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Greens Budget Alternative

Written By: - Date published: 1:11 pm, May 21st, 2012 - 68 comments
Categories: budget2012, Economy, exports, greens, infrastructure, Privatisation, russel norman - Tags:

The Greens launched their Budget alternative this morning. Titled “Smart Green Economics” it lived up to the billing, as did its Economic Policy launch before the Budget. Extra heft was provided by BERL economist Dr Ganesh Nana with a commissioned paper arguing that the Government’s asset sales programme leaves the government accounts permanently worse off, and may also worsen the country’s deficit, our “largest single vulnerability”. The BERL paper is here.

Russel Norman  argued our current account deficit is in decline, our net international investment position is declining and that manufacturing, 20% of our export economy, is being decimated. He also said  that the 2010 tax switch was not fiscally neutral as the Government promised, but has left us $2.2billion worse off. Spending $14 billion on roads when the real oil price is likely to double over the coming decade is also a poor quality spend.

Russel Norman didn’t just critique, but also pointed to the opportunities in smart green economics. Openings in the geothermal sector mean it would be tragic to sell off Mighty River Power. Other opportunities combining  economic rebalancing, fiscal resilience and the smart green economy include capital gains tax, reprioritised transport spending, putting a commercial price on water, extending the home insulation scheme and boosting research and development. More included setting higher standards for fresh water, higher mining royalties and royalties reserve fund, putting a real price on carbon, having a public option of Kiwisaver, supercharging our energy SOEs, and investing in our children.

Plenty of positive stuff to think about there.

Ganesh Nana explained the difference between Government debt and deficit, and external debt and deficit. The first may or may not be bad, the second is ll bad. He said lack of clarity in much media comment around the difference between these led to confusion, with which I heartily agree. The asset sales programme as stated does not address the Government’s debt, simply replaces one asset with another. He argued that with $100 billion sitting in term deposits in the banks there was plenty of opportunity for Government to borrow from New Zealanders at realistic rates without affecting our external deficit. Again, plenty to think about.

It was good to hear about opportunities and alternatives. We’ve heard enough of TINA.


68 comments on “Greens Budget Alternative”

  1. Carol 1

    The Greens launched their Budget alternative this morning. Titled “Smart Green Economics” it lived up to the billing, as did its Economic Policy launch before the Budget. Extra heft was provided by BERL economist Dr Ganesh Nana with a commissioned paper arguing that the Government’s asset sales programme leaves the government accounts permanently worse off, and may also worsen the country’s deficit, our “largest single vulnerability”. The BERL paper is here.

    Laila Harre earning her salary then?


    Former Cabinet Minister Laila Harre has taken up a senior policy position with the Green Party.

    The Greens announced Ms Harre’s appointment today, saying she would take up a newly-created advisory role of issues director for the party.

  2. Gosman 2

    Goodo. I’d expect Interest rates to rise significantly under any Green run economy then.

    • Dv 2.1

      Good to see careful reasoned analysis gosman.

      • Gosman 2.1.1

        Please explain how the following statement doesn’t mean higher interest rates?

        “He argued that with $100 billion sitting in term deposits in the banks there was plenty of opportunity for Government to borrow from New Zealanders at realistic rates…”

        • Deano

          well, isn’t National saying that there’s plenty of money in term deposits for people to buy shares in the assets with? Wouldn’t that push up interest rates too, in your analysis?

          • Gosman

            I presume people will choose voluntarily to invest in the shares in the part privatised SOE’s because they are attracted by the returns they believe they are likely to be receiving. What will attract them from removing their savings from Term Deposits in Commercial banks and investing in Government Bonds?

            • Ant

              The fact that a nation state is generally more stable than a bank, also rational irrationality like patriotism.

              • Gosman

                The patriotism argument would apply equally to Kiwibank.

                Given that the Commercial banks have essentially an unwriiten guarrantee of protection for their deposits as a result of recent actions out of the GFC your security argument holds less sway.

                However technically there isn’t an awful lot stopping NZ people from investing in Government bonds now. They could pool their money and put it into an investment company that just buys NZ Government Bonds for example. The fact they don’t do so suggests they possibly would like the higher returns offered by the Commercial banks.

                To get more money from the people with 100 Billion in Term investments in NZ the Government will have to offer something more than just a combination of patriotism and security.

                On top of this fact is that removing a proportion of the 100 Billion will increase the cost of capital for the commercial banks who will then have to raise interest rates to raise the short fall.

                • Matt

                  The government could make interest on government bonds/notes tax exempt to attract more, ahem, interest.

                  • Gosman

                    So how will the Commercial banks make their term deposits more attractive to fill the gap caused by people leaving them to invest in Government Bonds?

                    • Ant

                      How do they compete with each other for deposits at the moment?

                      Commercial banks already exist in a climate of competition, what makes you think that a single new entrant into the market will cause such evil and horrible consequences?

                    • Matt

                      Gee I don’t know, how did they manage everywhere else tax exemptions on government bonds have been used as incentives. 

                    • Gosman

                      You really don’t get it do you? There is no such thing as a free lunch in economics. If the Greens wish to tap into the 100 billion dollars of Term Deposits to help fund their spending plans that will mean higher interest rates pure and simple. They either have to offer better returns for Government debt to tempt investors or even if they do it by reducing tax on returns they will reduce the overall capital available to banks who will have to raise interest rates on their deposit book to satisfy their needs. I am truly astounded by some leftists lack of basic understanding of finance and economics sometimes. The only way they could increase borrowing without this is via printing of money. For some reason they aren’t suggesting that.

                    • Matt

                      To satisfy their needs? Whose needs, the banks?

                      The phrase “fuck them” doesn’t begin to cover it.

                    • Gosman

                      As stated, you really don’t understand economics. At least you acknowledge that the policy will lead to higher interest rates.

                    • Matt

                      You may not be good for much (Soylent Green?) but you do have an elaborate fantasy life.

                • PaulB

                  Commercial banks do not have any sort of guarantee from the government. Get with the programme.

                  • Gosman

                    Given what happened in 2008 they have an implied guarrantee. That is the trouble when you provide it once. It becomes difficult to deny it when banks get in to trouble at a latter date.

                • Fortran

                  Only Kiwi Bank has a guarantee – the New Zealand taxpayer – which is why it has the highest security rating in the country, by Standard & Poors.
                  The overseas banks do not have that only Reserve Bank oversight.

    • Bored 2.2

      WTF have you been? Whole week somewhere else…..did you get somewhat world weary? Or was it that you had to do some “work”?

    • Lanthanide 2.3

      “Goodo. I’d expect Interest rates to rise significantly under any Green run economy then.”

      As well they should. National keep trumpeting how good it is that interest rates are low now and that they did it.

      Of course interest rates are low: the outlook for the economy isn’t great.

      High interest rates show a strong economy, low interest rates show a weak one. Of course the average idiot (and journalist) doesn’t realise this so buy into Nat’s spin 100%.

      Also nevermind that the reserve bank is independent of the government, and if the government actually had a credible economic plan I’m sure Alan Bollard would be itching to raise the rate. As it is, it’s expected it will be cut this year.

      • Gosman 2.3.1

        Not true at all. Many economies have had low interest rates on Government Bonds even when the economy was going great guns.

      • Bob 2.3.2

        In that case Lanthanide, you must have agreed whole-heartedly with Rogernomics? Intrest rates were through the roof in the late 80’s!

  3. Carol 3

    Nice slides & graphs from Norman. But I need more detail on the policies.

    What’s involved in the allegedly lucrative returns for “Green growth” and a “smart green economy”?

    How to improve the quality of water, invest in children, “supercharging our SOEs” etc?

    What is mean by a “Public option for Kiwisaver”?

  4. Peter 4

    Very nice to see it from the Greens. But again, Labour’s strategy is wanting, the major opposition party is missing in action over this Budget, at least thus far, and allowing the Greens to get all the air time. Maybe there is deep strategy in this that I miss, but I’m a bit more politically attuned than most, and if I can’t see it, the general public sure as hell can’t.

    • Ant 4.1

      Yeah Labour seems AWOL on this one…. The beauty of front-footing like the Greens have done is that it comes across as vision and not sour grapes.

  5. Liberal Realist 5

    Great to see some an alternative budget from the Greens.

    Doesn’t Russell Norman come across as a Prime Minister in waiting more and more as time goes on?

    No doubt CFM (“Corporate Fawning Media”) will not air this at all or it will be buried in the 6th page of the Herald…

    The BERL report should be the final nail in the coffin for asset sales but it won’t be. What I don’t understand is that poli pimp “The Hair” could shaft Nationals plans and be hailed as a hero for doing it. I would have thought “The Hair” would care about his political legacy? I guess not as he’ll be remembered as the Nact whoring pimp who’s vote allowed NZ’s strategic assets to be sold off…

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      I would have thought “The Hair” would care about his political legacy?

      I suspect at this time that he’s only concerned about the baubles of office and shafting NZ will give him those. Actually standing on principal and voting where the evidence tells him would be against giving him that sense of power.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    He argued that with $100 billion sitting in term deposits in the banks there was plenty of opportunity for Government to borrow from New Zealanders at realistic rates without affecting our external deficit.

    Governments should never borrow but print money at 0% interest. Yes, this means that the capitalists won’t have a government guaranteed income and will have to actually take some of those risks that they keep harping on about. I don’t have a problem with that.

  7. AAMC 7

    While the private sector is Deleveraging the Public sector needs to be borrowing and underpinning demand, this would seem perfect territory for the Greens as this Govt spending could be directed towards Green infrastructural development, creating jobs whilst improving the environment and boosting the economy and demand, leading to a natural reduction of debt due to an increased tax take and economic activity. Our central bank should print the money with which to achieve it.

    Yeah yeah Gosman, inflation inflation, seen any outta Japan in the last decade of stagnation and printing??

    Real problem though, the Greens won’t front foot this, the are caught up in the neo-classical narrative around debt in order to appear economically reasonable within the Orthodox framework that brought us the GFC and the GFC2 now rolling out.

    For a look at some stats on what happens to the private sector when the Public sector is in Surplus..


    • Gosman 7.1

      I also haven’t seen much in the way of growth out of Japan over the past two decades despite massive investment in infrastructure projects by Government. However your linking to Japan isn’t a good fit anyway as the problem with Japan post the 1990’s has been deflation. I would agree that expansionary monetary policy would have less of a negative inflationary impact in such an environment. A more apt analogy to use is probably the UK at the moment where they have engaged in quantitative easing and also have higher inflation.

      • AAMC 7.1.1

        QE as euphemism for giving money to irresponsible banks.

        Self inflicted Austerity – like their parrots here in Nats – is what’s grinding the UK to a hault. Their QE hasn’t been invested by Govt into the economy, it’s been used to attempt to add some solvency to banks running enormous risk on re-hypothecated bubble money.

        How did you like what happened to the Private sector during Clinton’s surplus in those slides? I gather you likely didn’t look.

  8. Jackal 8

    My only real concern for the next election is that Labour will romp in and not really need to form a coalition with the Greens. But you know, we’ve had nine years of Labour where New Zealander’s standard of living declined, and now we’ve had National inflict even more damage on the country in less than half that time… so there really isn’t anything to lose in trying what the Greens are proposing. It couldn’t possibly be worse.

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Bear in mind that western living standards are unsustainable without increasing availability of materials and energy, so those living standards are going to decline regardless of the party in power.

      The question is, whether or not it is organised to happen in a way which is socially sustainable and socially responsible.

      The NATs aren’t interested in any such thing, the many can starve while the few eat cake as far as they are concerned.

      And both the Greens and Labour think that “growth” will be back again tomorrow. Neither have the guts to tell the electorate the truth.

      • Lanthanide 8.1.1

        Was just about to make pretty much the same comment.

      • Jackal 8.1.2

        Agreed. I don’t mean to sound like a doomsayer, but even with an egalitarian system in place, our lifestyles are going to have to change and will in all likelihood get more difficult. It’s all about degrees of difficulty really.

        • Draco T Bastard

          …and will in all likelihood get more difficult.

          It wouldn’t be a difficult lifestyle just one that has a lot less waste than the one we have now. What we’d be looking at is extending the life cycles of the products available, i.e, computers can only be upgraded every 5 years. Recycling would have to become the norm – if the product can’t be recycled then it’s not on the market. High density housing in walkable communities with buses and trains becoming necessary for longer distances.

          • Carol


          • Jackal

            You’re essentially talking about planned obsolescence DTB, which is designed into most items these days. Basically they’re designed to fail at a certain age, usually after the warranty runs out. With some things it’s a technical obsolescence, whereby new developments supersede the old. Computer and program manufacturers are some of the worst, often releasing developments slowly to maximise their profit margin.

            The problem here is that extending the life cycle of products comes at a cost to the manufacturer, so unless governments develop policy that ensures items are not designed to fail, the profit motive will continue to keep low quality products on our shelves. Government’s realize that they gain less tax if things are designed to last, so unless a new measurement of growth is developed, governments are caught in a catch 22.

            What I was talking about is the convenience of our modern lifestyles, whereby things like plastic packaging and cheap transportation will not be so readily available. The end of cheap oil and globalisation will cause a decline in availability of items because governments haven’t properly secured supply chains through localized production. The difficulty is in how fast people will learn to adapt, and to some extent, whether they can at all.

      • Draco T Bastard 8.1.3


        Need a party which comes out with the truth rather than the comforting lies that the parties that we have propagate to sooth the populace.

      • AAMC 8.1.4

        I think it’s important to be honest on this point, especially for those of us who vote Green. They are as wedded to the narrative of growth as the rest, I understand their desire to appear mainstream, but as long as we tinker at the fringe of orthodox economics, it’s BAU.

    • Te Reo Putake 8.2

      “My only real concern for the next election is that Labour will romp in and not really need to form a coalition with the Greens.”
      Yep, I’m losing sleep over that possible outcome, too. Much rather have the Greens than Winnie, but, realistically, I think Labour will need both. You are completely wrong about living standards in the Clark years, by the way. Life got measurably better after a decade and a half of the ACT in disguise Lange government and the even worse Bolger/Shipley shambles. People had jobs, for starters.

      • Jackal 8.2.1

        While your essentially correct, and many indicators did improve, some did not. Gains in health look to be mainly a result of reducing smoking rates, particularly for females. The bad news is that Kiwi’s got more obese, drank more and became less physically active during the Clark years.

        However the amount of children living below the income poverty threshold halved and suicides also declined, which are often good indicators of how society (and the government) is performing. Government debt reduced and median household incomes increased under the last Labour government.

        Males lagged behind in most statistics and there were marginal lifestyle gains for females… so it’s a pass, but only just.

        Then John Key waved his shitty magic stick, and median household incomes are now in decline, Government debt has increased markedly and inequality and suicide rates are increasing. Home ownership levels are falling as well… so National gets a big fat F for fail.

        Time to give some Green policies a go methinks.

  9. I think all I can say is fucking idiot greens, they haven’t a bloody clue, they are part of the problem, and like every politician they are lying to ya.

    • Jackal 9.1

      About what?

      • AAMC 9.1.1

        About endless growth and the virtue of Govt surplus.

        • Jackal

          The old purest versus practical debate eh. Unfortunately the Greens have to work within the current system, whereby their policies will be judged to be competent if they break even or post a surplus… it’s not as simple as just dismissing capitalism. It’s pretty early days to see if there is any financial benefit to their home insulation scheme, but I expect there will be.

          The difference is where money is allocated and a clean green future in fact offers the best of both worlds. Firstly it reduces reliance on fossil fuels, which is important for our continued survivability. Secondly it means the economy will continue to function when the shit really hits the fan and we wont end up riding donkey’s to town.

    • weka 9.2

      No-one would vote for them if they told the truth.

  10. Peter in Papua New Guinea 10

    Smart Green Economics – the ultimate oxymoron.
    All the Greens want is tax tax tax and spend spend spend.
    Energy costs will jump 20% due to carbon taxes, lets see what happens in Aust in July. The polluter will pass on the cost and guess what, either demand falls due to lower spending power of inflation increases.

    • mike e 10.1

      so peter making the rest of us subsidize carbon is not a oxyoumoron

    • Colonial Viper 10.2

      Hey Peter, you do realise the money taken from you in taxes is being spent on us, in our communities and in our cities?

    • Draco T Bastard 10.3

      You have NFI WTF you’re talking about do you?

      Smart Green Economics – the ultimate oxymoron.

      Nope, the only rational option. Normal economics is delusional and probably psychopathic.

      All the Greens want is tax tax tax and spend spend spend.

      Nope, go read their policies.

      Energy costs will jump 20% due to carbon taxes, lets see what happens in Aust in July.

      An increase in costs isn’t an increase in inflation but an increase in costs. Sure, demand will fall but that’s normal economics. The whole point of the “free-market” is that it will adjust to the new normal.

      Of course, we don’t actually have a free-market as it’s owned, lock, stock and barrel by the 1% and a decrease in demand will see them lose a little income which is what they’re whining about and what you’re swallowing.

      • Colonial Viper 10.3.1

        Yeah Peter is locked in a stupid unworkable model of badly thought out and unrealistic neoliberal economics.

  11. Anthony 11

    I boastfully posted the other forums before. But I guess often in self righteousness. But the way I see it, as one of the ones who caused the problem.

    Don Brash was one of the few hopes for New Zealand he said at the time about 5 years ago it would be harder than the second world war to get New Zealand to a Growing sustainable country catching up with Australia. That was over 5 years ago and he was ignored along with many of Acts initial policy’s. So if was as hard as war then well.

    The Solution is:

    I really see it, first we need pleading to international help to help us recover and get international aid. We need to outsource Government departments such as entire health sector to Australia to administer. We need to have boarder-less “passport free” crossing to Australia, common currency just for start.

    We then need to remove RMA completely and privatize the Building Department and all associated acts.

    Sell the entire Tertiary Education sector.

    Reduce income tax to 10%

    Removed GST of all food, and basic living items.

    Introduce Capital gains tax

    Sell parts or New Zealand to Europe and America allowing them to create cities such as a French city in South island ran and administered by France.

    Increase school standards. (Longer Day- Real economic teaching learn anther language from early on.)

    Remove the treaty of Wiatangi form many government items.

    Put some Politicians in jail. ( And look at performance pay- Electronic Elections on the internet).

    Write a CONSTITUTION based on the American.

    Removed number of MPs make it 99 and fix MMP i.e. party percent list choice elected from public.

    Remove Government Standards: i.e allow cheap quality small electric cars on road. Allow Insurance companies to take risk analysis – not Government
    Increase tax on alcohol. Also other government arbitrary standards which may not have cost benefit logical ratio.

    Sell some roads completely.

    Remove many testing and certification schemes.

    Reduce all fines by 50%

    Sell ACC and allow privatization and suing

    Removed 50% of Government Agency’s and ministry’s.

    Stop putting money in the Rugby industry.

    Sue the transport minister for spending millionths on motorways for the Roading Lobby.

    Invest in heavy public transport and bike lanes for the big city’s.

    Gee its going to be hard for someone.

    Will put more later

    • fatty 11.1

      LOL…is this NZ committing a capitalist crucifixion?…I kinda agree with you cause we are so far up shit creek we may as well go out with some fireworks.
      When are you gonna post the rest Anthony? I wanna know how we should slaughter the babies? Is there a mass suicide pact for poor people too?

    • happynz 11.2

      Sell parts or New Zealand to Europe and America allowing them to create cities such as a French city in South island ran and administered by France.

      This is my favourite proposal. If it came to pass I’d be plumping for a Mexican city for my own selfish reasons. The Mexican food situation here is dire. ‘Decent affordable tacos for all!’ is my rallying cry.

      Seriously though (actually, I am serious about the dire Mexican food in this country), Anthony’s libertarian wish-list is more than a bit over the top.

  12. Colonial Viper 12

    Anthony must be busy rolling the dice to see which neolib policies he can put in at random with other random nonsense. No vision, no philosophy, no sense of community: Anthony is a lost row boat in a big sea.

  13. ad 13

    I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Greens’ well orchestrated set piece, bothin the timing and in the supporting analysis from a good economist. At minimum, it drew the PM out on it.

    Great tactics and go the Green team.

    Sadly, after muzzling Cunliffe, Labour’s team remain quite on the defensive this week. Precisely the wrong week to be defensive. Giving Key a free hit on Shearer – ouch!

    Knock knock Labour – anyone home? It’s budget week.

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    Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell’s refusal to show leadership and provide assurances over the future of the Māori Land Court is disappointing, given he is spearheading contentious Maori land reforms which will impact on the functions of the Court, ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Kiwisaver contribution holiday not the break workers were looking for
    The number of working New Zealanders needing to stop Kiwisaver payments is another sign that many people are not seeing benefit from growth in the economy, says Grant Robertson Labour’s Finance spokesperson. "There has been an increase of 14 ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Fight Club failings
    The Corrections Minister must take full responsibility for the widespread management failings within Mt Eden prison, says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Rethink welcomed
    The Labour Party is pleased that Craig Foss is reconsidering the return of New Zealand soldiers buried in Malaysia, says Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer. “For the families of those who lie there, this will a welcome move. The ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Disappointment over UN vote
    Helen Clark showed her characteristic drive and determination in her campaign to be UN Secretary General, and most New Zealanders will be disappointed she hasn't been selected, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. "Helen Clark has been an ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Māori need answers on Land Court job losses
    Māori landowners, Māori employees and Treaty partners need answers after a Ministry of Justice consultation document has revealed dozens of roles will be disestablished at the Māori Land Court, says Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Key’s ‘efficiencies’ = DHBs’ pain
          John Key’s talk of ‘efficiencies’ ignores the fact the Government is chronically underfunding health to the tune of $1.7 billion, says Labour’s Acting Health spokesperson Dr David Clark.       ...
    3 weeks ago
  • More than 1,300 schools to face budget cuts
    The latest Ministry of Education figures reveal thousands of schools will face cuts to funding under National’s new operations grant funding model, says Labour's Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Speculation fever spreads around country
    House prices in Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga are going off as a result of uncontrolled property speculation spilling over from the Auckland market, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “Speculators who have been priced out of Auckland are now fanning ...
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand lags on aid targets
      The National Government needs to live up to its commitments and allocate 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on development assistance, says Labour’s spokesperson on Pacific Climate Change Su’a William Sio.  “The second State of the Environment Report ...
    3 weeks ago
  • War on drugs needs more troops
    The Minister of Police must urgently address the number of officers investigating illegal drugs if she is serious about making a dent in the meth trade, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Stuart Nash.  “Answers from written questions from the Minister show ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Doctors strike symptom of health cuts
    The notice of strike action issued by the junior doctors today is the result of years of National’s cuts to the health system, says Labour’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr David Clark. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government starves RNZ into selling Auckland asset
    Just weeks after TVNZ opened its refurbished Auckland head office costing more than $60 million, RNZ (Radio New Zealand) has been forced to put its Auckland office on the market to keep itself afloat, says Labour’s Broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government must be more than a bystander on the economy
    Despite what he might think John Key is not a political commentator, but actually a leader in a Government who needs to take responsibility for the conditions that mean a rise in interest rates, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “John ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Māori Party all hui no-doey on housing
    The Māori Party should stop tinkering and start fixing tragic Māori housing statistics in the face of a national housing crisis, says Labour’s Māori Development spokesman Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Labour committed to eliminating child poverty
    Labour accepts the challenge from Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft to cut child poverty and calls on the Prime Minister to do the same, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    3 weeks ago