web analytics

The cost of doing (next to) nothing

Written By: - Date published: 11:26 am, February 27th, 2009 - 18 comments
Categories: economy - Tags:

Bill English is holding the country’s purse like an old woman on the subway. Far from doing what every other country is doing, injecting an adrenaline shot of spending into the economy to restore confidence by breaking the negative cycle, English is repeating the mistakes he made when he was Finance Minister during the Asian Crisis in 1997-98. He is taking money and jobs out of the economy by cutting government spending and undermining people’s confidence to spend by raising questions around the sustainability of superannuation by letting rumours swirl around the future of the Cullen Fund.

What every other country has realised is that essentially this recession, as with any recession, is a crisis of confidence*, the opposite of the irrational euphoria that existed just a couple of years during the boom. How do you restore confidence? By breaking the downward cycle. And you do that by using government spending like an adrenaline shot. A big boost that means that businesses suddenly can stop worrying about cutting production and firing people, that six months from now people look around and say ‘hey, I’ve still got my job after all, nothing to worry about’. The Government doesn’t have to keep putting these injections in. If the negative cycle of layoffs and decreased consumer spending is broken for only a short period, confidence is restored. That causes the economy to start ticking over by itself again.

English doesn’t get that. First and foremost, English is a former Treasury official from the dawn of the neo-liberal revolution. He is anti government and anti government spending to the core. Therefore, his instinct is to see a recession as a reason to cut spending on public services, not to use the Government’s muscle to stimulate the economy. Thus, he frets over our credit rating more than losing jobs. Ultimately, he thinks that New Zealand will only be pulled back into growth once the rest of the world recovers. So, his priority is to keep the books as balanced as possible in the mean time by cutting spending as tax revenue falls.

What that thinking misses is that he is actually worsening the Government’s fiscal position by refusing to spend government money to save jobs. Consider – the median employed worker’s income is $40,000. They pay $7210 in tax a year. If that person loses their job and goes on the dole, they’ll get about $11,000 a year after-tax from the Government. So, the net fiscal cost to the Government of a person on the median wage losing their job and going on the UB is $18,000 a year. That’s before you get into the flow-on costs in housing, health, crime etc. And, on top of that, you’ve got the vicious cycle effect of that person losing their job and not only decreasing how much they can spend but making others nervous of losing their jobs. On the other hand, not everyone can go on the dole, and there will sometimes be savings from Working for Families tax credits. But, overall, it seems to me that it makes economic sense for the Government to spend thousands of dollars to save a job, if that job would otherwise disappear.

Paying the wages for a worker while they do training one day a week (or one day a fortnight, which Key is said to be keen on), is one example of how this could be done. But, unfortunately, English’s response to such ideas has been ‘no money for that’. He simply won’t countenance new spending at that kind of level, even though it will protect the government’s fiscal position. While he has his firm grasp on the public purse it won’t happen. Key is going to have to pry him off if the Government is going to act to save jobs and stop the budget blowing out. The outcome of the conflict between Key’s desire to stay popular even if it means taking on left-wing ideas and English’s hard-right economics will have a major bearing on how well ordinary Kiwis weather the recession’s storm.

[* unless we believe that underlying this global recession is the fact that we have hit the world’s natural limits to growth and no government believes that, even though it might be true. Personally, I await further data. ]

18 comments on “The cost of doing (next to) nothing ”

  1. higherstandard 1

    “But, overall, it seems to me that it makes economic sense for the Government to spend thousands of dollars to save a job, if that job would otherwise disappear.”

    I’d temper that by pointing to the bail out of the motor companies in the US which in my opinion is insanity – save jobs/industries in NZ that have a future in the medium and longer term everyone should realise that sometimes companies must be allowed to fail.

  2. HS. agreed completely. I would like to see an Obama-style Green New Deal.

    • higherstandard 2.1

      I think we’ll find Obama is full of hot air …. much as today’s conference.

      I’d like to think that’s just my cynicism coming through but I doubt it.

      • Pascal's bookie 2.1.1

        Here you go,

        http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/

        Obama’s budget, already written, already online. Fill yer boots. And note that this is the budget, not the stimulus package, that’s something else again. And then there’s the health care reforms, which he is also doing this year.

        You can agree or disagree with what he’s doing, but he is doing a lot.

        • higherstandard 2.1.1.1

          Hot air, converted to waffle on paper, detailing how to spend money printed out of thin air, much of which will end up here – business as usual in the Us of A until the US dollar heads west.

  3. John Dalley 3

    The irony of Nationals double standard was not lost on me when John Key said that they where trimming the cost of renovations to Government House. Nice little PR statement you may think, but here’s the irony, this is construction work with all the associated trades just the thing JK has said we need to preserve in this country.
    I fear this National Government is going to talk a lot and do nothing constructive to assist the country through this recession.

  4. Far from doing what every other country is doing …

    Perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that these countries experiences are on a significant scale larger than NZ. We don’t see anywhere the same level of problems with banking, nor the same level of problems with mortgages (the two issues are linked). Yes, problems with finance companies but that is a separate issue.

    The irony of course was that when the right was screaming for tax cuts because that’s what every other country is doing, you’re answer was quite different.

    That’s not to argue that things won’t get progressively worse but the reality is that our long term improvements are linked to that of our trading partners.

    By all means soften the landing but as with your argument on the Cullen Fund, we need to see the big picture.

    • IrishBill 4.1

      The problem with the argument for tax cuts in New Zealand was that we already had very low tax rates.

      One thing this recession has done is made people realise how suicidal the tax cuts National wanted in 2005 were.

  5. Redbaiter 5

    “What that thinking misses is that he is actually worsening the Government’s fiscal position by refusing to spend government money to save jobs”

    The reason that we are in this mess is that we allowed politicians to take our money and spend it.

    National needs to stop thinking like socialists (and that bat eared commie fuckwit Obama), and do something that really helps the economy.

    Like cutting taxes and cutting government spending.

    Its not your money you left wing politicians here and in the US, and when you have taken it , you have wasted it.

    Spent it on unworthy things like propping up the uneconomic businesses of socialists posturing as businessmen, or you have dissipated it by handing it out to worthless bludgers in return for their vote.

    Now, step aside and let the people who earned that money spend it as they wish. That, as unpalatable as it is to any socialist, is the only true path to economic recovery. Everything else is either lies, or smoke and mirrors that will only exacerbate the situation.

  6. Redbaiter 6

    “What that thinking misses is that he is actually worsening the Government’s fiscal position by refusing to spend government money to save jobs’

    The reason that we are in this mess is that we allowed politicians to take our money and spend it.

    National needs to stop thinking like socialists (and that bat eared c*mm*e fuckwit Obama), and do something that really helps the economy.

    Like cutting taxes and cutting government spending.

    Its not your money you left wing politicians here and in the US, and when you have taken it , you have wasted it.

    Spent it on unworthy things like propping up the uneconomic businesses of socialists posturing as businessmen, or you have dissipated it by handing it out to worthless bludgers in return for their vote.

    Now, step aside and let the people who earned that money spend it as they wish. That, as unpalatable as it is to any socialist, is the only true path to economic recovery. Everything else is either lies, or smoke and mirrors that will only exacerbate the situation.

    Oppps, sorry- forgot aboput nanny filter.

  7. Redbaiter 7

    I give up.

    IrishBill: By which I assume you “give up” the outdated and absurd economic ideas that you have clung to for so long despite them being empirically, and repeatedly, disproved?

  8. Ari 8

    Can we not compare our failure of a finance minister to poor old ladies who have done nothing wrong but hang on to their limited retirement money during a downturn? A much better comparison would be that he’s holding the purse strings like his business mates on a pay day 🙂

    And you’re right, Redbaiter, it’s not “your” money, it’s our money. We ought to spend it in the way that evidence has suggested works best when we give it to the government. Untargetted tax cuts, while they fit your ideology nicely, do very little for the economy as a whole, and are much better spent on keeping up employment levels to take us out of the recession. You know, keeping the nice taxpayers who have done their bit in their jobs, rather than giving them fifty damn cents back from their pay packet before they get fired.

  9. monkey boy 9

    That was an interesting and informative post.

  10. IrishBill 10

    Agreed. Solid post, Steve. I’d add that national are desperate to not seem out of step with the rest of the world which is why they are trying to create the impression of big spending without actually spending. We are going to see some real tension as Bill tries to shift public opinion toward cuts around too fast and people cotton onto the government’s misdirection on the issue.

  11. djp 11

    What every other country has realized is that essentially this recession, as with any recession, is a crisis of confidence

    I disagree with this assertion (and this seems to be the point that your whole post relies on).

    This recession is an awakening. It was caused by malinvestment. People are now realising that:

    a) their assets are not worth as much as they (wished) to believe

    and

    b) they have been spending too much because of point a)

    Seriously Steve a shot of “confidence” aint gonna fix a) or b).

    Remind me never to come to you for budgeting advice 🙂

    • Felix 11.1

      Correct, to a point.

      But really, no-one actually believed that their house became more valuable in 6 months without them improving it – they just had confidence that someone else would think it was more valuable.

      Sometimes expressed as the “bigger fool” principle.

      OK, there are some really stupid people who probably actually believed it but there’s not much you can do to protect people from that degree of ignorance.

      Actually, there probably is but you need to start young and give kids some basic economic education before they get too caught up in the consumerist nonsense we call a culture.

  12. CASSE 12

    For further data and logic on limits to growth – and the prospects for a prosperous steady state economy – feel free to peruse the resources of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

    Brian Czech, Ph.D., President
    Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Speech to AI Forum – Autonomous Weapons Systems
    AI Forum New Zealand, Auckland Good evening and thank you so much for joining me this evening. I’d like to start with a thank you to the AI Forum Executive for getting this event off the ground and for all their work and support to date. The prospect of autonomous ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    36 mins ago
  • New Zealand boosts support to Fiji for COVID-19 impact
    Aotearoa New Zealand is providing additional support to Fiji to mitigate the effects of the current COVID-19 outbreak on vulnerable households, Foreign Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta announced today. “Recognising the increasingly challenging situation in Fiji, Aotearoa will provide an additional package of assistance to support the Government of Fiji and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 hours ago
  • Round 2 of successful energy education fund now open
    $1.65 million available in Support for Energy Education in Communities funding round two Insights from SEEC to inform future energy hardship programmes Community organisations that can deliver energy education to households in need are being invited to apply for the second funding round of the Support for Energy Education in ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    8 hours ago
  • New Ngarimu scholarships to target vocational training
    Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis today announced three new scholarships for students in vocational education and training (VET) are to be added to the suite of prestigious Ngarimu scholarships. “VET learners have less access to study support than university students and this is a way to tautoko their learning dreams ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    8 hours ago
  • Recognising the volunteers who support our health system
    Nominations have opened today for the 2021 Minister of Health Volunteer Awards, as part of National Volunteer Week. “We know that New Zealanders donate at least 159 million hours of volunteer labour every year,” Minister of Health Andrew Little said in launching this year’s awards in Wellington. “These people play ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    12 hours ago
  • Drug Free Sport supported to deal with new doping challenges
    Drug Free Sport New Zealand will receive a funding boost to respond to some of the emerging doping challenges across international sport. The additional $4.3 million over three years comes from the Sport Recovery Fund announced last year. It will help DFSNZ improve athletes’ understanding of the risks of doping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    13 hours ago
  • Government support for South Auckland community hit by tornado
    The Government is contributing $100,000 to a Mayoral Relief Fund to support Auckland communities impacted by the Papatoetoe tornado, Acting Minister for Emergency Management Kris Faafoi says. “My heart goes out to the family and friends who have lost a loved one, and to those who have been injured. I ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Celebrating World Refugee Day
    World Refugee Day today is an opportunity to celebrate the proud record New Zealanders have supporting and protecting refugees and acknowledge the contribution these new New Zealanders make to our country, the Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi said. “World Refugee Day is also a chance to think about the journey ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Face to face meeting delivers significant progress on NZ-UK FTA
    New Zealand and the UK have committed to accelerating their free trade agreement negotiations with the aim of reaching an agreement in principle this August, Trade Minister Damien O’Connor announced. “We’ve held constructive and productive discussions towards the conclusion of a high-quality and comprehensive FTA that will support sustainable and inclusive trade, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Government taking action to protect albatross
    New population figures for the critically endangered Antipodean albatross showing a 5 percent decline per year highlights the importance of reducing all threats to these very special birds, Acting Minister of Conservation Dr Ayesha Verrall says. The latest population modelling, carried out by Dragonfly Data Science, shows the Antipodean albatross ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Adoption laws under review
    New Zealand’s 66-year-old adoption laws are being reviewed, with public engagement beginning today.  Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said the Government is seeking views on options for change to our adoption laws and system. “The Adoption Act has remained largely the same since 1955. We need our adoption laws to reflect ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Wider roll-out of cameras on boats to support sustainability and protect marine life
    Up to 300 inshore commercial fishing vessels will be fitted with on-board cameras by 2024 as part of the Government’s commitment to protect the natural marine environment for future generations.  Minister for Oceans and Fisheries David Parker today announced the funding is now in place for the wider roll out ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Plan for vaccine rollout for general population announced
    New Zealanders over 60 will be offered a vaccination from July 28 and those over 55 from August 11, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. The rollout of the vaccine to the general population will be done in age groups as is the approach commonly used overseas, with those over ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • New Zealand introduces Belarus travel bans
    New Zealand has imposed travel bans on selected individuals associated with the Lukashenko regime, following ongoing concerns about election fraud and human rights abuses after the 2020 Belarus elections, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced. The ban covers more than fifty individuals, including the President and key members of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • NZ economy grows driven by households, construction and business investment
    The Government’s efforts to secure the recovery have been reflected in the robust rebound of GDP figures released today which show the economy remains resilient despite the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Grant Robertson said. GDP increased 1.6 percent in the first three months of 2021. The Treasury had ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Milestone 250th tower continues to improve rural connectivity
    The Government has welcomed the completion of the 250th 4G mobile tower, as part of its push for better rural connectivity. Waikato’s Wiltsdown, which is roughly 80 kilometres south of Hamilton, is home to the new tower, deployed by the Rural Connectivity Group to enable improved service to 70 homes ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Quarantine Free Travel pause with Victoria to lift on Tuesday
    Following a further public health assessment of the COVID-19 outbreak in greater Melbourne, New Zealand’s Quarantine Free Travel pause with Victoria has been extended to 11.59pm on Tuesday 22 June, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says. It has been determined that the risk to public health in New Zealand continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Prime Minister mourns passing of Dr Sir Ian Hassall
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is mourning the passing of Dr Sir Ian Hassall, New Zealand’s first Children’s Commissioner and lifelong champion for children and children’s health. As a paediatrician Sir Ian contributed to a major world-first cot death study that has been directly credited with reducing cot deaths in New ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • APEC structural reform meeting a success
    APEC ministers have agreed working together will be crucial to ensure economies recover from the impact of COVID-19. Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs David Clark, chaired the virtual APEC Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting today which revolved around the overarching theme of promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Digital hub to boost investment in forestry
    A new website has been launched at Fieldays to support the forestry sector find the information it needs to plant, grow and manage trees, and to encourage investment across the wider industry. Forestry Minister Stuart Nash says the new Canopy website is tailored for farmers, iwi and other forestry interests, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Government continues support for rangatahi to get into employment, education and training
    Over 230 rangatahi are set to benefit from further funding through four new He Poutama Rangatahi programmes, Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni announced today. “We’re continuing to secure our economic recovery from COVID by investing in opportunities for rangatahi to get into meaningful employment, education or training ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • NCEA subjects up for consultation
    The education sector, students, their parents, whānau and communities are invited to share their thoughts on a list of proposed NCEA subjects released today, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says. This is a significant part of the Government’s NCEA Change Programme that commenced in 2020 and will be largely implemented by ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Major investment in plantain forage programme aims to improve freshwater quality
    The Government is backing a major programme investigating plantain’s potential to help farmers protect waterways and improve freshwater quality, Acting Agriculture Minister Meka Whaitiri announced at Fieldays today. The Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFFF) fund is contributing $8.98 million to the $22.23 million seven-year programme, which aims to deliver ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • America’s Cup decision
    The Minister responsible for the America’s Cup has confirmed the joint Crown-Auckland Council offer to host the next regatta has been declined by the Board of Team New Zealand. “The exclusive period of negotiation between the Crown, Auckland Council, and Team New Zealand ends tomorrow, 17 June,” said Stuart Nash. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Food and fibres sector making significant strides towards New Zealand’s economic recovery
    The Government is backing the food and fibres sector to lead New Zealand's economic recovery from COVID-19 with targeted investments as part of its Fit for a Better World roadmap, Forestry Minister Stuart Nash said. “To drive New Zealand’s recovery, we launched the Fit for a Better World – Accelerating ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Speech to He Whenua Taurikura – New Zealand’s annual hui on countering terrorism and violent...
    Check against delivery Can I begin by acknowledging the 51 shuhada, their families and the Muslim community. It is because of the atrocious violent act that was done to them which has led ultimately to this, the start of a dialogue and a conversation about how we as a nation ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Cost of Government Southern Response proactive package released
    The Government has announced the proactive package for some Southern Response policyholders could cost $313 million if all those eligible apply. In December, the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission, David Clark announced a proactive package for SRES claimants who settled their claims before October 2014. It trailed the judgment ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • First period products delivered to schools
    The first period products funded as part of the Government’s nationwide rollout are being delivered to schools and kura this week, as part of wider efforts to combat child poverty, help increase school attendance, and make a positive impact on children’s wellbeing. “We know that nearly 95,000 9-to-18 year olds ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • New support to reduce emissions from public building and construction projects
    Government agencies are getting new support to reduce carbon emissions generated by construction of new buildings, with the release of practical guidance to shape decisions on public projects. The Ministers for Building and Construction and for Economic Development say a new Procurement Guide will help government agencies, private sector suppliers, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • He Whenua Taurikura: New Zealand’s first Hui on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism
    The Prime Minister has opened New Zealand’s first hui on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, which is being held in Christchurch over the next two days. The hui delivers on one of the recommendations from the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Speech to inaugural Countering Terrorism Hui
    E aku nui, e aku rahi, Te whaka-kanohi mai o rātou mā, Ru-ruku-tia i runga i te ngākau whakapono, Ru-ruku-tia i runga i te ngākau aroha, Waitaha, Ngāti Mamoe, Ngai Tahu, nāu rā te reo pohiri. Tena tātou katoa. Ki te kotahi te kakaho ka whati, ki te kapuia, e ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Campaign shines a light on elder abuse
    A new campaign is shining a spotlight on elder abuse, and urging people to protect older New Zealanders. Launched on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Office for Seniors’ campaign encourages friends, whānau and neighbours to look for the signs of abuse, which is often hidden in plain sight. “Research suggests ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Farewelling sports administrator and philanthropist Sir Eion Edgar
    Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson today expressed his sorrow at the passing of Sir Eion Edgar – a leading sports administrator and celebrated philanthropist who has made a significant impact both within and beyond the sport sector. “Sir Eion’s energy, drive and generosity has been truly immense. He leaves ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government to apologise for Dawn Raids
    The Government will make a formal apology for the wrongs committed during the Dawn Raids of the 1970’s. Between 1974 and 1976, a series of rigorous immigration enforcement policies were carried out that resulted in targeted raids on the homes of Pacific families. The raids to find, convict and deport overstayers ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Humanitarian support for Bangladesh and Myanmar
    Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced that New Zealand is providing NZ $8.25 million in humanitarian assistance to support refugees and their host populations in Bangladesh and to support humanitarian need of internally displaced and conflict affected people in Myanmar.  “Nearly four years after 900,000 Rohingya crossed the border ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Poroporoaki: Dame Georgina Kamiria Kirby
    E Te Kōkō Tangiwai, Te Tuhi Mareikura, Te Kākākura Pokai kua riro i a matou. He toka tū moana ākinga ā tai, ākinga ā hau, ākinga ā ngaru tūātea.  Haere atu rā ki te mūrau a te tini, ki te wenerau a te mano.  E tae koe ki ngā rire ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Feedback sought on future of housing and urban development
    New Zealanders are encouraged to have their say on a long-term vision for housing and urban development to guide future work, the Housing Minister Megan Woods has announced. Consultation starts today on a Government Policy Statement on Housing and Urban Development (GPS-HUD), which will support the long-term direction of Aotearoa ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Clean car package to drive down emissions
    New rebates for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles start July 1 with up to $8,625 for new vehicles and $3,450 for used. Electric vehicle chargers now available every 75km along most state highways to give Kiwis confidence. Low Emission Transport Fund will have nearly four times the funding by 2023 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Progress towards simpler process for changing sex on birth certificates
    The Government is taking the next step to support transgender, non-binary and intersex New Zealanders, by progressing the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill, Minister of Internal Affairs, Jan Tinetti announced today. “This Government understands that self-identification is a significant issue for transgender, non-binary and intersex New Zealanders, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Crown speeds up engagement with takutai moana applicants
    The Crown is taking a new approach to takutai moana applications to give all applicants an opportunity to engage with the Crown and better support the Māori-Crown relationship, Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Andrew Little says. Following discussions with applicant groups, the Crown has reviewed the existing takutai moana application ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago