Our Reserve Bank

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, February 28th, 2018 - 97 comments
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We are awaiting the results of the first part of the review of the Reserve Bank.

There is a case to be made that the Reserve Bank should be eradicated.

Clutch your pearls, but the stage was set yesterday by Ministers Little and Parker about greater oversight by the courts of laws with Bill of Rights implications: breaking down the lichen-covered basalt walls of Wellington’s institutional islands. After a decade,we get to finally ask some of the hard questions about our structures.

There have been hints that there will be a set of mild reforms to better frame its targets – perhaps making them more complex. But it’s time to test those old walls hard.

We have been blaming Prime Minister Robert Muldoon in his dual role as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and essentially running the foreign exchange reserves, inflation levels, and wage levels from a single gearstick held tightly inside his pudgy fist. Like a Baba Yaga nightmare, we blame his interventionism for replacing all direct political oversight of such policies with specialists that have nearly zero citizen oversight.

Yet in New Zealand, the result of the 1990s reforms of the public sector is a massive set of quasi-government entities and agencies who have very little Ministerial oversight, poorly influenced by letters of expectation that offer minor shunts to Statements of Intent, which in turn guide Boards, who in turn guide executive action, maybe. Each instrumental removal is a decrease in oversight to a power of 10. That is to say, almost no political influence at all. It is designed that way.

It is pretty weird to propose something so bold in Wellington terms when inflation has been negligible for a decade, headline GDP (if not productivity) is solid, headline unemployment is trending well under 5%, and government since 1999 has sustained and expanded a pretty extraordinary social compact.

What’s the problem then?

A massive political problem is the revolt against the European Union and against Washington by good old voters is a real sense that far too much of the actual decisions are made by unregulated elites who answer to nothing. The related problem is a long term depoliticisation of the public sector. Fewer and fewer of the public sector answer to actual people. They are protected by Boards. We need public sector specialists, whether you call them elites or not. We also need them to be answerable to the people we elect.

The other problem is long term debt. It remains New Zealand’s highest economic risk. With interest rates so low for so long, it is natural for private mortgage debt to go through the roof. That’s at the feet of Reserve Bank settings.

The final problem is the push-the-RB-off-a-cliff test: since global inflation has been so low after 2007, what difference would there really be if they didn’t exist?

The banking system needs more public and political pressure in order to make us a financially safer society, but it is getting less pressure instead.

But let us step back for a minute, lest I appear too mean to the New Zealand Reserve Bank.

The current battle in the developed world is in three fields: trade, climate, and security policy. Yet monetary policy is the one that snaps governments in half. Populist leaders now rise to power doing nothing more than denouncing central bankers and challenging the legitimacy of the current monetary order. As Donald Trump said on the campaign trail “And we have a Fed that’s doing political things. This Janet Yellen of the Fed. The Fed is doing political – by keeping rates at this level.” Just love his syntax.

In responding to this challenge, it is tempting to point to central banks’ independence from politics as a defense against the dangers posed by erratic leaders. Yet that would be a risky move. It turns out that decades of appeals to technocratic exceptionalism—the idea that monetary policy should be shielded from democratic oversight—have had costs. Indeed, this exceptionalism can lead to the very politicisation of monetary policy that it seeks to avoid.

Central banks play a paradoxical role in today’s developed democracies. Their work is highly technical, yet the consequences of their actions are inevitably political, producing big winners and losers. They wield great power in democratic societies, and yet they are unelected—because of the fear that politicians tend to push up inflation to appease their bases unless interest rate policy is insulated from democratic pressures. But we haven’t seen that in a strong sense since the 1980s.

The underlying tensions in central banks’ technocratic exceptionalism became particularly evident in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. In recent years, the banks’ entire mission has become unclear: for decades, they have been focused on fighting inflation, yet since the 2007-08 crisis there has been no inflation to worry about despite massive central bank interventions. In fact, the opposite fear—this time, of deflation—has driven extraordinarily loose policies and a great deal of experimentation, ranging from massive bailouts to quantitative easing and ultra-low (even negative) interest rates.

It’s time to make the staff of the Reserve Bank mere public servants, inside a simply dedicated Treasury unit, along with its many other units. Treasury continues its tradition of resolute and fearless advice no matter who is in government, and of course actually drafts the instrument with the highest impact upon us as an economy and as a society: the budget. Why not start thinking about monetary and fiscal policy as a whole thing? Why not integrate our banking regulator into Treasury? It’s time to smack the old institutional walls of the RB very hard.

The new RB Governor Adrian Orr, after such astoundingly good management of the NZSuperfund, will be well up for this kind of conversation across the whole of our remaining economic and monetary levers.
It is well time to do a real root-and-branch review of the existence of the New Zealand Reserve Bank. Bring back direct Ministerial control, and trust the people again.

97 comments on “Our Reserve Bank”

  1. Zorb6 1

    Very bold and well presented argument Advantage.The powers that be,the private central bankers on Wall St and the City,would take a very ,very dim view of any political party that acted on your recommendations.To quote Obama,’you know what happened to Dr King.

  2. Stuart Munro 2

    The claims of low inflation are only supported by the anomalous decision to exclude cost of housing from calculations.

    • Phil 2.1

      There’s a lot of ignorant nonsense that gets written on blogs, but this is right up there, Stu.

      The cost of renting residential property is included in the CPI.
      The cost of new residential property construction is included in the CPI.
      The cost of the fees and charges associated with property sales (RE agents, lawyers, property inspectors etc) is included in the CPI.

      What’s not included is the sale price of a preexisting residential property. And, there’s a very logical reason why: the sales price is a transaction between two individuals/consumers. There’s a net-zero impact on the flow of money between the consumer sector and other sectors of the economy.

      If you want to create an alternative CPI with preexisting residential property prices included then you’re more than welcome to do so. But you also have to be honest and say you only care about half of the individuals/consumers in the country and that you’ve created a political, not economic, indicator.

      • ropata 2.1.1

        net zero??! haha right only if house prices never move

        having most of the population buried under huge mortgages (+ prices inflated by speculation) has a massive impact on family budgets and should be part of the CPI

        • Phil 2.1.1.1

          If you sell a preexisting residential house to me, I pay you money. It doesn’t really matter if that house price is $1 or $1,000,000 because the net effect of the total household sector’s ability to purchase things from other sectors is zero. All that has happened is money has moved from one consumer to another.

          Obviously there’s an equality/equity/fairness debate to be had and the difference between $1 or $1,000,000 definitely matters there but, and this is really important:

          The entire point of the CPI is to robustly measure the changing cost of ALL consumer interactions, in aggregate, with OTHER sectors of the economy.

          • Stuart Munro 2.1.1.1.1

            This is the kind of nonsense that gives economists their deservedly bad name. Housing is the largest element of inflation and the economists have chosen to ignore it. It makes their whole edifice of professional pretention a fraud and a sham, and it means the advice they give is at odds with reality. Garbage in, garbage out.

            • Hornet 2.1.1.1.1.1

              “Housing is the largest element of inflation and the economists have chosen to ignore it. ”

              Did you even read Phil’s post above (https://thestandard.org.nz/our-reserve-bank/#comment-1455012)?

              • Stuart Munro

                I read and dismissed it Hornet.

                Housing inflation has imposed enormous deadweight costs to the NZ economy and this charlatan is trying to pretend that his professions’ failure to include such data in their analysis is something other than flagrant dysfunctional extreme rightwing bias.

                Unsuccessfully.

                • Hornet

                  What Phil explained to you was that a substantial portion of those costs ARE included, the only exception being sales of existing houses, which have always been excluded. It doesn’t make sense to change a long standing historic measurement basis because it suits a particular narrative, no matter who does it!

                  • Stuart Munro

                    It makes sense to include any measure that contributes substantially to things like cost of living. It may have been the case back when housing was going for 5000 pounds or so that the measures Phil mentioned were adequate, but with housing being one of the largest lifetime costs for many consumers, and house price inflation having been in double digits for decades, excluding it calls for a serious explanation.

                    A scientist who excluded the largest contributing instance of a factor they were studying would not readily find endorsement from their colleagues.

                    • Hornet

                      “It makes sense to include any measure that contributes substantially to things like cost of living. ”

                      I do understand the point you’re trying to make, but there are some legitimate arguments against it.

                      1. Purchasing a house is not, in a sense, a cost of ‘living’. It is the acquisition of an asset. The interest we pay on our mortgages could be considered a cost of living, but interest rates have been at historical lows.
                      2. Including house price inflation would mean that the CPI includes not only the cost of current housing consumption, but also the cost of (capitalised) future housing consumption.
                      3. Home ownership is not compulsory. There are a number of alternatives, the main one (renting) is included in the CPI.
                      4. The measurement of inflation has been consistent (with only minor tinkering) for a long time. That consistency gives the measure credibility.

                    • Stuart Munro

                      It’s a class distinction to presume that purchasing a house is acquiring an asset. Home ownership is obligate in NZ to reduce one’s exposure to the rapacity and bad taste of landlords.

                    • Hornet

                      “It’s a class distinction to presume that purchasing a house is acquiring an asset.”
                      Not at all. A house is not a consumable. It is a purchase made from (for most) future income, with a reasonable expectation of value appreciation.

                      “Home ownership is obligate in NZ to reduce one’s exposure to the rapacity and bad taste of landlords.”
                      And there I was thinking you were interested in a serious conversation!

                    • Stuart Munro

                      You just don’t get it Hornet.

                  • the only exception being sales of existing houses, which have always been excluded.

                    Except for when they weren’t.

                    4. The measurement of inflation has been consistent (with only minor tinkering) for a long time. That consistency gives the measure credibility.

                    /facepalm

                    If its missing vital data (which it is) then it’s not credible.

                    • Hornet

                      “Except for when they weren’t.”
                      Thanks, that is good background. What your post seems to suggest is that the cost of home ownership IS included, based on the 2006 methodology? And that it has been part of the CPI since 1949? If the 2006 methodology is still in place (?), doesn’t that contradict Stuart’s claim that it isn’t a factor in the CPI?

                      “If its missing vital data (which it is) then it’s not credible.”
                      You have to make the case that the data is ‘vital’, and that it is worthy of inclusion. As I pointed out (https://thestandard.org.nz/our-reserve-bank/#comment-1455300), there are good reasons to leave the full cost of purchasing a house out of the CPI. One of which is covered in your previous post – reducing levels of home ownership.

                    • mikesh

                      Technically, Phil is right. The only cost associated with the house itself is depreciation. However, with property prices rising, depreciation is assumed to be zero, so there is no cost to be included in the CPI in respect of housing.

                      This whole debate is rather silly because, even though house prices are not included, nobody as far as I know is denying that they are a problem.

          • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1.2

            It doesn’t really matter if that house price is $1 or $1,000,000 because the net effect of the total household sector’s ability to purchase things from other sectors is zero.

            Wrong.

            If a house costs $1 and I have $1m then I can spend $999,999 on other things. If I have $1m and the house costs $1m then I’m not spending on other things.

            If a house costs $1 then anybody can purchase it. If it costs $1m then almost nobody can.

            Then there’s the fact that the money to buy the house, for those that can get a loan, will be created by the bank when the ‘loan’ is made. This boost of money in to the economy will push up inflation and that will most likely be for other houses and thus pushing even more people out of home ownership.

            The entire point of the CPI is to robustly measure the changing cost of ALL consumer interactions, in aggregate, with OTHER sectors of the economy.

            And so house price inflation needs to be incorporated into the CPI else it’s not doing its job.

            Really, I have significant concerns as to the average economist’s ability to do logic.

          • One Two 2.1.1.1.3

            because the net effect of the total household sector’s ability to purchase things from other sectors is zero

            That is incorrect….

            Downsizing
            Equity release
            Re-mortgage
            Sale to spend etc

            The housing market impacts inflation…directly and indirectly…

            CPI is laughable…if it wasn’t so serious…

      • alwyn 2.1.2

        As you will see from the other response you have received your aim is very sensible but, when you consider the economic ignorance of most people commenting on this site, quite futile.
        I think a lot of them are disciples of the late Major Douglas.
        Mind you, the comments that occur quite frequently on what the Open Bank Resolution Policy is supposed to do are even more ridiculous.

        • Phil 2.1.2.1

          Mind you, the comments that occur quite frequently on what the Open Bank Resolution Policy is supposed to do are even more ridiculous.

          Amen, brother.

          • Stuart Munro 2.1.2.1.1

            And of course it is only by rubbishing public argument that the fraudulent standard can be maintained.

            Because of course excluding housing inflation is every bit as political an action as you claim including it would be.

            “Amen brother.”

            Indicates that contemporary economics is a cult, rather than a rational discipline that responds to real world indicators.

        • Zorb6 2.1.2.2

          @Alwyn ,perhaps you would like to explain why NZ needs an OBR.
          Bearing in mind of course that we basically have the same banks as in Australia,where depositors insurance is the relevant factor.

          • Phil 2.1.2.2.1

            (One of two)

            If you take a step back and think about any major banking failure, there are a spectrum of options available to bank owners and/or or the government.

            At one end of the spectrum is: walk away and let the company die. The company then goes into liquidation.

            We’ve seen from the finance company failures here in NZ what that means; depositors funds are completely locked up in the liquidation process for literally years, and distributed back out in very small chunks by the liquidator.

            If that happened to one of the major banks, then there would be huge consequences for people and the economy – all your deposit money would be locked up. You wouldn’t be able to pay for day to day goods and services, and your savings in the bank might be completely wiped out.

            ***

            At the other end of the spectrum is: find a new owner to buy the bank, or give it a government bailout.

            In the case of a major New Zealand bank, the only likely private-sector buyers out there today are the Chinese banking behemoths that have a small presence here (ICBC, Bank of China, China Construction Bank). A government bailout, on the other hand, would have to be in the multiple billions of dollars to stabilize a big NZ bank.

            Both of these bail/buy-out options have some politically unpalatable consequences for a Minister of Finance to think about.

          • Phil 2.1.2.2.2

            (Two of two)

            OBR is designed to give a Minister of Finance an alternative ‘tool in the kit’ if they have to deal with a bank failure. Keep in mind that the RBNZ cannot invoke OBR itself – the Minister has to give that approval.

            The idea behind OBR is that re-opens a bank the morning after failure and gives depositors access to most of their (now government guaranteed funds) funds immediately. The frozen portion of deposits remains in the hands of the statutory manager/liquidator while they work out exactly what the losses are and liquidate the bank. There’s definitely a much better chance of a depositor getting back 100% of their deposit in an OBR scenario, compared to a straight insolvency liquidation of a bank.

            The other thing to keep in mind is that if OBR is invoked, the first thing that happens is shareholders (i.e. the Aussie owners) are completely wiped out. They have no more control over the bank and their capital stake in the bank is written off.

            • Zorb6 2.1.2.2.2.1

              A very good explanation of how the OBR works.Can you now explain why we need one and the Australians don’t and how it is better for customers than deposit insurance.

            • One Two 2.1.2.2.2.2

              Why do only 2 (at last check) nations have an OBR…

                • alwyn

                  If you read down to Russel Norman’s comments you will get this.
                  “If National implement Open Bank Resolution as planned, everyday people’s savings can be made available to bail out their bank if it was to fail,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.
                  “This is almost unprecedented in the developed world. Open Bank Resolution allows our major banks to get off scot-free from having to pay insurance premiums to protect their customers’ savings – premiums banks have to pay everywhere else.”

                  That bit about the customers “bailing out the bank” is typical of the stupid comments made on this topic. The bank isn’t being bailed out. The bank owners will have lost everything before any customer loses a cent. The shareholders simply won’t own anything to be bailed out.

                  • Zorb6

                    Everything Norman states in the quote you provide. is fact.If banks have creditors that include other banks ,how does the OBR apply to them ?Only Israel and NZ have this scheme.I wonder why .
                    The Reserve Bank-‘The OBR is therefore not designed to determine how the bank failure should be resolved in the long term, but to create time for a full analysis of the appropriate course of action to be determined. In practice, the OBR is consistent with a range of long-term solutions, including sale to new owners, restructuring to become a stand-alone bank, repurchase by a parent group, government recapitalisation or liquidation.’
                    So Govt recapitalisation=’bail out’by taxpayers.

                    • alwyn

                      You don’t seem to understand.
                      What Norman said was very misleading. Understandable of course as he was deliberately trying to make people think that the banks were going to steal their money. Not very honest but Norman wasn’t, was he?

                      All that would happen in the OBR would be that a quick decision would be made on the maximum amount of losses that the bank could incur. Sufficient money would be reserved from the depositors in the bank to cover that and then all the rest of their deposits would be immediately available to them. They would be able to withdraw the lot if they wanted to.

                      Then the real work would start, The money kept back from the depositors with the bank would not be permanently taken if the reconstruction of the bank, or its liquidation or sale or whatever meant that after lower ranking creditors, starting with the shareholders provide enough money to pay all the debts.

                      However what ever happens the owners of the bank will have lost everything before the depositors permanently lose even a single cent
                      Generally bail out is interpreted as being that the shareholders don’t lose. That is not going to happen.

                      Why don’t you read what the RBNZ has to say about it. If you read the FAQs you should be able to understand what happens

                    • Zorb6

                      @Alwyn.I understand very well,and have provided info from the RB in my last paragraph.
                      As you seem to be so knowledgeable,what happens if Bank A has large exposure to Bank B,who has exposure to Bank C ,who has exposure to,Bank A.Are other banks paid out as every other ranking creditor?
                      Areyou aware of an example where the OBR has been enacted?Norman was misleading only by your personal interpretation.You are misleading as you imply thereis no chance of a taxpayer bailout with the OBR,triggered.Quite clearly,you are wrong.

                    • Phil

                      hat happens if Bank A has large exposure to Bank B,who has exposure to Bank C ,who has exposure to,Bank A.Are other banks paid out as every other ranking creditor?

                      The answer is: it depends. There’s an entire corporate insolvency industry that is dedicated to determining who owes how much to who and what priority order do creditors have.

                      In the case of OBR, a bank must ‘pre-position’ most types of liabilities (e.g. retail deposits) on its balance sheet. Pre-position means (1) calculate overnight how much of a haircut needs to be frozen on each account and (2) give the account holder access to the unfrozen portion the next morning.

                      Other forms of liabilities are not pre-positioned. That means the liability is frozen in full, and remains fully frozen, until the insolvency manager decides to pay out. Fully frozen liabilities would include things like IR and ForEx derivatives, subordinated debt securities, and 90-day bank bills.

                      Most bank exposures to other banks would be in the form of instruments that are not pre-positioned for OBR, and therefore would be fully frozen.

                    • Phil

                      Only Israel and NZ have this scheme [OBR].I wonder why .

                      The GFC was a huge wake-up call for financial authorities across the globe for a lot of reasons.

                      In an NZ context, there was a realization across government and financial regulators that the mechanisms and tools legally available to them, for dealing with a failing bank, were insufficient. OBR is an additional tool in the kit that the Minister of Finance can use to reduce the risk of a bank failure causing contagion across the rest of the financial sector and out into other business/individual customers.

      • greywarshark 2.1.3

        PhilJ
        Seems a self-indulgent circular argument you have given. The plan for the CPI has been constructed a certain way to deliberately leave the price of housing out of it, with a convenient rationale established to explain that.

        The CPI gives a false sense of national inflation as it is. It needs changing to make it a real indicator of the real situation.

        • Phil 2.1.3.1

          It’s not self indulgent or circular at all. The CPI doesn’t stand in glorious isolation measuring whatever takes the whim of the Government Statistician from one day to the next.

          The CPI is part of a huge suite of important macroeconomic statistics that describe NZ’s place in the world – GDP, Balance of Payments, Unemployment rate being the three other of the “big four” high profile statistics. The CPI has to have a coherent set of principles and methodologies behind it in order to be useful or meaningful.

          The fundamental question that CPI’s have always had to answer is this: How much is the cost of Consumers, dealing with other sectors of the economy, changing?

          Like I said above, the costs associated with residential property are included (rentals, new construction, agent fees etc) but the cost of me buying a house from you doesn’t factor in, in exactly the same way that if we traded shares on the NZX or I bought a corporate bond from you in the secondary market doesn’t factor in either.

          • Ad 2.1.3.1.1

            CPI basket gets changed reasonably often – in fact did so recently.
            Right question to ask.

            • Macro 2.1.3.1.1.1

              I worked on the CPI in the Research Branch of Dept of Statistics in 1967 and well remember adding up the cost of Housing long-hand – only one electric adding machine in the office – and calculating means and standard deviations of each basket to 7 decimal places. Yes the cost of the purchase of a house was included in those years as depreciation was a factor in the cost of home ownership. As you say the CPI does get changed fairly regularly. Phil’s observations above are correct only for the last decade or so. An historical list of changes to the Housing baskets is here:
              Housing and household utilities
              Electricity, gas, and solid fuels were included from 1914.
              Housing rentals were included from 1914.
              From 1949, a ‘use’ conceptual framework was used, with a weighting pattern based on actual or notional consumption.
              Home ownership was added in 1949. A ‘user-cost’ approach was adopted, incorporating depreciation, return on capital, repairs and maintenance, local authority rates, and dwelling insurance.
              Fees associated with the purchase and sale of dwellings (such as real estate agent and conveyancing fees) were included from 1965.
              From 1974, an ‘expenditure’ approach was adopted. In practice, this combined elements of the ‘acquisition’ and ‘payment’ conceptual frameworks. The new approach to measuring home ownership included the purchase of new and previously occupied dwellings, the purchase of residential sections, expenditure on alterations and additions to existing dwellings, land, interest payments on new mortgages, repairs and maintenance, local authority rates, and dwelling insurance.
              From 1980, there was fuller netting of house purchases/sales (which led to a lower weight), but the weight on mortgage interest was increased to cover all mortgages existing in the weight reference period.
              From 1974 until 1993, prices of both previously occupied and new dwellings were tracked. From 1993, prices of only new dwellings were tracked (this aligned more closely with the weight allocated to home ownership, which represented the value of the net increase in the stock of owner-occupied housing during the weight reference period).
              From 1999, an ‘acquisition’ conceptual framework was formally adopted. Mortgage interest payments and the purchase of residential sections (land) were removed from the scope of the index. An analytical ‘all groups plus interest’ series remains available.
              From 2006, a new method was adopted for estimating the weight for home ownership (which led to a lower weight). The method better reflected the falling rate of home ownership.
              My bold
              http://archive.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/economic_indicators/CPI_inflation/historical-cpi-info/historical-cpi-baskets.aspx

              • Ad

                Excellent to have your level of statistical expertise brought to bear here Macro.

                Finally helps make some sense of your pseudonym.

                • Macro

                  Actually Ad, my pseudonym – like Lprents originates from the early days of user names and logging in to the university computer systems – Initials and first few letters of your surname. 🙂 But it fits with my past in computing, mathematics, statistics, and economic interests, and I have never seen a need to change it

              • Phil

                Thanks Macro, that’s a useful history I was not fully aware of.

                worked on the CPI in the Research Branch of Dept of Statistics in 1967 and well remember adding up the cost of Housing long-hand – only one electric adding machine in the office – and calculating means and standard deviations of each basket to 7 decimal places.

                I worked on price indexes with Stats NZ from ’03 to ’06. Thankfully, we didn’t have to add anything by hand. We had a clunky IT system that would be left to run for a few hours (often overnight) to compile all the different levels of price indexes for analysis. We’d spend weeks going through reams and reams of output reports looking for erroneous or miscalculated prices of individual items.

                It was a… fun? good? … place to start my career.

                • Macro

                  It was a… fun? good? … place to start my career.

                  It was a place to start my career too – I had initially joined supposedly to work on programming. 10 July 67 was when we changed to decimal currency (another Muldoon achievement) and the task was to convert the CPI from Pounds to Dollars. But the one computer was completely taken up with the census. I suspect it was for some time. Anyway as there was no programming to be done it was do it by pencil and paper and keep the CPI up to date as you do it! Long screeds of numbers – I would have nightmares at night – the recurring theme being that I reached the end of a column of numbers and had made an error! ahhhhh The office regime was that nobody talked – all day. We were too busy counting. I lasted half a year and left to work in the Research Branch of the Dairy Board where I actually got to do some programming.

          • greywarshark 2.1.3.1.2

            PhilJ
            One thing that occurs to me immediately.

            The CPI is part of a huge suite of important [imported] macroeconomic statistics that describe NZ’s place in the world – GDP, Balance of Payments, Unemployment rate being the three other of the “big four” high profile statistics.

            The CPI has to have a coherent set of principles and methodologies behind it in order to be useful or meaningful.

            These imported standards are necessary for us to follow so we can fit into the jigsaw of the OECD countries. But if there was opportunity for us to calve off from the great mass just a little, would we even take it? We can’t afford to shake off other people’s dust off our shoes, they have turned into concrete boots, and we’re afraid they would take us for a little ride to a new building site.

            We are hocked in private debt up to our eyeballs, and need to borrow all the time to keep afloat. The last figures I heard our exports and earnings were up (trumpet rock star economy on a downward note please) as both our imports and debt were up, that rise having chewed up all our great increases. And we need infrastructure and machinery, so we need to lessen our expenditure on flim-flam, clooooothhhes also which are piling up to go to the dump, with hardly anything wrong with them, toys, shiny things that lose appeal and the nose gets broken, so out.

            Pity we can’t do that with our economists and pollies who won’t stand for listening to our spleen, from us moaners. They may find a way to remove them and sell them as we hear disturbing stories from the Falang Gong in China!

            We have to grow up and lose our obsession for our Marvelous Toys and release ourselves from the spell of accompanying debt.
            (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvmyxTm6hkg

            • Phil 2.1.3.1.2.1

              These imported standards are necessary for us to follow so we can fit into the jigsaw of the OECD countries. But if there was opportunity for us to calve off from the great mass just a little, would we even take it?

              There’s literally nothing stopping us from creating additional, alternative, measures of things like GDP or CPI. Bhutan has a measure of ‘gross national happiness’ that they tout as an alternative to GDP and, at various times in NZ history, we’ve published things like a Superannuitants CPI.

              The problem is, there are really good reasons why we want to compare and measure NZ against other countries on a (as much as realistically possible) consistent basis. That could be for direct investment decisions, trade agreements, assessing the effectiveness of social policy changes, or any manner of other international interaction.

  3. Antoine 3

    Can’t see this Govt ending the independence of the Reserve Bank

    A. It would look bad to the electorate
    B. It would be a lot of work and distract from other priorities.

    A.

  4. Sick of Aussie banks draining $4 billion per annum from the economy?

    NZ should follow the example of Iceland and remove the power of commercial banks to create money, making the Reserve Bank the sole issuer.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11507810/Iceland-looks-at-ending-boom-and-bust-with-radical-money-plan.html

    http://www.positivemoney.org.nz/

    • gsays 4.1

      At the risk of sounding like a toddler joining in a conversation on quantum physics, I agree ropata.

      I understood most of what was in advantage’s post, in respect to unelected officials, and yet we have these foreign companies siphoning billions of dollars a year away and essentially unaccountable.

      Iceland, to the best of my knowledge, were the only country to lock up the banksters in the wash-up of the 2007/8 greed-a-thon.

      I would rather follow Icelandic example than kowtowing for fear of the Dr King example.

      • Brigid 4.1.1

        And I agree also.
        What good reason is there to allow foreign owned companies to control our monetary system? Why can the Reserve Bank not issue mortgages as private banks do?
        And actually it was ‘disciples’ (as Alwyn puts it) of Major Douglas, whose theories were put into practice that created the State Advances loan.
        This allowed previous generations the opportunity to own their own homes and with that the attendant societal benefits of security and general well being.

        But enough with the “At the risk of sounding like a toddler joining in a conversation on quantum physics” forelock pulling.

        I’d put my money on your points than circular, patronising, navel gazing rhetoric from 99.999% of economists.

        • Ad 4.1.1.1

          Reserve Bank is a regulator not a retailer.

          Kiwibank is the state-backed loan retailer.

          State Advances certainly helped a few of my relatives into their first house.

          • gsays 4.1.1.1.1

            So what does it take to go from regulator to retailer?
            Vision, courage and a couple of pieces of legislation.

            Let’s do this.

            • Phil 4.1.1.1.1.1

              So what does it take to go from regulator to retailer?… Let’s do this

              For those of you not familiar with how the RBNZ interacts with registered banks, a more tangible thought experiment would be:

              “There’s too much crime. The Police should start committing crime.”

              • ropata

                Interesting analogy, the commercial banks are indeed criminal enterprises.

                The BNZ was founded by Thomas Russell, architect and beneficiary of the Waikato war & the destruction of the indigenous nation of Waikato. The bank's vaults are stained with blood & stolen soil. How's that for a history of 'supporting diversity'? Let's be honest about the past. https://t.co/JYFyZARJaJ— Scott Hamilton RTM (@SikotiHamiltonR) February 25, 2018

                Hence the need for the “cops” to control the money supply

                • patricia bremner

                  Yes Ropata, we need more true history, and better control of banks.

                • Phil

                  Hence the need for the “cops” to control the money supply

                  We already have an RBNZ “cop” that requires banks to comply with capital, liquidity, and a myriad of other regulatory standards that reduce the capacity of a bank to lend freely and inflate the money supply beyond acceptable levels.

              • gsays

                For analogies to work, they have to be simple.
                If RBNZ went from regulator to retailer, the nation is 4B$ better off annually, there is no victim.
                Cops committing crime= lots more victims.
                Analogy fails to hold water.
                What am I missing?

                • Phil

                  If RBNZ went from regulator to retailer, the nation is 4B$ better off annually, there is no victim.

                  No, we wouldn’t be.

                  One of the reasons banks (in particular, the big-4 Australian-owned ones) make a lot of money is because they can borrow cheaply on the reputational backing of both their parent bank in Australia and the reasonable stability of the NZ economy.

                  If you switch those banks over to being NZ-owned or controlled by the RBNZ, they lose the reputational backing of the parent and will have to pay more in financial markets to get funding. This is why banks like Kiwibank, Heartland, and TSB (for example) have to pay higher interest rates for their long term wholesale market funding than an ANZ or Westpac does.

                  But, you might say, the RBNZ is backed by the Government! Governments can borrow cheaply!

                  Well, that’s true of the NZ government right now, when it has debts of approximately $80b NZD. But, by taking over the big-4 banks, it would be loading itself up with an additional $490b NZD in debt.

                  Would it still be able to borrow as cheaply? Definitely not.
                  Would it even be able to borrow at all? Hard to say… probably not. We certainly wouldn’t be considered as stable and secure an economy as we currently are now.

                  • gsays

                    Thanks for your response, Phil.
                    Rather than borrow from overseas, couldn’t the government issue/print the cash then tax it back?

                    • Phil

                      Sure, the Government could print the money but that would, in all probability, lead to the kind of rampant inflation we haven’t seen in NZ since the 70’s.

                    • mikes

                      Don’t listen to Phil the bank Shill. The inflationary effect of the government creating a billion dollars itself is exactly the same as the inflationary effect of the government borrowing a billion dollars.

              • mikesh

                It is not the Police’s job to regulate crime, but to oppose and prevent it.

                A poor analogy.

        • gsays 4.1.1.2

          Cheers Brigid.
          Part of the toddler idea is to have people explain things in simple terms.

    • SPC 4.2

      I’m a bit of a moderate on this.

      A neutral mechanism for the allocation of finance is an essential part of the free market. To prevent public control of access to finance to private enterprise.

      That said a model where the regulator (QE) and the taxpayer bails out private sector greed is unbalanced and only leads to public debt and rising inequality in wealth (asset ownership) – until system collapse that is (and we came close and government is now less able to intervene).

      The system needs to be re-geared to enable public finance for investment (without debt) if we (the nation state) are to survive the next 2008.

      There should be agreed international rules about the extent of this as a proportion of the economy (within a range dependent on economic cycles).

      The IMF has indicated an awareness of this issue and has looked at alternative monetary systems to the current model. It should move to support changes before a 2008 reprise – to prevent one happening and or to have the means to respond in place.

  5. greywarshark 5

    Thanks Ad for such a thought provoking post which is about more than house prices by the way. Feel free everyone to have a thought and pass it on. This is something that may not be even understood by Dr Don Brash (his disagreement with Bank of England dogma as discussed by Bryan Gould for instance).

    So don’t be backward, be brash and have your say or question about whether our Reserve Bank is helping this country progress healthily through shark filled waters. The mere fact that we didn’t get wipied out in the GFC is not sufficient to enable us to be complacent.

  6. Tamati Tautuhi 6

    The Ozzie Banks are stripping the guts out of New Zealand, would be great to see them take a haircut when the property market crashes ?

    • alwyn 6.1

      If the property market was to crash the real sufferers would be the house owners, not the banks providing the mortgages.
      There are a couple of things to remember. The first is that a mortgage recovery is not limited to the property over which the mortgage is held. We are not like the US where a home owner can drop the keys of the property off at the bank and walk away. They will have lost all their equity in the property but can’t be chased any further. That is not the case here.
      Additionally of course for the banks to be even mildly embarrassed would require an enormous drop in prices. If most properties have at least a 20% owners equity prices overall would have to drop by more than 20% to affect the banks by even a trivial amount.
      I do not, for the sake on New Zealand, want to see a crash on the scale you seem to want just to provide you with some amusement.

  7. SPC 7

    One could do well to look how an independent but limited in tools RB caused a recession here in 2007/8 before the GFC with a high interest rate (and high dollar) policy. It knew this was dumb but to fulfil its role as controller of inflation it felt it was left with no other choice.

    Bollard asked the government to consider a mortgage surcharge so it would not have to keep lifting the OCR. English said it would be a brave (politically risky) move and Cullen did nothing.

    Since then, the deposit ratio tool has been used to restrain house price inflation (applied very poorly by the way – it should have been 10% first home buyers 30% investors at first and then 15/40, then 20/40 at the peak of the market and now 15/40).

    Have you considered the politics of government control of the OCR (being blamed for each mortgage increase) and the issue of mortgage finance, setting deposit and income criteria for mortgage finance?

    PS I was recommending Cullen apply a mortgage surcharge long before Bollard did, it was the only way to prevent a recession that would doom the government and public sector finances. And such a surcharge is a very good source of revenue.

    • One could do well to look how an independent but limited in tools RB caused a recession here in 2007/8 before the GFC with a high interest rate (and high dollar) policy.

      That’s
      a) Overly simplistic and
      b) wrong.

      Have you considered the politics of government control of the OCR (being blamed for each mortgage increase) and the issue of mortgage finance, setting deposit and income criteria for mortgage finance?

      The government doesn’t control the OCR – the RBNZ does.

      And, as far as I can make out, interest rates are a poor way of managing money creation in the economy.

      • SPC 7.1.1

        1. It is the generally accepted reason for our recession in 2007/8.

        2. I was not referring to what is, but what is being proposed (see topic of thread)

        3. Interest rates are not a way of managing money creation but allocation.

        • 1. [Citation Needed] (I heard that there was a drought that year)
          2. Ah, fair enough. The government can provide loans at 0% interest of course.
          3. Incorrect. Private banks create money when they make a loan and interest is a way of managing loans thus interest is a way to control money creation by the private banks.

          • SPC 7.1.1.1.1

            1. The drought (actually two, one in 2007 and another in 2008) was of less impact than the GDP decline over (6 quarters) March 2008 to June 2009. It was the rising OCR which took out the finance companies etc and slowed new housing construction for years afterwards (leading to the lack of supply). The drought was of course something unforeseen by the RB in its plan to stifle inflation but not the cause of the recession. Also unforeseen was the GFC in late 2008. Of course our self induced recession through a high OCR was soon sorted by the quick and large reduction of it (as the GFC killed of global inflation).

            3. I’ll stay with my opine, the OCR is a way in which the RB tries to impact on the allocation of money through cost/interest.

            • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1.1.1.1

              1. [Citation Needed]

              3. Which is wrong and sticking with a wrong opinion is foolish. It’s not allocation – it’s borrowing altogether. A higher OCR is there to push up interest rates to decrease borrowing. And as borrowing creates more money (See BoE research) then it can only be to control the amount of money being created by the private banks.

              • Phil

                A higher OCR is there to push up interest rates to decrease borrowing. And as borrowing creates more money (See BoE research) then it can only be to control the amount of money being created by the private banks.

                That’s half right.

                The OCR does indeed have an impact on money supply because the OCR directly affects interest rates, and changes in interest rates affect the willingness of NZers to borrow and/or save.

                But the OCR also has an impact on the exchange rate and the relative attractiveness of NZD denominated investments versus other currency investments on the world stage. This, in turn, affects the quantity and price of our imports and exports, which are a major part of the GDP and inflation picture in New Zealand.

              • mikesh

                The interest that a borrower can afford to pay determines how much he can borrow. Therefore land taxes, or other property taxes, which impact on what a borrower can afford, will have a negative impact on bank lending. This of course is why banks favour capital gains taxes; they figure if one must have a tax on property it is preferable to have one that doesn’t affect interest rates or lending.

  8. Macro 8

    Totally agree Ad with the tenor of the post here today. The abdication of governmental responsibility perpetrated from 1984 onwards with the devolution of central control, the outsourcing of governmental works, and the hiring of CEO’s from outside the public service, meant that the concept of public service, as understood in the past, has largely gone.
    Ministers may have responsibilities for Departments and areas of Governmental policy – but essentially they are beholden to their Departments. You recall Muldoon as a micro manager – well I recall the phone calls in 1967 we would get almost on a daily basis from him – what would be the effect on the CPI if the price of bread was raised by 1p? Yes that was a question we got, and lots of pencil sharpening and working late that day.
    On another occasion – now working on the Naval Staff in the late 70’s – I had to attend a Cabinet Economic Committee meeting to report on the progress of the Resource Protection Vessel then under consideration. Muldoon was the PM. At that meeting they were also considering whether or not to raise the price of wheat. One of the ministers was objecting saying – “How are farmers to manage?”
    Muldoon – “I think they manage pretty much like we do”
    Minister – “How is that Prime Minister?”
    Muldoon – “Oh swing and a hit! swing and and a miss!”
    The electrification of the main trunk line was also approved at the meeting! One of the great achievements of that Government IMHO. That was definitely a Hit.

    • patricia bremner 8.1

      Were you at the meeting that decided the Tiwai Aluminium deal? That was a big miss.

      What about those days when he didn’t hand over power. I thought the new arrangement was to avoid that happening again? Very interesting.

      • Macro 8.1.1

        I was on the Naval Staff at the time. Only attended a meeting with particular relevance to Naval acquisitions.
        I’m not saying Muldoon was a marvellous PM. But on one matter you have to give credit where credit is due. The electrification of the main trunk line was foresighted. It is a crying shame that it has never been completed past Hamilton.

    • Ad 8.2

      NZF’s big regional fund feels like Swing Miss Muldoonism.

      Even Sutch would blanch.

      • Macro 8.2.1

        I think we need to wait and see. The regions are in desperate need of investment. In our town over the past 3 years there have been 2 mill closures and the closure of the 150 year old foundry A & G Price) – that’s the loss of well over 300 jobs in a town of 7500. Our local food bank has increased the number of food parcels issued last year by 12%. There is on average only 1 house for rent at any one time. There are at least a dozen people sleeping rough in our town every night.
        The billion trees (once a commitment from the Clark Govt that never eventuated) also needs funding.

        • Ad 8.2.1.1

          Fair.

          That sounds like a tough town.

          • Macro 8.2.1.1.1

            I think that is the reality of many a town in the regions Ad.

            Working people in Christchurch are increasingly turning to charities to feed their families amid a boom in the use of food banks due to spiralling living costs.

            High rental prices and squeezed incomes have triggered a sharp rise in those forced to rely on handouts to put food on their tables, the Salvation Army says.

            Between July and September, it gave 1452 food parcels to families and individuals in Christchurch, a 12.2 per cent increase from the 1294 given out during the same period in 2016.

            Across New Zealand there was a similar pattern, with 28,000 needing help with food in the year to September, up 13 per cent on the previous 12 months.

            https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/99034498/rise-in-working-people-relying-on-charities-for-food-as-living-costs-soar

            • Ad 8.2.1.1.1.1

              So true.

              I confess I tend to hang in boom towns like Auckland, Queenstown and Wanaka, and I don’t remind myself enough of life beyond unless I’m in some tourist enclave doing something adventuresome.

              Cheers for the reminder.

  9. Pat 9

    “The other problem is long term debt. It remains New Zealand’s highest economic risk. With interest rates so low for so long, it is natural for private mortgage debt to go through the roof. That’s at the feet of Reserve Bank settings.”

    Its true that long term debt is a problem….however the greater problem is the cause of that debt…..trade imbalance and the the consequent foreign financing…..but in reality none of this is of great import when the poles are melting

    • Phil 9.1

      the greater problem is the cause of that debt…..trade imbalance and the the consequent foreign financing

      NZ, as a nation, has lived beyond its means pretty consistently since at least the 1950’s. This isn’t a new phenomenon at all.

      • Pat 9.1.1

        even earlier….not being a new phenomenon dosnt diminish the problem however….its what it forces us to do that is the problem …..foreign ownership and unsustainable immigration are the latest way of dealing with it….or rather not dealing with it…..how long do you think thats going to continue?

        • Phil 9.1.1.1

          not being a new phenomenon dosnt diminish the problem however

          Oh, for sure. I agree completely.

          I just wanted to ‘head off at the pass’ anyone who might have then claimed our foreign financing problem was just a neo-liberal/deregulation issue.

          • Pat 9.1.1.1.1

            not just a neolib deregulation problem but those settings certainly limit the tools available to counter it.

    • mikes 9.2

      “Its true that long term debt is a problem….however the greater problem is the cause of that debt…trade imbalance and the the consequent foreign financing…”

      The cause of all debt is the debt based money system we live under. All money is created as debt, no debt = no money.

      Long term debt isn’t a problem in relative terms because the entire planet is in debt.

      • Pat 9.2.1

        no debt= no money

        not necessarily so though thats irrelevant to the point in discussion….the form of that debt is important…as the MMT advocates note domestic debt is of lesser concern…offshore however is another kettle of fish…and offshore debt is our problem

        • mikes 9.2.1.1

          Yes necessarily so (apart from actual notes and coins which are only around 3% of all money). The other 97% of the entire money supply is owed to some person (legal person). The only way to create new money in our fiat monetary system is by a person (legal person) borrowing it into existence.

          So paying off debt is always a balancing act between lowering either public or private debt and raising the other. You can’t lower both. Lowering both = severe deflation. (No borrowing = no new money entering the economy = economy nose dives)

          If the government starts paying off public debt and not borrowing to spend into the economy on infrastructure, etc, then the private sector must increase debt and spending to make up shortfall. (No government borrowing and spending = less money circulating in the economy = no economic growth = deflation)

          If the private sector starts paying off debt rather than borrowing and consuming then the government must increase public debt by borrowing and spending into the economy on infrastructure, etc to make up the shortfall. ( No private sector borrowing = not enough new money being created to cater for economic growth = no economic growth = deflation).

          Every country (except the five tiny countries of Macau, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Liechtenstein and Palau) on the planet are up to their eyeballs in debt and the total of all that debt at a guess would be about equal to the total GDP of the world or all of the money in the world.

          99% of the adult population (workers and taxpayers) are collectively entrapped in a cycle of deliberate, continuous, never ending debt, which can never be repaid and most of them don’t even know it.

          As an aside I would / will find it interesting to see at what point most people will wake up enough to take actual real action. Every time we hear about the percentage of money and wealth owned by the top 1% that percentage has gone up again, but still people seem apathetic.

          Will the tipping point be when the top 0.1% own 50% of all the money and wealth? 75%? 95%? Will we get to a state where a very small number of people have 100% of the money and own everything on the planet whilst the rest of the worlds billions of people have nothing at all and are probably legally owned (slaves) by that stage anyway? (assuming the entire monetary and financial system doesn’t collapse completely first which is a big assumption)

          Does anybody with even an ounce of smarts truly believe that things such as the TPPA are going to slow down or reverse that trend globally, or is it clear to everyone that such things are deliberately designed to accelerate that trend??

          Does anyone want to bet or guess how long after we sign the TTPA it will be before a single currency union between the signed on countries is legislated into existence by unelected officials?

          Isn’t it blatantly obvious where more and more centralization of power will eventually lead us?

          Anyways, more importantly, wonder what happened on Married at First Sight this week…….Ohh, wonder what Kaitlin Jenner’s wearing this week….Ohhh the Bachelor…..Ohhh trigger warnings……Ohhhh…..twitter…ohhh… red/blue …left/right… (sigh..)

          • Pat 9.2.1.1.1

            If you wish to now specify money as fiat then yes (we will ignore commodity money and arguably crypto),,,but as previously stated the effects of domestic v offshore debt is very different.

            As the fiat money system runs entirely on confidence the fact that in the long run all debt of any form will never be repaid does not necessarily impact interactions as they occur in the present or even the short to medium term….I note the IMF have recently released a paper which essentially said that the trillions of debt is to be ignored…..and confidence is determined by the market perception of your ability to pay…..ask Greece, Venezuela or Zimbabwe.

  10. Phil 10

    (duplicate post)

  11. R.P. Mcmurphy 11

    there should be more oversight from parliament but politicians to lazy and not bright enough so they have given in. Like doctors and lawyers and other specialists the RB hides behind their own jargon and technical terms when in actual fact it is all quite simple but as I said pollies too busy appeasing constituents to knuckle down and get to grips with the intricacys.

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