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Cullen Fund cuts cost $334m

Written By: - Date published: 10:54 am, February 19th, 2011 - 24 comments
Categories: superannuation - Tags: ,

The limo issue reveals everything wrong with the Key government in microcosm: greedy, elitist, hypocritical, liars. Against the background of the failing economy, it’s one hell of a bad look. But in monetary terms, it pales in to comparison beside their decision to cancel Cullen Fund contributions, which has now cost $334 million.

Remember Bill English sitting there and telling us that canceling Cullen Fund contributions was smart because we didn’t want to be throwing good money after bad, that the Fund had lost 22% in the year to June 2009? It was always a dumb argument. Of course the Fund lost money in the financial crisis but the loses had already stopped by the time the contributions were stopped – in fact, it had made 10% in the preceding four months. The Fund had a once in a life-time chance to buy assets cheaply. The aftermath of the big crash was the worst time to stop investing in a ultra-long term fund like the Cullen Fund.

In the 19 months since the Key government canceled the contributions to the Fund, it has had returns of 37.4%. In the seven months of this year alone, it has gained $1.7 billion more than Treasury forecast.

If National had kept on contributing $150 million a month like they were meant to (and, remember, the law means this money, in fact more money, will have to be contributed later) then by now the Fund would have made an extra net return of $334 million. The contributions plus the returns would have meant we would now have $3.3 billion more salted away in government savings.

But, no. The government said we couldn’t invest in the Cullen Fund at the same time as the government is running a deficit. Apparently, you can’t invest in your country’s future with ‘borrowed money’ but you can use it to cut taxes for the rich, build holiday highways, and buy fancy limos.

24 comments on “Cullen Fund cuts cost $334m ”

  1. Rharn 1

    I bet if Key was ‘trading’ his actions would have been totaly at odds with his political decision on this issue. Either that or he is not as smart as many believe.

  2. Herodotus 2

    iven that all other spending from Nat was the same, our borrowings would have increased, cutrrent account anyone, potentially with the result of a down grading of the economy = interest rate increases. Yes remember these mortgages over 10% in 08 under Lab, and no recognition of the damage that was doing to family budgets, this with petrol over $2.20/l dairy products higher than todays gouging prices.
    And as many here comment regarding the neolib economy is about to die. So we invest more in a system that we do not believe works, not to sure of the following: logic, actions to confirm our beliefs. Also others have commented regarding the current system as a Ponzi system again if this is the case you then want to mantain the investment philosophy?

    • Marty G 2.1

      my figures account for the extra borrowing. Our net debt would be $334 million less. Ratings agencies look at net debt and gross debt but have explicitly said they are not concerned about the level of government debt – I struggle to see how an increase in gross debt of 5% and a decrease in net debt would concern them.

      “remember these mortgages over 10% in 08 under Lab.. with petrol over $2.20/l dairy products higher than todays gouging prices.”

      Are you saying that Labour made the international prices for oil and milk what they were? Are you saying that Labour controls interest rates? Please explain how. The Reserve Bank is independent and Labour was removing inflationary pressure from the economy by paying down debt and investing the Cullen Fund, rather than throwing out tax cuts which would have been inflationary.

      “and as many here comment regarding the neolib economy is about to die. So we invest more in a system that we do not believe works, not to sure of the following: logic, actions to confirm our beliefs.”

      don’t confuse neoliberalism with the idea that you can buy and sell ownership in things.

      “Also others have commented regarding the current system as a Ponzi system”

      assets have a fair value. many were undervalued during the crisis. now, if i was the Fund, I would be betting on more bleak times to come – investing in infratstructure and cash but the time to move to that is unclear.

      • Herodotus 2.1.1

        Our internal interest rates are as a result of the countries borrowings increased from 85% of GDP in 99 to 140% in 08, as does our current account deficits 8%, and i note that overseas funded state debt increased over the Lab years. All this indebtness results in higher interest rate, which was hidden before the recession by a flood on $$$$, now that $ is more valued it is harder to get resulting in relatively high interest rates.
        Marty I can only believe the govt releases, when we are informed increased debt/lack of reducing debt results in a down grading of our aa- current rating, and thus commercial and domestic interest rates. We are already (IMO) being screwed commercially with rates banks charge & their add ons that were not there 3 years ago.
        Re Res Bank- Is not Lab reviewing this law- so there was and is opportunity for this to be changed, thus the RB role is only independant as long as the current leg is in place, so the RB is open to political interferance.
        re inflation- inflation was low as a headline no, this was mainly attributable to tradeables (e.g. electronics, plasma Tv, cheaper clothing reducing in price) the non-tradable (things domestic consumers have no abilty to find offshore substitues) were 50-100% higher than non-tradeables. Again causing stress to many financially.
        My comments regarding petrol/dairy was that with increased interest rates many face in creates added stress to our budgets. Life can be damn hard to balance !!!
        “don’t confuse neoliberalism with the idea that you can buy and sell ownership in things.” but Marty much value is assessed based on P/E, asset value and other ration. If the neolib system is at maturity or decline/decay then the basis of value changes.
        And re infrastructure investment Nat have an answer to that, many of us believe that they have the answer but do not know what the question is !! 😉

        • Colonial Viper

          IMO RB doesn’t deserve to have as high degree of independence as it does today, the trend towards increasing financial crises has coincided nicely with increasing independence of central banks (and deregulation of commercial banks).

          Both private and public sector economists think they know better than politicians how to run the economy but it looks to me like they are all pretty much the same (i.e. mediocre) in actual results delivered to the mass of people.

          The RB does need more tools on hand however to work towards a wider brief of objectives – I believe Cunliffe is pretty clear on some of the changes required but its only a start.

        • SPC

          The higher interest rates came because of the RB policy to restrain inflationary demand – that is why interest rates are lower post GFC than before it.

          Given you have noted the debt figures New Zealand had in 1999 and 2008 when Labour came into and then left office. Perhaps you could mention them. The total public debt and the component parts domestic and foreign. You made some claims, care to cite figures …

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    English is an economic vandal. He clearly cares about himself and his own kids, but not the future generations of all other NZ’ers.

    The only other explanation is that he is incompetent. Its a close toss.

    • marsman 3.1

      Incompetent tosser and a vandal.

    • neoleftie 3.2

      funny story from the deep south is that bill’s wife actual runs the show and has a great say in policy esp when he was leader. Now dont get me wrong all wives/ partners are good and should have there say of course.

    • neoleftie 3.3

      Poor bill is simply a product of his environment…limited by scope and life experiences.

    • Deadly_NZ 3.4

      Well one does have to ask. How the hell someone with only a BCOM is supposed to be capable of running something as complicated as a country.

      Incompetent?? How about totally fucking useless???

  4. neoleftie 4

    speculative investment is very broad and extremely complex and has created untold trillions of wealth outa thin air and ink, most if not all have benefited from the current economic system. Without that extra created money to create extra capital in a system how does one provide the necessary growth levels to ‘float the boats’ of the citizens of a nation in a global connected macro system. Communism and even socalism are failed systems just like the open free market system.
    The unfettered or under controlled market with its fluctuations, business cycles and the hot casino money flows are the major issues on a marco level.

  5. Jenny 5

    A sign of things to come in NZ?

    Austerity measures aimed at working people and union busting go together

    “Democrats on the run in Wisconsin avoided state troopers Friday and threatened to stay in hiding for weeks, potentially paralyzing the state government in a standoff with majority Republicans over union rights for public employees.

    “The throngs of protesters — including teachers, prison guards and many students — have been largely peaceful. Police reported just nine citations for minor offenses as of Friday. But tensions were expected to rise Saturday, when conservative tea party groups planned their own rallies.”

    Republicans aborted an attempt to hold a final vote on the bill without Democrats, who had been in a closed caucus meeting. Democrats sprinted into the chamber yelling to stop the vote, and the GOP leadership retreated.
    Protester Carrie Dainty said the delay made her hopeful. “They’ll be back on Tuesday, and we’ll be here until Tuesday,” she said.

  6. lefty 6

    The Cullen fund is just another form of gambling. It could just as easily have lost a few hundred million, and probably will before long. A super fund using borrowed money to play toxic financial games was never a good idea. It just so happens that over this particular period it would have made a positive financial return, although we don’t know how much harm the companies it was invested in may have done to peoples lives or the environment in the process.
    A genuine super fund would not be based on borrowed money and would be invested in productive activities that deliver a strong economy able to pay out pensions to todays taxpayers as they age. The Cullen fund was never a good idea.
    Pension money floating around the world looking for quick returns is a major part of the structural problems the global economy faces.
    Capitalism is the problem, not whether National or Labour are administering it.

  7. kultur 7

    A move to the left is essential (in my opinion). To Keynesian principles – treat the Economy as an ecosystem – and not focus obsessively on isolated areas of “tinkering” like treating unemployment and competition for jobs as an essential for economic growth and lowered inflation – also – put people first before ideology or pure economics. Pure economics and pristine neo liberalism and freemarketeering dont allow for people or their welfare.

    The state and the economy serve the people. Not the other way round. Capitalism has failed miserably. This next election is NOT about the clark regime or the Cullen fund (clark and Cullen and their creations etc are GONE – Past – Kaput) – or what was done or not done by Labour. Key and his rich sycophants have raped and pillaged middle and lower NZ and started down a track that will see a small percentage of people benefit and the rest of us simply the hired help to service the new elite.

    The only ideology worth having – has got to be – the welfare of the people first. The planet or the environment in which people live comes in close behind – but it has to begin with the people first.

    If these NACT monsters remain at the tiller for another term – this country is well and truly buggered i reckon. Capitalism may be the problem .. but it has to begin with voting for a party that will get these monsters out on their well padded arrogant asses … Labour and Phil Goff are the only option.

    Just my opinion of course …

    • Campbell Larsen 7.1

      Kultur – not sure if you will get this since your banning, but just wanted to say that your banning seemed pretty damn petty – this site pretends to be all lefty and then some old hands (vier, rex) start taking about 9/11 and Saddam Hussain and praising John Key or defending TV3 (see my posts on quake media and leadership)
      Something fishy is afoot – Personally I think hiding behind pretend names is lame (no offence intended) but even lamer is using the bugbears of the US military machine as part of your argument here in NZ – surely only an American (and a brainwashed one at that) would reach for those tired old lines and think they were on to a winner – Who is posting here anyway? I feel like an internet dater who thought he was talking to a beautiful woman online and it turns out to be a seedy fat old man – who is also a National voter!

      • lprent 7.1.1

        1. I don’t ‘hide’, and if I had seen it first he’d have gotten a ban from me so that daft argument is facetious. Most of the bans are normally handed out by me, but just having had a heart attack,l am not that sure of my temper at present. I’d hate to hand out bans just because I’m feeling grumpy because of sore ribs. His behavior was getting increasingly closer to our guidelines. Specifically for what looked like intentionally starting and fanning flamewars. I have spent nearly 30 years watching them and they are pretty damn recognizable.

        2. The final permanent ban he got was for being stupid enough to argue with a moderator passing out a ban and repeatably violating the ban. That is in the policy as a self-matyrdom offense because it is terminally stupid. We tend to grant their implied wish and give them a sudden death.

        3. in case you hadn’t noticed yet. We’re all highly opinionated authors who frequently disagree with each other let alone with commentators. But we like to argue with people – it refines the arguments from both the left and right and green (you may notice that authors posts frequently get attacked from all sides?)

        4. But to do that we need to remove the deadwood that can’t carry an argument without dropping out into pure personality egotism and points that they cannot argue. They get in the way of everyone that does want to tear ideas apart. The moderators who ban are completely uninterested in being perceived as being nice and are monumentally uninterested in egotistical posturing.

        5. Most of the commentators who survive here can carry an argument. We like people who can tear into things. They don’t need to be nice either or have any ideas that we agree with. That means we will tolerate people most of us consider are nut bars but who can argue (Oscar comes to mind – he has interesting links and a very different viewpoint on the scientific process) and who have more of an interest in the argument than bothering to be personally insulted.

        Nice is over at kiwipolitio or hard news. We’re more like a union floor meeting with the hard nosed managers there as well (and I’d point out that that is where I came from). Quite simply we’re a forum for broad labour movement and while the authors push pretty hard on Labour, the Greens, and the Moari party to get off their arses and represent us, the authors tend to dislike the National party and Act even more.

        But that is what is stated in the about and the policy.

  8. Marjorie Dawe 8

    Thankyou Kultur. Your view is refreshing and accurate. In a society we all do well if the poorest within feel that they are doing well and are looked after.

  9. Campbell Larsen 9

    I’m glad someone else has picked up on this – I wrote the following piece for fleetfm news on 23rd of September 2009!

    It turns out that the Super fund is super indeed with the release of performance figures that show that the countries retirement plan – otherwise known as the Cullen fund – has grown by 33 % since March – taking its new value to $15.3 Billion.
    The results are on the one hand encouraging – with the fund now worth more than taxpayers have contributed– and on the other hand perhaps a sign of a missed opportunity for New Zealand – The National government reduced payments to the scheme to $250 million this year– down from the $1 billion planned- and now we can only wonder what may have been, had the extra $750 million been invested.
    A quick calculation reveals a lost potential profit of $247,500,000 a staggering figure…This is of course speculation however it does bring to mind the advice of a few months ago from the more visionary economists who preached the virtues of investing during a recession as values can only increase
    You would think that with a PM who used to be a currency trader would have understood and heeded this wisdom – but no, instead the governments contributions to the fund have been suspended for up to 11 years – meaning that the recession recovery gold rush is well and truly over for our retirement fund – almost before it even began.

    Cut to 2011 and…
    The ‘virtues’ of investing during a recession are no less virtueous now – the lingering recession means that all of NZ inc is still able to be purchased for a song – precisely the reason why Donkey and his cronies are pushing public asset sales (a bargain for their rich mates to snap up) and opening up NZ to predatory ‘foreign investment’ (and yes that includes our ‘mates’ Australia) at a time when international commodity prices (esp foodstuffs, energy and raw materials) look set to be solid earners for the foreseeable future.
    If we throw in the currancy manipulation of China and the distorting stimulus packages of the EU and US and its not hard to see that if we sell up now the ‘money’ we would recieve in return for our hard assets or successful companies would mostly be smoke and mirrors. Cam-fucious says ‘if one is getting paid in smoke and mirrors one should only be selling smoke and mirrors’

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