On the evening of October 10, the front page stories on marketwatch.com included how NZ Government debt was a superior investment to US Treasuries; how 41% of the world’s wealth was owned by the top 0.7%; and how the Swiss were about to vote in a referendum to give their citizens an “Unconditional Basic Income” (UBI) set at a remarkable US$34,000 p.a. That’s serious democracy in a nation which has long figured out its economic niche in the world.
In comparison, the John Key Government is covered with a Wall St stench of plutocracy. The favouring of anti-democratic goals, blatant corporate welfare and the boringly predictable transfer of public wealth to the top 5% is a repeat of the same globalised neoliberal recipe of the last 30 years. Regrettably, the lack of evolution in rentier capitalist thinking over the decades cannot be considered any surprise.
Strategically however, a small country like ours needs friends, financing, and a high value economy in order to advance a broad agenda of social justice, community resiliency and economic equality. These are critical ingredients that the first Labour/Greens government must get right if it is to accomplish anything of lasting significance. Bill Sutch knew this well, linking the power of the private sector with government into a nationwide project to build social and economic security for all New Zealanders. That multi-decades project ended sadly in 1984, with the Roger Douglas Labour Government. It’s now time to relaunch New Zealand’s real economic future.
So what should a Labour led Government offer NZ instead? A few suggestions: it should closely partner with specific sectors and enterprises to forward a vision of a diverse and resilient sovereign democracy. Mining and exploration should continue, but only given rigorous conditions and criteria in accordance with international best practice. Relevant ownership structures and regulation must create maximum value and minimum risk for our country. We also need to further develop and advantage our nation’s promising food, manufacturing and high tech export industries, while asking more of them in the nationwide interest. Even so, our remaining runway to a renewables powered future is short, perhaps just 25 years. We therefore have to urgently turn our minds to innovative, job rich, long-term economic projects. For instance, New Zealand is one of a few advanced nations which stands a chance of developing a fully-renewables powered transportation network, one which can keep our economy on the move post-fossil fuels.
Here are eight more ‘big picture’ concepts for the first Labour/Greens government to apply:
Aotearoa faces several civilisation and sovereignty impacting “mega-trends” (to borrow a David Cunliffe phrase). We must get ahead of these mega-trends, before they overrun us. The good news: a small, smart, socially interconnected nation like New Zealand is well placed to do exactly that. We can no longer justify being stuck in third gear, passively accepting the morale and wealth destroying output gap long justified by neoliberal contrivances and highly paid bank economists. A hard hitting combination of financial sector buy-in, private sector innovation, democratic civic organisation and public sector leadership is what it will take to move Aotearoa ahead. It is long past time to say to voters loud and clear: yes, there are real alternatives.
(I will be at the upcoming Labour Party Conference in Christchurch as part of the Dunedin North delegation. If you are coming along I look forward to seeing you there, sharing a beer or three, and talking through exciting plans for 2014).
By Tat Loo a.k.a. “Colonial Viper”
I stood as the Labour candidate for Clutha-Southland against Bill English in 2011. This year I was an unsuccessful first-time candidate in the Dunedin City Council elections (Central Ward), placing 21st out of 35 candidates. I have previously commented under the pseudonym “Colonial Viper” (CV) I am grateful for the political economic and rhetorical education that I have gained while interacting with the full spectrum of Standardistas. I speak for and represent only myself on The Standard.
Update: All links now working.