Restart Cullen Fund payments

Written By: - Date published: 7:17 am, April 16th, 2010 - 23 comments
Categories: national, spin, superannuation - Tags: ,

A year after National canned contributions to the Cullen Fund, Vernon Small slams the decision:

it was a dumb, short-sighted decision that has cost the fund heaps in the long run. It will rate as National’s biggest economic gaffe

Of course, some of us knew that all along and were criticising it, even as Small, despite seeing the stupidity of cutting contributions, said it was the right thing to do. And I actually think allowing unemployment to get over 7% is a bigger economic ‘gaffe’ (do we really want to call bad choices worth billions ‘gaffes’?).

Small continues:

The sad truth, though, is that last year’s moratorium on Cullen fund contributions means the Government – we – missed the bottom of the economic meltdown, when potential investment returns were at their highest. At the time it looked illogical to effectively borrow to invest, when debt was already climbing steeply at the rate of $200 million a week.

No. Everyone, except those who mindlessly swallow the government’s spin or need to take off their socks to count past ten, knew that stopping investing when assets were at historically low prices was nuts. Unfortunately, too many of the people who should be holding those in power to account fall into one or both of these categories, judging from the lack of criticism the Nats received at the time.

Even a leak from Treasury showing that stopping contributions to the Cullen Fund would cost the country $8 billion over and above the cost of borrowing the money wasn’t enough to get serious questions asked at the time.

Using the Cullen Fund’s performance figures and putting in the payments that National has canceled, we can see the decision to halt contributions had resulted in $25 million in lost returns above the cost of borrowing by December. The Treasury forecasts see that grow exponentially – we are losing compounding returns.

The deficit is much smaller than expected. Restarting our investment in the Super Fund will see net government debt decrease. It’s time for the Government to reverse its “dumb, short-sighted decision”. And it’s time for them to get a roasting if they won’t because it will prove that the decision to stop contributions was always based on solely on ideology, not economic reality.

If we don’t make this investment now, our superannuation scheme will become unsustainable sometime after 2030. Perhaps that’s National’s intention.

23 comments on “Restart Cullen Fund payments”

  1. tc 1

    This blinkered ideology of the nat’s tramples economic logic at everyone’s expense…not even the lib’s in OZ were so stupid as to unwind Keating/Hawke’s compulsory super…..look at them now.

    It typifies the traditional Nat thinking of ‘We’re right…stuff you’

  2. TightyRighty 2

    how much money had to be invested to get the $25 million return?

    • Marty G 2.1

      The govt would have been putting in $150 million a month had it not canceled the contributions. Over s months that would have been $650 million in excess of the $250 million the govt did put in in july.

      To save you the trouble that’s an average borrowing time of 3 months – $25 million in 3 months on $650 million – a return of 15.4% pa above the cost of borrowing, essentially.

      • TightyRighty 2.1.1

        what is the interest rate on government borrowing?

        • TightyRighty

          no answer, therefore no knowledge. What would be the difference in interest costs had we kept on borrowing and had our sovereign credit rating downgraded? you talk a lot of smack, but most of your anon comments don’t stack up when subject to a bit of scrutiny.

  3. What really grates with me is Key’s statement that he will not increase the age of retirement “during this term”. He knows that his gutting of the Cullen fund will make superannuation more and more unaffordable in the future. Because of his actions the age will have to be increased and if it does not occur now then an even more drastic change will be required in the future.

    His actions are highly irreponsible.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      Actually I thought he said he would never do it when he was PM, and if he did, he would resign. Eg, not just this term, but whenever he is in power. He’s trying to make this into a wedge against Labour.

      • mickysavage 3.1.1

        Right you are L

        Key has said he would resign if his National led Government raised the retirement age.

        There is some discussion at

        • Bright Red

          ” if his National led Government ” which is the same as saying “in this term” because he’s not getting another. 😉

        • Herodotus

          sometime in the future subjects like age of entitlement, free uni loans will have to be readdressed, the longer these sacred items remain athe subjects of everyone too scared to act NZ debt will increase, or there will have to be other decisions to compensate for these costs either:
          Increase funding – tax
          or reduce other services
          But no poliician who wants to be reeleced to posses power can bring these up. So we are in a stalemate position but instead of a tie we regress.
          Someone out there needs to have a macro plan where we can see the direction, what gains and what are the consequences i.e. who pays

          • aj

            Students loans are not free. They are INTEREST free.

          • Pascal's bookie

            H, but those policies are reassessed all the time. Politicians do a lot of polling and a lot of talking to people. When the National pary says they won’t be canceling interest free loans, you can be as sure as shit that people like the idea.

            Not only that, but you can be reasonably confident that the level of support for the policy is such that even if you offer the equivalent in tax cuts they still prefer the policy. If that isn’y true, then why are these things ‘untouchable’.

            The list of untouchable policies, is simply the list of things the electorate demands from government.

            You may recall that right through Labour’s last stint in power, which began with well signaled tax rises to pay for what they wanted to do, the calls for tax cuts were constant. Cullen said ‘nope, can’t afford it given these policies that we want to do, if you want these policies, we have to pay for it. If you’d rather have a tax cut and risk losing these policies feel free to vote national’. That worked for three terms. Go back and look at the criteria he gave for tax cuts. Structural surpluses pretty much.

            That’s a fairly honest approach in my book. Certainly more honest than the opposition who promised north of fifty funded by no reduction in public services.

            You can say, quite fairly, that some areas of spending are not what you want them to be. But that is a different issue.

    • TightyRighty 3.2

      surely with all the advances in medical care, and with the life expectancy increasing, it shouldn’t be that bad to expect people to work longer? i know a couple of chaps pushing 70 who still do a full days work, and the comapnies profit from their input.

  4. B 4

    There is something comforting in knowing you can trust a government to research properly, look at facts and take expert opinion into account. However much people disliked Labour at least they were competent. National seems either scarily unintelligent or even more scarily working against NZ’s best interests.

  5. prism 5

    National don’t like restrictive underwear as they like flying by the seat of their pants. It’s freedom they want, to choose intuitively, think instinctively, react spontaneously, act decisively and remember with confidence what mummy and daddy said. “Look after yourself, and the dollars will follow”.

  6. Armchair Critic 6

    Marty – You could almost start a series on the lack of real economic literacy demonstrated by the National government.

  7. Jim Nald 7

    Da brastards did it ideologically, maliciously and vindictively.
    To what avail? To the overall detriment of the people.
    I feel so very furious!

  8. BLiP 8

    I have no doubt that the initial proposal to clip the funding made perfect sense to Blinglish at the time.

  9. Luke.xensen 9

    Vernon makes up for his otherwise decent article with his last paragraph
    “It will rate as National’s biggest economic gaffe in an otherwise solid response to the global crisis.”

    Is Vernon blind to whats been happening in the rest of world, like Australia?
    The only way it was solid is that is wasnt anywhere near as disastrous as the 91/93 mess, or the Bill English recession in 1998. At least they didnt slash spending but they didnt respond anything like what as necessary. Journos just have to read the wall st journal article.

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