Island Life by David Slack


We are all Chinese now

I have been busy writing some words for someone who wishes to buy a newspaper business, I have been taking my daughter on school holiday outings, I have been sitting at microphones in radio stations offering potted thoughts, I have been hanging out at film premieres and listening to new music by The Checks, but mostly I have been reading the world's financial websites and being alternately consoled by the calm thoughts of Warren Buffett and perturbed by other more troubling observations.

I have also been bemused by the paucity of the so-called economic plan of Mr Key, late of the world’s financial markets.

Some thoughts:

Firstly, I endorse this YouTube clip. Living for today and discounting the future is how we ended up with Muldoon's super scheme instead of the Labour one. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Secondly, I recommend Gareth Morgan’s article in the new Listener for a clear-eyed and chilling assessment of the world credit crisis and what it might mean to deeply-indebted NZ and its vastly expensive housing stock. (Take a stab at the implications of what he's written - house values down 20%? 30%? 50%?) There are distinctions you can make between our position and that of Iceland, but we have at least this much in common: we both borrowed a huge pile of offshore money in order to push up the price of houses and live large on the proceeds.

Thirdly I offer this modest proposal for any political party to package up for us punters. Never mind the tax cuts, what about the big economic plan?

We have a free trade agreement with China. It was, they told us at the time, a Big Deal. Well, why don't we make the most of it?

What about an audacious export project to capitalise on next year's 9% growth in that vast market?

We could be exporting goods, and  services, and people; whatever might have a market.  Of course there are people doing it already, and of course, it's far more easily said than done, but if we at least point our guns in a direction where we can score some hits, would that not be prudent in these perturbing economic times? If our traditional markets are going to be contracting alarmingly, shouldn't we, as a matter of urgency, be shifting our attention and efforts to a market that might have better prospects?

What might come of a great big swaggering Man-on-the-Moon-in-a-Decade plan to make ourselves big in China? I'm thinking of tax breaks, export incentives, training programmes, workshops, trade missions, and a whole lot of brainstorming with investors and exporters and smart business people to answer the simple question: how can we really capitalise, as a matter of urgency,  on this trade agreement?  I am only slightly kidding when I also propose we get those two schoolgirls who cracked the Ribena code to pitch in on this. We need smart people with new ideas.

I don't deny that there are plenty of objections you can make to this ( too broad, too vague, too risky, too Statist to name just a few), but if ever there was a time for some fresh thinking and some new departures, it must surely be now.

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