so we tend to get more attention for 'Down Under'.
It strikes me that NZ really needs to discover oil, so it can become a commercial centre of significance. It needs an ego boost to resolve its diminished self-esteem.
It does not help when John Key says he will close the gap with Australia.
The reality is that - the wage gap - or anything is not going to be closed until John Key kickstarts oil exploration and discovers the stuff.
Australia has some natural advantages which NZ simply cannot match - resources. There is $750 billion of planned investment in Australia - the solution is that - it should not define itself on the basis of Australia.
If they did, they would have to sacrifice their lifestyle like the Japanese - just to catch up with the Americans - and look how unhappy they are.
NZ has its own personal and unique context - it needs to set its own 'reasonable' standards....and forget about Australia. Stop making them the centre of your reality. You will always be the smaller brother, unless you want to change your values and import 50million immigrants. But then, you will not be NZ.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Safety is a dirty word for ETS scheme

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The NZ government has found a rationalisation not to adopt the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The reality is that aside from these pragmatic reasons, it was never committed to adopting it, and was always relying upon the rejection of Julia Gillard's ETS scheme as a justification for its belated cancellation. With Julia Gillard fighting a strong opposition in Australia, vulnerability given her weak polls, there is good reason to think the policy will be dropped.
Of course we are not supportive of the ETS because we rejected the quality of science underpinning the claims. The reality is that this is a 'snow job' by liberal-leaning scientists. We need to understand that 86% of scientists are liberals sympathetic to environmental causes. They are people lacking critical thinking skills, lacking knowledge of economics, and in many cases the education to grasp that capitalism, markets, nor selfish materialism is the problem. What they don't realise is that - their anti-intellectualism is the problem....but since an apprehensive community is inclined to accept 'better safe than sorry' arguments, we are destined to be lead into a pursue of 'appearances' as a basis for decision-making.

Monday, September 12, 2011

NZ - high electricity costs were part of your game plan

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You might wonder how NZ is stacking up in the energy savings stakes. Well, I have just written this article in response to a NZ Herald article suggesting that power demand is flat in NZ. We need to remember of course that the population growth rate is also flat. But there are other factors as well. Consider the issues here.
NZ power is among the most expensive in the world. My power bills here are as much as I would pay in the Philippines or Japan; the most expensive countries for power in the world. The difference of course is the following:
1. Japan imports all its coal, uranium and gas (as LNG), and the Philippines is very similar; even worse in the sense that most of its power is purchased from independent foreign companies under very unfavourable contractual terms accepted by the Ramos administration.
2. NZ power costs of production on average are the lowest in the world thanks to the fact that 70% of electricity generation comes from 'free fuel' hydro plants, the capital cost of which was fully-written off over 40 years of operation, but recapitalised when these corporations were sold off. Was this a good divestment for NZ? I suggest not given the lack of real and effective competition because all electricity is now sold at prices to justify small increments of electricity capacity increase at the 'margin' to meet demand. In fact, with flat population growth, there is little real need for new capacity. So why the increase in prices? Well, I guess its because the operators can, and their shareholders demand, stronger profit growth that they can deliver. Its a choice between investing offshore, in which case they are a minor player, or extorting wealth from NZ. Yep, you guessed it, extortion is more profitable and safer given that you already have the relationships with business.

If memory serves me correctly, these assets were sold by a Labour government, and supported by the National Party. It was not good decision-making given that:
1. These assets were sold too cheaply to foreigners
2. High electricity prices are an obstacle to national savings and investment

I guess, if you are a greenie, high electricity prices are good for the environment, because paying exorbitant prices diminishes your capacity to afford electricity. So you can well appreciate the 'post-industrial' lifestyle of the cavemen because you will be living in a nirvana when you can't afford what they could not even conceive of.

The good news is that real wealth generation is occurring as well as the extortion. The extortion is really just a means by which business offset the cost of government, i.e. Basically business passes these costs of government on to the consumer in higher prices, because government is an 'instrument of the people, apparently for the people'. You might want to question that wisdom. hehe. Universal suffrage was not such a good game plan after all. hehe.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The toxic New Zealand market place

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In previous articles, we have raised the spectre of poor infrastructure and servicing in the NZ economy. We drew attention over the last few years to train stoppages, power outages, road quality, economic regulation, the high cost of food, petrol and electricity.
It all reaches a crescendo with the Day 1 of the World Cup Rugby. The World Cup was supposed to be a boon for tourism, and to focus attention on the country. It has certainly done that, but it has not exactly been a positive. The highlights so far:
1. Train stoppages which caused 'green' patrons to miss their World Cup game
2. Binge drinking highlighting what rugby is really about - an excuse for a drink.

This is Western culture at its best. Working hard doing some job you don't enjoy, for the sake of some intoxication over a game.

This week we have witnessed further news of an ongoing stream of New Zealanders going to Australia. Our neighbours have just come back from the Gold Coast. They could not speak more highly of the place. Contrary to all the media talk, if you are employable in NZ, you will get a job in Australia. Those that can't here, can't get there.

There are several problems in NZ. Conservative politics which suggest there is too much regulation in NZ. Contrary to this 'economic rationalism', there is actually too little. The reason there is too little is because the only way business can make a profit here is by:
1. Relying on government sponsored extortion, i.e. The privatisation of electricity which locked in high electricity prices by pricing capacity at the 'high cost' margin, i.e. Never mind that 70% of capacity was free when it was a government asset. A boon for the government upon sale? No, actually the benefit went to investors as electricity prices rise endlessly in this 'non-competitive' market regime.
2. Plan old business extortion where you offer poor service, make misrepresentations, over-charge, etc. We have had so many such issues in NZ, that it truly places NZ on par with the third world.
3. Government extortion is another game played in this market, where governments attempt to extort wealth from private investors in order to conceal their failings. Take a look at this extortion by Wanganui District Council. In this case, its a foreign businessman being extorted by the government.

NZ would be a very pleasant place if government could actually orchestrate growth and deal with the embedded injustices and social problems. Don't expect any of those developments with a pragmatic PM. I recall a libertarian businessman being enthusiastic upon the appointment of John Key to the NP leadership. What was he thinking?

Leadership of John Key, National Party, NZ

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In an interview with PM John Key, he has this to say about his management of the Christchurch crisis:
February 22 in Christchurch. "I didn't lightly say 'We've lost at least 65 people' on that night," says Key. The number came from the police, "but I also knew that if it was terribly, terribly wrong – if it was, say, 10 people – I thought, well, I'll have to go as prime minister."
You what? It seems after Key had announced that death toll and was heading for bed, officials came back and "they said, 'Oh, we're not quite sure exactly now'.
"I remember waking up and thinking, if it's 10 [people] in the morning, I'll resign. Just because you can't mislead the country."
I find these remarks terribly contrived. This is a campaign pitch to show his sensitivity and his caring. It fails miserably. The pitch is understandable, because having heard his campaign pledge in Wanganui in August, the PM sounds like a CEO rather than the moral leader of the country. Rather than outline the principles of his government, he made some crack about the World Cup. This was the 'populist' move; it just wasn't the right one. Whether politicians benefit from associating themselves with football is one thing, in the context of his speech, it left his point rather empty or seriously pragmatic. i.e. It conveyed that he has no capacity to achieve his plans; but neither does his opponent.
John Phillip Key, 50, has wanted to be prime minister since he was 10, around the same time he told his mother and sisters he wanted to be a millionaire.
That's interesting John, I've wanted to be PM since I was 15-16yo, and I too wanted to be a millionaire. The difference between you and I is several things:
1. Preparation: I actually had a greater many ideas on how to be PM at 15-16yo; whereas you would have had no clue at 10yo. So what was your motivation? From that age I have constantly worked feverishly on public policy; studied philosophy, psychology, history, law, economics, finance, accounting, etc. Being a forex trader actually does not entail much skill or knowledge that is applicable to leading a nation.
2. Goals: Unlike you, I stopped wanting to be a millionaire, at least as a primary objective, when I studied philosophy. Upon doing that, I realised that money was a curse without the right values. Yes, the kind of pragmatic values you embrace, which culminates in a National Party policy platform, full of rhetoric and based on incoherent pragmatic values. Its all about money. No principles, no framework for achieving those values. How are you going to reduce crime John? How are you going to raise the self-esteem of unemployed Kiwis? How are you going to boost NZ's pitiful labour productivity?
"Depending on your prejudices, you could argue either that Key has managed a series of external crises pretty well, or that catastrophic earthquakes and a mining disaster, plus a global financial crisis, have provided great excuses for a government that has achieved precious little".
Prejudices aside, I would argue that he has achieved very little. The Christchurch earthquake and Pike River neither helped or hindered him. They were operational issues, and his 'scripted' entry was brief and uninspiring. Christchurch's mayor was far more impressive, as it should have been. His 'management of the global financial crisis' was absent. Where was John for the last 10 years (2000-2010), during which time the incipient financial crisis arose; transpiring in the Asian Currency Crisis, the derivatives issue, the fiscal and monetary stimulus? John Key was silent during this period. He was not a 'man for the people', he was a man advancing his own party interests. I, in contrast, have been discussing the 2008-2014 financial crisis since 2001, and started blogging about it since 2005. One of thousands of bloggers mind you. John was too busy making money. So John, do you find public service compatible with your own personal financial interests? In contrast, my 2nd post was about the financial crisis unfolding.
"What is inarguable, though, is that Key is even more popular now than when he came to power – a recent poll gave him a 70% approval rating as prime minister".
That is because he is actually very inaccessible and 'staged'. i.e. He is not very accountable for his performance given the poor opposition. He ought to have been an actor. He might have drawn inspiration from Ronald Reagan. And these is plenty of money in acting. What John will eventually realise is that popularity is very fickle. There one second, gone the next. He has one more term left in him...by default. He was also very fortunate to have inherited a 'commodities-based economy', and food commodities at that. He was slow to promote oil exploration, and even then, his efforts have been less than impressive. Promoting household and business cost cutting has been less than impressive - it does not need to mean stop spending. This is the problem with politicians, they equate economic activity with spending as opposed to productivity based savings or advances. More output for less.
"Key described as "farcical"...that family members were releasing names of the deceased to media, yet the names were still not on the missing person list. Furious, he got on the phone. There was swearing involved. "They were forced to make a public apology the following week." What made him lose his rag was that "they did it deliberately to make me look cold and heartless. And that wasn't fair". The poll results suggest Key's efforts to avoid looking cold and heartless have, in general, worked".
This comment is rather telling. John Key had lost control of the agenda, and he was obsessed about his image....about perceptions. Surely a man who is not going to change a bad system.
He says "know it takes time. We don't have a history of one-term governments... and I think that's an indication that the public votes governments out rather than oppositions in".
This is code for 'please accept us on faith'. Why do I say that? Because there is no 'reasonable Kiwi' who could argue that John Key has done anything that really better positions the country for the future. Its been all fighting brush fires. Voters are going to wake up and realise that, in 2012 he will benefit from heightened economic activity because of Christchurch rebuilding, and that is about it..and sold off a few state assets. All he has done so far is retrench a few public servants from the tax office and other departments. Two cheers for that! Read it all at the Dominion Post.

Monday, September 5, 2011

John Key and suicide prevention

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A number of youth suicides in the Wairarapa region of New Zealand has raised fears of a possible 'mass teen suicide'. The government or police have of course discounted that possibility; though of course they would say that. We might wonder if there are any reasons for people to commit suicide. The simple answer is that - 'life is a value; and there is no value in death', and no prospect of 'turning it around'. The problem of course is that if you have a generalised state of disappointment for your disposition; this is going to manifest in some pretty tragic assessments of your future. What is a person to do, given that:
1. The poor state of education - Yes, John Key says NZ has the 4th best education system in the world. Yeh right, and what are you comparing NZ to---26 OECD countries with the same poor system? Academic relativism is not a very sound basis to assess an education system. Also consider the likely disconnect between wealthy private schools in the cities and rural schools with less aspirational cultures. i.e. Consider that Masterton, the location of this suicide 'pool' or 'pact' is a rural location, and you have some reason for youth to consider the quality of their preparation for life.
2. Job prospects - Here are kids who were probably itching to get a car, get their own job, escape autocrat parents; but they can't because they have no skills or job experience to get traction in the workforce, and even less hope of going to Australia.
3. Complete political denial - Of course we have government in an absolute state of denial; looking to cut costs rather than spend more money. Not that its solely about money; its about values, and pragmatic John Key is a man who can create a corporate spreadsheet, but he is not too good when it comes to personal psychology. Why would he, 'there's no money in it'. Don't expect any better from Labor.
4. Population stagnation: If you want to retain your party control of the economy, then you can't reasonably expect to have a monopoly. You at least need a pretense of choice - a 'two party democracy'. It seems to fool everyone. The price of centralised control of course is slow-paced decision-making. Universal suffrage makes it every harder because there are a lot of scared people in the country, and its easier for politicians to just pander to their every whim, rather than educating them. This kills productivity of course; so you have to look for 'artificial stimulus'. The problem for John Key is that Helen Clark already ran the economy into the ground, driving debt to the ceiling means the country can no longer 'pay it forward'; and no one wants to immigrate to NZ, so the debt per capita just keeps growing. It's a tough gig for a PM. Everyone keeps talking about Australia.

John, I'd get those constant voices checked out mate 'Australia's growth phenomenon', "Australia's growth prospects', 'Australia's $700 billion in planning mining investments'. I swear this is going to his head because he was utterly deluded this past week. In Wanganui, I swear he said NZ's growth was stronger than Australia's in this past quarter. Of course, Australia did have state-wide floods and softer metal prices, but it did not stop him from ignoring a decade of stronger economic data from Australia, and far better productivity. Way to go John!

But John is not a fool. He does listen. For over a year I have been constantly talking up the prospect of an oil discovery saving the country. Finally he is listening, and is encouraging oil exploration. Personally, I would be throwing $50 million a year of government money at grass roots exploration, and then placing all title in a state enterprise; and I'd be encouraging wealthy people to buy stock in projects floated off. Certainly, you don't want government owning such assets, but since there is a concept of 'national sovereignty', NZ may as well retain the value of such oil potential, rather than too readily surrender it to international and local executives, who just profit at the nation's expense. I think I know why these youths are killing themselves. Maybe they just didn't learn at school how to become an overpaid oil company executive. Kids today! They have such high expectations. In my day, we had to drill for our own water supply.

The good news is that - if NZ discovers a large pool of oil....in 20 years NZ might just have a $US1 trillion investment fund to spend up big time. That's a lot of money for 4mil people. Rest assured other people will love NZ a lot more by that time. We just tend to think positive thoughts. You know, like those thoughts for 'good governance' you have been having since the 1840s that never get answered. You know; those hopes that drove people to crusade for universal suffrage, allowing every idiot to vote.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The NZ-US alliance - convenient partners in war

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Reading the latest news from Afghanistan - or at least NZ's contribution to the war in Afghanistan - it is clear that the rationale for the NZ presence is simply political, i.e. Broaden the support for the war as widely as possible by involving as many countries as possible.
Is that a problem? No, not if you mind perceptions (as opposed to facts) driving decision-making. But herein is the essence of public policy making in the West. No respect for facts.

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