Thinking smarter

by The Listener / 14 February, 2013
If Kiwis demand that local businesses deliver jobs and wealth, they can’t be investing all their money in property.
Money - thinking smarter

My discussion on productivity (Money, January 26) provoked a strong reaction from Havelock North reader David Trubridge: “I’m tired of the dreary ‘competitive’ story rolled out again from the Government’s propaganda sheets. We are being presented with two wildly conflicting stories: one, the world is seriously overheating, the weather is getting more violent and it will continue in this direction unless we do something about it, which so far we are not. And two, the economy is flagging and we must try harder to be more competitive.

“You can’t believe both. If you think all the scientific reports on climate change are true, then you have to rethink your economic stories. We can’t all go on competitively climbing over each other to be bigger, better and faster, because that is what’s causing global warming.

“We are still being fed the nonsense that a richer economy is the only way to look after everyone. America has emphatically disproved this, with the competitive mega-rich sucking out all the money, leaving a staggering 15% below the poverty line (over 20% for children), with minimal support.

“We’re told we have to work harder to export more to pay our debts. But what do we import? Too much junk we wouldn’t need if we weren’t so competitive about having a bigger TV or vehicle. That consumer addiction is a trap the Government and big business want us to fall into.

“Instead, let’s support local enterprise and build our communities to make them more self-sufficient with what is here, not dependent on stuff from overseas, which we then have to pay for.”

David Trubridge says we can’t be pro-development while saving the planet. Actually, we can and must. Populations are growing and standards of living are improving globally, so even if we use less, we still need more. So we need to manage that growth better.

My parents came to New Zealand for a better life (peace, democracy, natural beauty, good climate), and I value what makes this country special. But I also worry about our levels of child poverty, which are similar to the US’s, though our safety net is better.

We can’t retreat to our caves, shut our borders and ignore the world. We owe big-time to overseas lenders and if we don’t meet our commitments, we face the fate threatening southern Europe now or previously faced elsewhere.

I agree excessive consumerism is part of the problem, but only part. The argument boils down to a definition of “rich”. Richness is about quality of life. To enjoy that, we still have to earn enough money to educate our kids, care for the sick and elderly and pay our debts.

My column identified small countries such as those in Scandinavia (not the US) as models to improve our productivity, although their economies have been greatly helped by huge oil reserves.

I also talked about supporting local enterprise. If Kiwis demand that local businesses deliver jobs and wealth, they can’t be investing all their money in property.

What worries me is that some of our best and brightest (like my parents’ generation leaving Europe 60 years ago) don’t see a future here. We must be smarter about building on what’s good about New Zealand. We could learn a lot from the All Blacks’ approach.

Kiwis are proud of the All Blacks’ international success. We have built that over a century, within every school and community. It is based on our pioneering origins and our passion. The brand reflects a determined, professional approach using superb planning and delivery.

The result is that although rugby is a niche sport, we are its undisputed masters and its reputation goes well beyond sport. The success of the All Blacks is unrivalled – they simply do it better.

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