Yesterday William commented to Cuts and Consequences to the effect that who needs policy analyst and that big private companies don’t bother with them and so neither should government. I’m paraphrasing a little bit but it did strike me that many people (including it seems some very senior ministers in this government – but not – funnily enough – Graham Scott the former ACT candidate who found that there was no suplus of policy anaylists in his comprehensive Policy Advice Review)
My point is that policy wonks do cool stuff that saves money, lives and makes NZ better. For instance:
In Customs, we were the first country in the world to get mutual security recognition with the US after the September 11 bombings. That meant NZ exports got immediate priority clearance into the US because our security was so good. This was a huge advantage for business – and all the work of our policy wonks.
New Zealand’s Quota Management System (QMS) for fisheries was a world first. It created tradeable property rights that provided the foundation for a multibillion-dollar industry and established NZ as a world leader in sustainable management. Again, it was designed by policy advisers.
Inland Revenue officials help recover billions of dollars from companies and individuals who want to avoid paying their fair share of tax. In 2009, they reached a settlement that saw the big 4 NZ banks paying $2.2 billion – after claims that the banks were evading tax through so-called structured financing transactions.
Policy advisers also do a huge amount of work on issues such as biosecurity. The economic and social cost of diseases in New Zealand can be seen from the rare times when one of them reaches the country, as with the unfortunately named PSA virus currently threatening our kiwifruit industry. The fact that so few diseases get across our borders is a testament to the work of the officials who, in conjunction with scientists, come up with our biosecurity policy and make sure it is enforced.
The road toll is great example of the work that policy wonks do. It’s half the level it was in the 1970s, and not by accident (no pun intended). Tackling dangerous driving is the result of years of work by officials in the Ministry of Transport, culminating in a series of government-designed public education campaigns that woke people up to the dangers of drink-driving, speed and the great value in the simple act of wearing your seatbelt.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it.