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Dutch disease

Written By: - Date published: 5:10 pm, June 21st, 2011 - 69 comments
Categories: Economy, exports, monetary policy - Tags:

No it’s not a virus. It’s our dollar surfing on a dumper. Here’s how Neville Bennett describes it:

There is increasing evidence that New Zealand is ailing. The symptoms are a high exchange rate, excessive foreign debt and a decline of the manufacturing sector. This is often called the Dutch disease which is defined as a development that results in a large inflow of foreign currency, which in turn causes an appreciation of its currency, making its manufactures too expensive for others to buy.

Gareth Morgan also writes about it in today’s Herald.

The most concerning outcome is that New Zealand will swing on the end of an unsustainably high currency until the economic damage wrought warrants a major change. That damage would come via a hollowing out of our non-commodity producing businesses, no correction in our household savings rate and in time, a balance of payments/external debt crisis as those factors conspire.

Any amount of commentators from the Prime Minister on down tell us that all is well, we are on a path to growth (eventually), and nothing can be done about our dollar that has risen from a little above 50cents US in early 2009 to over 80cents now. This volatility also makes it impossible for borrowers to plan for future growth and expansion. The dollar’s current level also provides a headwind for our economy according to Bill English.

Treasury are holding a conference later this week on macroeconomics. I don’t know whether Neville Bennett and Gareth Morgan will be there – I hope so. It is high time that we got some fresh thinking into our economic planning. The neoliberal recipe the 1980s Treasury adopted from the monetarist Chicago school has not stood us in good stead.

Neville Bennett does not believe nothing can be done. He offers some ideas, supported by the IMF. We need more thinking like this.

69 comments on “Dutch disease ”

  1. Jim Nald 1

    At this point, am I allowed to chant the Government’s mantra …

    We can’t do this,
    We can’t do that,
    We can’t do anything,
    This is out of our control,
    That is out of our control,
    Everything is out of our control.

    (recite 170,000 neoliberal times)

    • Rusty Shackleford 1.1

      Aren’t they borrowing a ton of cash? I wouldn’t call that doing nothing.

      • Jim Nald 1.1.1

        Wow. Let’s all go to sleep. No need for that Treasury conference.

      • lprent 1.1.2

        Paying for their silly tax cuts?

        The Nats do one little political screwup, and I am expected to pay for it for the next 9 years. I thought we’d gotten through tha type of fiscal irresponsibility in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. But nope somehow we are meant to have 170,000 jobs appear based on a average from a period when we did no have a do nothing government….

        They should average from the jobs growth in the 1990’s when we last had these clowns around. Deeply negative to flat. That would be a more appropriate measure.

        • Deadly_NZ

          And the biggest problem is how bad will it become if these incompetents are re elected ?

          • Colonial Viper

            1 in 6 NZ’ers have decided not to find out and have already left.

            • Lyall

              “one in six have ….already left” Really? over 600,000 people have left? Evidence please that 600,000 people have left New Zealande permanently?

              • McFlock

                Not permanently. Just until National are out.

              • Colonial Viper

                600,000 Kiwis living in just Australia buddy. When you add up the rest of the world it comes to a million people now.


                1 in 6 NZ born Kiwis have already fucked off out of this country. Wake up mate this is a national disaster which has been in the making for decades.

                Now stop wasting my time asking for “evidence” “Lyall”.

                • Lyall

                  “1 in 6 NZ’ers have decided not to find out and have already left.” Did they all leave in the last two years ? Thats seems to be the point you’re trying to make. Its a fact that they have been leaving since the 1980’s and even when Labour were in power, don’t you think? Or are you saying that ALL 600,000 left since 2008? I think fact based evidence is a much more forceful way to make a point, rather than hot air, indignance and noise.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    I’m not saying that this has happened since 2008. (Even though the records are being set under National’s inept plan-less leadership).

                    New Zealand has been going down the wrong neoliberal track for roughly 30 years. Net migration to Australia was even a big enough issue for Muldoon to comment on.

                    I think fact based evidence is a much more forceful way to make a point, rather than hot air, indignance and noise.

                    In case you haven’t noticed, allow me to state definitively that I don’t give a flying fuck about conforming to your standards of decorum. National is going down hard in November.

                    And the Bankster Occupation of NZ must be ended.

                    • Blue Rain

                      What if they don’t Viper, what if the inept and lying Labour Party don’t win? Will you be doing us all a favour and leaving as well as the 600,000 you seem to think vanished in the last two years? Go on do us a favour go to Aussie and “increase the IQ’s of both countries”.

      • prism 1.1.3

        Rs It would be more correct now to say a tonne of cash. Can’t you get anything right?

    • KJT 1.2

      A company manager and board of directors would be sacked if they said. “We will not do any long term strategic planning. The market will sort it out”.

      How is it when the same people get into Government “the market will sort it out”????

      Well the market cannot and will not!

      The difference between us and Singapore or China is their Governments plan for the long term.

      “An aspiration is not a strategy”. (Not sure who to attribute this).

  2. Dan 2

    So even if we could lower the dollar, what would you then do about the surging price of petrol that would also seriously harm the prices of business inputs? We can’t win either way.

    • KJT 2.1

      Start doing what we should be doing anyway. Replace hydrocarbon fuels with renewables.

      Currently the spend on importing energy is over a billion a year.
      There are good environmental and economic reasons for reducing our dependence on imported energy.

      Not to mention the boost to local industry by becoming leaders instead of slow followers in alternative technologies.

      • Rusty Shackleford 2.1.1

        KJT, if the investment is a lock and you are on to something, you owe it to yourself to borrow the cash to set it up yourself. Not only will you be doing a service to the whole of NZ, but you become a rich man (or lady) to boot! Seems like a no-brainer to me. Good luck!

      • queenstfarmer 2.1.2

        And that would be cheaper than surging petrol prices how? Nice idea, but who’s going to pay for it. As with so many “green” initiatives, the super-rich can afford them no problemo, but the rest of us can’t.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          What are you talking about farmer? Millions in subsidies to govt cronies in Spain yielded dozens of “green” jobs, and hardly destroyed any real ones at all. They don’t actually have cheaper electricity, but they “created” jobs. You aren’t against jobs are you queen?

          • Colonial Viper

            Don’t be moronic.

            The main benefactors of Europe’s debt woes are the creditors.

            Next step in the plan: pick up the public assets in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece for pennies on the pound.

            Who needs to invest in building shit up when you can corporate raid others’.

            • queenstfarmer

              Not against jobs, or green tech. It is the future. But it will cost a lot more than most countries can afford, including ours. Even the US Govt, which has pumped billions of stimulus into green tech, has little to show for it.

              As for Spain borrowing money to create artificial jobs, I don’t think that is working out too well for them, or anyone else who tries it.

              • Colonial Viper

                Well of course you are wrong on all counts.

                As for Spain borrowing money to create artificial jobs

                For instance, almost every investment banking job in the US is “artificial” by your stupid inference.

                – All those firms would be bust without ongoing US govt cash and everyone from their traders to the CEOs should be on the street or in jail.

                – The vast majority of their activities and assets are fraudulent or add no value to the sustainability of society or economy.

                – Their expert “help” is a direct contributor to all the shit that the PIGS are in.

                But it will cost a lot more than most countries can afford, including ours.

                Oh fuck off, 2%-3% of GDP invested over the next 5 years will sort it.

                Even the US Govt, which has pumped billions of stimulus into green tech, has little to show for it.

                That’s what you get for pouring money down the drain of fusion reactors and hydrogen cars.

                • Rusty Shackleford

                  CV, who even disagrees with you on investment bankers? They are the scum of the earth. But leeches love blood. You can’t blame them for dashing in and sucking up all the milkshake. Someone was going to. It’s the heads of the guys that opened the wound that need to roll. ie, the central bank cartels and the pols who enable them.

                • The Baron

                  2-3% of NZ’s GDP of approx $170 billion is a $3.4-5.1 billion dollar investment.
                  Hardly an “only”.
                  What would you cut to pay for it? Or you must gonna borrow more for that too?
                  If we add that to the $5b plus Labour havealready promised to increase, offset by lala land extra enforcement ( net benefit will NOT be anywhere near what Cunliffe claims), then that sounds like fucking lunacy to me.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Fair question, Baron.

                    Let’s take the figure $5B p.a. as a nice round figure for investment for say a period of 5 years. That’s $25B of highly productive investment creating several tens of thousands of NZ jobs for NZ workers, rebuilding our engineering capabilities, in order to get NZ’s energy infrastructure right for the next 100 years.

                    Where to get the money from? The richest 1000-2000 people in New Zealand control assets of approximately $100B. Raising $5B p.a. in taxes from just them would not be hard to do. None of them would have to sell their stable of 7 series limos or give up their vintage champagne.

                    Or, print half the money and you only need to tax those 1000-2000 people $2.5B p.a. out of their total $100B asset base. Given yearly capital growth, they may not even see a net reduction in their asset base after taxes. Their day to day and week to week lifestyle would be completely unaffected. No need to downgrade from first class to business class at any stage.

                    Sorta easy really.

                    • Jim Nald

                      To quote that famous and articulate currency trader, it would be “chump change”

                    • The Baron

                      CV, I’m sorry but that 1-2000 NZers owning that much in assets sounds like horseshit to me; and given that the entire merit of your proposal rests on this, I would have thought we were running off more than blind prejudice and made up stats. But lets run with it to see how your maths stacks up.

                      Lets be generous and say that there is indeed 2000 people in that bracket. You need $5b a year from them all to pay for this, according to your plan – in other words, $2.5m pa from each of them, right?

                      Please, pray tell, which magical taxation instrument you’ll introduce to suck that much out of these pockets? And once you are done with that, can you think of any consequences to introducing that tax – or do you genuinely believe that you could do it without consequences?

                    • The Baron

                      … actually, we probably need to double it again – right? You’ll need another $5b to pay for the other things that labour have promised, which I assume you remain supportive of.
                      Now, with all due respect, you know I don’t buy into your “print money” answer – sorta a deus ex machina. So can I be daring enough to ask you to formulate your taxation masterwork within the bounds that Labour and the Nats could actually implement?

          • KJT

            We are going to have to do it anyway.

            Before our overseas customers stop believing in Clean Green 100% pure and resist our products.

            Before oil prices eventually hit the stratosphere. (Which they will as China’s demand increases and the Saudi ever increasing reserves prove a myth). Great South basin oil will cost more than $200 a barrel to extract.

            Before other countries demand we do our bit to lessen AGW.

            We can do it cheaply now while we still have cheap hydrocarbons to make the windmills.

            Or we can leave it to our kids to do it the hard way!

  3. ChrisH 3

    This shows how important a plan for better public transport must be, along with a plan to lower the currency. Or alternatively we do nothing and then the roof caves in, at which point we face $3 to $4 a litre petrol with no PT and lots of people out of work, a spiral of collapse that is likely to feed on itself.

  4. JaJ 4

    Don’t forget that the US dollar has been depreciating against many currencies over this peroid as well, indeed the NZ dollar is not up nearly so dramatically with regard to the AUD, GBP or even the embattled Euro.

  5. davidc 5

    Gareth Morgan is the chap who a couple of years back predited that house prices would drop by 50% on the front page of the Listener (all in aid of getting people to invest in his savings scheme) so he has f*uk all credibiliy to me.

    [according to REINZ’s index, house prices are down 18% in real terms since peaking in 2007. So far. I’d rather put my money with Morgan than you. Eddie]

    • ianupnorth 5.1

      There is a strong view amongst many in the financial sector that NZ property is grossly overvalued, with only the demand for properties by inbound immigrants keeping the market afloat. How many houses are being sold in your town, are they getting GV, cos they ain’t where I live.
      A house is the price someone is willing to pay and people are holding out for bargains, whilst those with the tax cuts and overseas investors are speculating.

      • Jim Nald 5.1.1

        Folks leaving for Australia and further shores
        Folks having job uncertainties
        Folks losing jobs
        Folks not having jobs
        All these not helped by this government decimating the public sector (ie more jobs being lost) …

        Who are the ones madly buying up the houses?

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.2

        NZ property is grossly overvalued, with only the demand for properties by inbound immigrants keeping the market afloat.

        So what happens when net migration falls for three months in a row? Whoops.

        AKL house prices are still going up as net migration there from the rest of the country continues. And it is causing house prices everywhere else to continue sliding at a fast rate.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          House prices need to come in line with income. Which is what they are doing. The market works!

          • Colonial Viper

            What do you mean by “works”? Housing prices are finally coming back into line – after a very long and dangerous delay – but the debt and investment inbalances created by the housing bubble are still here.

          • Zaphod Beeblebrox

            It would work even better with a CGT and stamp duty on purchased properties.

    • davidc 5.2

      Thanks for the partisan edit Eddie.
      I am pretty sure rent a quote Morgans article was late ’08/early ’09 (after Lehman and co went tits up) and prices are up a couple of percent (maybe even 5) since then according to this…

      • Colonial Viper 5.2.1

        According to that graph house prices are still down from late 2008! And I suspect that the index you quote doesn’t even take into account inflation, nor the fact that specific in demand suburbs in Auckland have continued to support the national average from falling further.

        I reckon you’re a deliberately misleading (or blind) chart reader. Or have no idea of the housing market. Or all three.

        Further, who cares when you think Morgan made his quip? Give us a reference if you can. One that you’ve read properly this time.

        • davidc

          Are we looking at the same chart?
          Bottom of the housing trough was late 08 early 09 mainly caused by holiday homes and appartments being sold off to cover debt tho thewre was some selldown in over built areas like Auck, real houses that people actually live in (and not just speculate with) have dropped fuck all and wont drop in the future as replacement cost in a lot of places now is way higher than existing stock prices. For existing stock prices to fall further something would need to change. Land and materials are not getting cheaper, infact soon the way timber prices are going NZers wont be building at all.

          • Colonial Viper

            It seems like I didn’t look at the years on that chart prob, sorry.

            Across New Zealand … The national median house price at $350,000 was equal to the same month of last year, but down by $10,000 from April 2011.

            Against mortgage interest rates and inflation over that period, house prices staying flat is comparable to a 4-6% decline in real spending power dollar terms.

            i.e. property prices are still falling, and falling significantly, in real terms.


            • davidc

              and as i said in the first post its up 5% from the trough NOT down 50% as muppet Morgan said.

              using the assumption of debt to weight your argument is just bollocks…. add rental income or value to a family of not having to rent … people do need to live somewhere… and THAT is never going to change ….and only add to upward price pressure.

              Have a nice day.

              • Colonial Viper

                and as i said in the first post its up 5% from the trough NOT down 50% as muppet Morgan said.

                Morgan never said that we are 50% down from the trough. Pretty sure you just made that up there.

                Also your lack of understanding of the value of money is showing. If inflation over the year is 5% but your house value stays absolutely flat – you’ve just lost 5% of your asset value in purchasing power dollars.

                That’s a significant drop in house prices in inflation adjusted dollars.

                Thank you. You have a nice day yourself.

          • davidc

            and as an afterthought…what effect do you see to the market when 50 000 households relocate out of Chch and 20 billion gets spent on rebuilding… what effect will that have on supply/demand and building costs?

            • Colonial Viper

              Not much davidc if the people who are relocating aren’t fully paid out, have no work to go to and cannot afford to buy houses or rent anywhere else.

              And you can see from the latest immigration figures that thousands who are leaving Christchurch are choosing not to stay in NZ.

  6. prism 6

    What a crock Mike Smith. A great post and all you get is hot air from the RW farts who don’t know what to do about anything, haven’t an idea likely to lead to positive outcomes in the future, but do know how to sneer at anybody who tries.

  7. Craig Glen Eden 7

    My best friend told me tonight he is off to Australia better paid job plus 9% employer contribution from employer, leaves in September family to follow in December. He does not want to leave but the opportunity is just to good to pass up given he cant get ahead in NZ.

    This guy is a CEO here but like he says National have no plan and Key is a total clown, its all turning to shit real fast in NZ so he feels he has to go, cant say I blame him.

    • ianupnorth 7.1

      I know six people in the 20 – 30 age range who went to Aussie last month; we have a family from Sri Lanka living in our sleep out (they were made homeless in the ChCh earthquake), they go to Aussie in three weeks. If my daughter was not in year 13 at high school I would be going too.

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.1

        If she is a NZ citizen she can go to university in Australia at their local rates.

        Not stupid these Aussies, they know which side their bread is buttered on.

        • SBS

          NZ citizens are not eligible for HEC’s loan to pay for their fees. A paper from UNSW costs about $2,500 (at local rates) so you’ll be paying for that upfront.

      • sean 7.1.2

        People leaving for Aussie are those whose careers aren’t going anywhere – if you’re good enough you can earn craploads in NZ. If you’re not good enough, then its probably worth going to Aussie. There will still be a glass ceiling over there which most of these people fleeing won’t be able to go above however

  8. Richard Olykan 8

    Why would you want to call it a “Dutch Disease?
    When it come to financial management the Netherlands are showing the lead in Europe and the world for that matter.
    It’s more of an Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Spain or Portugal disease, bit definitely not Dutch !

    • Rusty Shackleford 8.1

      Iceland are on the road back. They told the banks to get fucked. It’s what every country should have done.

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.1


      • KJT 8.1.2

        That I totally agree with.


        “Don’t forget that New Zealand’s credit rating reflects the expectation that the Government would bail out private banking”.

        Private debt would not figure in the credit rating if the NZ Government had made it clear, that if private financial institutions failed, they would have to take the bath themselves.

        So did Argentina. They were punished for a bit. The banks were too greedy to stay away though, Argentinians are now better off than they were..

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 8.1.3

        Argentina too.

    • Uroskin 8.2

      “Dutch disease” doesn’t refer to current financial prudence in the Netherlands, but a 1960/70s energy resource boom (the “gasbel” – http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aardgasveld_van_Slochteren) crowding out other exports due to upwards pressure on the guilder. The gas exploitation was/is a PPP (50% state, 25% Shell and 25% Esso-Exxon). Interesting to see the difference in approach to Norway which exploits its oil via Statoil (67% state-owned) and is the main crontributor to its sovereign wealth fund. Why can’t we in NZ set up a similar scheme/wealth fund for resource exploitation like the Norwegians instead of giving away our resources at a paltry royalty rate to overseas companies? (1%! – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newmont_Mining_Corporation#New_Zealand)

  9. randal 9

    wrong again. dutch disease is when all the leaves fell off the trees and they all died.

  10. ZeeBop 10

    Tulips anyone, get them while their cheap.

    When the bubble crashed in Tulip bulbs, people tried to resurrect the market, and would have pointed to Hayek if he’d been around, that it was the banks (thanks to government intervention letting the banks lend that set off the problem), then they will conclude that everything but the banks needs to suffer austerity and government intervention of the opposite extreme.

    You see its either too easy on the banks, or clamp down austerity, both interventions by free marketeers who hate well interventionist government (except when they are in power).

    Buy my tulips, did up your soils and plant these bulbs you’ll be rich by summer.

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