NZX Chairman Andrew Harmos has come storming out of his boardroom to position himself in the apparent war of rhetoric surrounding what the New Zealand public generally know as state asset sales or the mixed-ownership model.
He appears to offer some reasonable banter about the financial positives that may potentially flow on from a partial sale of assets, yet there was one paragraph in the NZHerald article that I took exception to;
“If only opponents of this could have the intellectual honesty to recognise that it is a policy that has no losers,” he said. “Emotive terms such as ‘asset sell-off’ are not accurate and mischievous.”
Let’s break this down because it is quite incredible that he has the audacity to make such a claim. Firstly; lamenting with the opening ‘if only’ does not appear to be a very objective way to begin an intentionally objective statement. He goes on to suggest that the only thing missing from the argument is intellectual honesty. I can only assume he is referring to the objective pursuit of truth, unimpaired by personal bias. If I am correct; politics, economics, and generally all other academic fields are more accurately the battlefields of ideas. Within that battle is the clear understanding that there is never a policy that has ‘no losers’. Finishing his sound bite with the word mischievous seems slightly out of place too, if one were to make a fuss.
So this is it huh? Our opponents have been reduced to making unqualified claims that we’re being disingenuous? It could be more understandable if Mr Harmos went on after to back up his argument with statistics, quotes from noted academics, and examples from other states; but he doesn’t. So I must ask in response to his comments; is this really an objective and honest way to approach what is an extremely serious issue to the majority of New Zealanders?
I would argue that Labour, The Greens, various scholars and economic analysts have attempted to present the case against asset sales from a reasonably objective understanding; what we cannot forget is that there is a very recent history to call on empirical evidence when assessing the merits of asset sales. More than that though, New Zealand has a future longer than the next economic cycle to worry about.
On this blog site alone the reader can find many articles that put facts in the face; that attempt to bridge the gap from financial guru to middle income mum; that strike out the rhetoric and replace it with reason; and that never let up on trying to keep the debate honest.
Mr Harmos has made what I can only call a disappointing move. He has again shown the underhanded tactics that those with something to gain from such policies will take to mask the reality to those that have everything to lose.
Let me be honest for the first time (as Mr Harmos would have it); asset sales do have benefits. We do need to reduce our debt; our capital markets aren’t getting the potential growth they deserve; the failure of SCF and other financial institutions means quality investment options for kiwis are scarce; and the NZX would do well with these assets listed.
Is the answer to these questions a simple sale of state assets though? And isn’t the paragraph above only a summary of one side of the debate?
Only offering half the argument is like giving someone sour milk and allowing them to drink it knowing full well this is the case, but then laughing afterwards and exclaiming the fact that they never asked whether it would taste good.
The NZX is in a position to gain more than any other entity in the listing of these state owned assets; so you have to ask yourself how Mr Harmos can see past the fat dollar signs distorting his panorama and consider whether this policy really has no losers. A mother struggling to keep her children warm may appreciate Mr Harmos informing her that 5 years from now, $5 or more of the bill she’s trying to pay to keep those children warm is heading straight into the greedy hands of some overseas investor. Is she a winner Mr Harmos?
This debate isn’t about the consequences of investment opportunities alone; it is far greater than that. Labour, The Greens, and even people on this site are going great lengths to point that out. They deserve a better opponent than the likes of Mr Harmos if he is going to be so clearly disingenuous.
To end with the wise words of Mai Chen”
“If money determines law and policy, then those with money will always win. But a democracy is supposed to be about the power of ideas and a good idea should be able to stand on its own feet without a cash inducement.”