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Have National’s asset sales officially cost more than they’ll earn?

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 pm, September 22nd, 2013 - 51 comments
Categories: accountability, assets, bill english, debt / deficit, economy, john key, national - Tags:

In a previous post at The Standard I did a wee bit of math and came to the conclusion that National has already made $5.26 billion worth of spending promises out of the Future Investment Fund, the not-actually-a-fund chunk of cash they plan to make from selling taxpayer-built infrastructure to their mates.

Things have developed.

First, there’s this post from James, noting that the sales process itself has already cost $124 million.  And this estimate from the Greens of the cost of the Government’s interest-free loans to Meridian investors.

And then there’s this acknowledgement from John Key that the original five-to-seven billion dollar estimate for the profits from the sales are pretty much shot to hell.

So now we’re left with:

  • Maybe $5 billion in income – only 2.1 billion of which has come in so far
  • $5.26 billion in promised spending
  • $124 million in process costs
  • $55 million in bribes to investors

Costs we’re still not including:

  • National’s promise to reduce our debt by $6 billion
  • Ongoing loss of profits to the Crown, as outlined in James’ post
  • The ongoing maintenance of all the projects they’re promising to fund – because shit needs to be staffed, maintained, cleaned and managed after you’ve built it or it’s a complete waste of time.

So at the most generous estimate?

We’re already in the hole for four hundred and thirty-nine million dollars.  Taking the promised spending and costs to date away from the actual funds received?

Three point three billion dollars in the red.

That’s the sound fiscal management of the National Party.

51 comments on “Have National’s asset sales officially cost more than they’ll earn?”

  1. infused 1

    heading != actual post. $5.26 billion in promised spending != asset sales costing more.

    5 kittens died because of this post.

    [QoT: You know, honestly I don’t understand the point you think you’re making, but you can get the fuck out of this post anyway.]

    • The point he’s making is straightforward, because the word “cost” has a plain English meaning that requires no training in economics to understand. That meaning doesn’t encompass promises the government has made about what spending it will carry out; it encompasses only money spent or lost on the sales, which according to your post amounts to $179 mil + lost future revenue. You may not like his point, but it’s a valid one.

      • QoT 1.1.1

        As I said below:

        Yes, but headlining this post “Have the promised applications of the proceeds of National’s asset sales theoretically overshot the projected profits?” might be accurate but hardly clear or interesting.

        If the worst thing anyone’s going to say about this post is that I sacrificed Pure Linguistic Accuracy for the sake of a snappy title, I’m not going to cry about it. But I am going to insist that we move the fuck on and stay on topic.

  2. blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 2

    The lost revenue means that they were always going to cost more than they earn, just how long that equation takes to deliver it’s sorry little promise is the pending question.

    • QoT 2.1

      The post already noted that there’s the issue of lost revenue. The point I’m making is that promised spending from the proceeds of assets sales is already more than the (theoretical) proceeds of asset sales.

      • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 2.1.1

        I did see that, I was emphasizing the point because I think it is important, seeing as there is this view around that Nats have a good grasp on fiscal management, which I think is utterly wrong and this is a prime example of it.

        I also like your point you made about the promises totaling more than the income.

        I thought, however in this post, that you were saying that the costs of making the sales are costing more than they are going bring in?

        • QoT

          Primarily, I’m saying they’re promising to spend more than they’re going to earn. I know it’s not the whole issue – because when you take into account everything else it’s a massive hole in the “household budget” of government – but I also think that a lot of people really just aren’t that economically literate, so saying “earn $2, spend $4” illustrates the problem more clearly.

          (A conspiracy theorist could ponder whether people are kept economically uneducated precisely in order to allow the ruling powers free rein to do this kind of crap.)

          • Psycho Milt

            From what I remember, they promised to use the money to reduce debt as well as promising to spend it – I can’t wait to see how they’re going to manage that one. I know Key is meant to be one of those “smartest men in the room” who brought us the GFC, but even for one of them it would be a pretty good trick.

            • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill)

              @ Psycho Milt
              Lolz! 😆

            • lprent

              They had already spent it several times over in 2012 before the sales ever had ever happened and all of it on things that were either new spending or were one-offs.

              Directly reducing debt? Hardly. From memory, MRP and one other sale were budgeted into the 2013 budget as revenue. The amount of debt rose by the amount you’d have expected if neither the Mighty River Power sale hadn’t happened, nor did the other one.

            • Chris

              They are reducing the total debt by spending it on projects that would otherwise have been debt funded. Just because the money is not directly going to pay down debt does not mean it is not reducing the total debt of the country.

              • Tangee

                Yes debt funded at a low rate and lose a high performing asset for good.

              • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill)

                +1 Tangee

                @ Chris

                “Just because the money is not directly going to pay down debt does not mean it is not reducing the total debt of the country.”

                I’d like to see how far that argument gets you with your bank manager in the event that you have a debt to them.

    • karol 2.2

      QoT – glad you didn’t understand it either. I was having an, is-it-infused-or-is-it-me? moment.

      • QoT 2.2.1

        I presume there’s some very clever, “the spending promises aren’t direct costs of the sales” point behind it all, but given infused tried to pull the same crap on my last post on the topic I figured a swift and decisive smackdown was called for.

        • Lanthanide

          I wouldn’t call that “very clever”, I’d call it basic logic.

          Promising to spend the proceeds of a sale has nothing to do with the cost of undertaking that sale.

          • QoT

            Yes, but headlining this post “Have the promised applications of the proceeds of National’s asset sales theoretically overshot the projected profits?” might be accurate but hardly clear or interesting.

            Our government is selling assets on the basis of promises to spend the money for the good of the country. By their own figures, they are at the very least lying about where the money to meet their promises will come from.

            I’m now quite done arguing a derailing point which was only raised because infused is a fucking troll who is not welcome to comment on my posts.

  3. dumrse 3

    Have National’s asset sales officially cost more than they’ll earn? The term “officially” refers to what? Is your humble opinion official ?

    [QoT: Given that my post relies on backed-up figures predominantly from government sources, I think anyone who isn’t a fucking troll can figure out what “official” means.]

    • dumrse 3.1

      I was looking for ” pretty much shot to hell” but, as I suspected, I cannot find it in the article you have linked to. The rest are probably overstated as well.

      [QoT: Original estimated profits: 5 to 7 billion. Headline of linked article: “Asset sales will struggle to net $5 billion, says Key”. And you’re done here.]

      [lprent: dumrse didn’t pick his name lightly. His ability to understand any numbers is limited by his inability to exceed his personal digital registers. Since he hasn’t discovered his feet yet, this means he is incapable of understanding numbers past 11. ]

  4. North 4

    No, D’arse @ 3. However your exceedingly humble brain made superficially attractive by talk of the “holiday home” in Hawaii IS official. Exceedingly humble !

    Forgive me but I’d probably half forgive His Crassness if he’d shamblingly engaged the continental kissing business so mad in Parnell. And in keeping with that fine buzz said – “villa” – in Hawaii.

    What I cannot forgive is the Earl of ShonKey sitting with the Queen and simperingly telling her – “You have a magnificent ‘property’ here Your Madge !

    What ? Fucking Balmoral a fucking ‘property’ ?

    OMG The Tower The Tower.

  5. GregJ 5

    That’s the sound fiscal management of the National Party.

    Of course nothing about National’s financial management is sound – it is pretty much a complete laissez-faire approach and eschews any active management at all.

    The Future Investment Fund was just the smokescreen to what was an ideological decision to facilitate the transfer of public assets into the private sector – I doubt anyone buying the shares were in any doubt about the real purpose of the Part Privatisations, most core National Voters weren’t either, those opposed certainly are aware and the only ones who believed in it are the soft centre voters who voted for National and then probably didn’t (or could afford) to buy shares anyway.

    • QoT 5.1

      I actually can’t get over the fact that the Future Investment Fund isn’t even a fund. And I’m the person getting snarked at for using the word “cost” inaccurately.

      • GregJ 5.1.1

        Heh – yeah “Fund” – election Pork Barrel more like!

      • Brett Dale 5.1.2

        Dont knock the future, everything will be free, maybe even Pepsi.

        [QoT: Brett, make a relevant comment which shows you’ve taken half a minute to google the basic facts or click the links in the article or go away.]

        • Brett Dale

          [QoT: The standard for posting here, generally, is “don’t piss off the moderators”. This is my post and I am going to moderate it harshly because I can’t be fucked with the usual bullshit. This includes you derailing things with your uninformed non-sequiturs.]

          • Murray Olsen

            I don’t want them to sell state assets to anyone. What sort of left winger does that make me?

            Heavy? Nah, a stupid lightweight argument. A country isn’t rich because it temporarily has some cash on hand. It has to keep running things, with the added weight of private profit, and would actually be poorer by any reasonable measure.

      • anne 5.1.3

        Why don’t you do an ‘economics for dummies’ course before undertaking posts like this one.

        [karol: this looks like a different “anne” from our long time commenter “Anne” – difference of a capital letter – is this going to cause confusion?

        PS: Also, you clearly look like a new commenter, and need to read the part of The Standard policy about abusing the post authors being a banning offence]

        • Anne

          This is not the regular Anne.

          She’s been around in the past – both here and on Red Alert. Not a good role model for the real Annes…

          • GregJ

            Heh – my mother is a(an?) Anne – I normally always listen to “Anne”s 😉

            – “anne”s however – not so much? 😈

            • Anne

              Thanks GregJ. :)

              I’ve only just seen your comment due to the search function going awol. Back to normal now.

        • Colonial Viper

          Why don’t you do an ‘economics for dummies’ course before undertaking posts like this one.

          You do realise that most “economics” courses are big fat vats of laced neoliberal kool-aid, right?

          Almost every pseudo-scientific mathematical model from neoliberal economics is a bunch of falsifiable mistake ridden junk.

          The usual neo-liberal assumptions of equilibrium, price demand curves, market efficiency, rationality, role of banks, role of debt etc. All dead wrong.

  6. tracey 6

    Mr key and the nats are very clear that the last election gave them a mandate on asset sales. That mandate is presumably based on their pre election statements from them about said asset sales. One of those statements was that they would pay down debt with the proceeds. Ergo the mandate is not to sell assets it is to sell assets AND pay down debt. Those who say these do not go together must logically agree that one without the other destroys the mandate.

    I also thought tge article wld suggest actual cost had exceeded proceeds but I soon realised what qot was actually saying.

    those who have focus on her semantics have ignored john keys and the nats
    which us far more crucial.

    well done qot and james and john keys on mealeg mouthed words

    • Wayne 6.1


      If you can make investments using the proceeds of sales, you are reducing the requirement to borrow.

      Most of the investments (as pointed out on The Standard) are things that would likely have to done in any event. For instance part of the contribution for the Christchurch rebuild and CBD rail.

      In Labour’s case the money would have to be borrowed. After all, almost of you think National is being too strict with spending to get to a surplus.

      I appreciate that taxes will go up, lets say by $2 billion or so, but the spending promises will be as least as much. Or alternatively David Cunliffe’s actual promises will be less than his rhetoric would indicate.

      • QoT 6.1.1

        If you can make investments using the proceeds of sales, you are reducing the requirement to borrow.

        Only if you’re paying for things you were intending to pay for before the sale. And given the increased costs of borrowing created by the need to maintain all those lovely schools and hospitals which are going to be built, I don’t think even that argument works.

      • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 6.1.2


        ‘Reducing the requirement’ to borrow is not the same thing as ‘paying down debt’.

      • lprent 6.1.3

        There has been nothing applied or even promised from asset sales towards the CBD rail loop that I’m aware of. In fact the government hasn’t even indicated where the money will come from. But certainly not the future ‘fund’.

        They are applying some of the asset sales to the christchurch rebuild. There have to be considerable questions about them needing to do that. It rather makes a mockery of the EQC’s insurance premiums that we’ve been paying all of this time. The shortfalls appear to be significiant.

    • QoT 6.2

      Thanks tracey – and that’s a really good point about what National’s mandate actually is.

  7. Ennui 7

    Q, do you really think that the representative for Merill Lynch and his Nact cronies give a flying f**k at being fiscally responsible?

    Get real, ask the question, “Who pays?” Answer is us the tax payer (directly plus more interest to the banksters).

    “Who gets what?” Answer is the rich because they will receive the asset at a cut price, and will then up our prices so they can take a rent on the dividend…..and they wont pay tax either.

    Do you think the buyers really care about “fiscal responsibility”? Its all about asset transfer (aka theft from you and me).

    • QoT 7.1

      Oh, I don’t think they give a crap at all. But that’s the line they use to market themselves as a governing party, so shooting it down is well worth the trouble.

      • Ennui 7.1.1

        Which is where we disagree. Semantics…”fiscal irresponsibility” is just more political weasel words to Joe and Jill Public…”theft” however is an easy tag, and as they say mud sticks. And stuck mud loses elections.

        • felix

          Both approaches are necessary.

        • Wayne

          “Theft” is too extreme a term. The average NZer does not think of either of two main parties in this kind of way. They may not agree with the parties on particular issues, but they do generally regard them as acceptable alternative govts (even if not their particular choice).

          This kind of language only appeals to partisans (and only some of them) and the two parties already have the support of their respective partisans.

          • QoT

            But “lies” is a very accurate term which the average NZer wouldn’t have any problem applying to this situation.

  8. tracey 8


    this govt has borrowed 50bn. It pays less than 4% on that.

    mrp yielded 11% last year and meridian 8%.

    Ideology on this is trumped by math on this one.

    if we had a labour green govt doing this phrases like funny money and looney economics would be raised. And rightly so.

    instead if defending the indefensible maybe nothing

  9. tracey 9


    when was appkling the funds from the asset sale to aucks rail loop mandated. Can you providexa link?

  10. big brother and the screw u co 10

    85 DOLLARS minute and rising HeLLO GREECE we are closer than than thought globally possible

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