Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The sad state of the New Zealand Economy

The effects of our economic belief system on our balance of payments

The global economy relies on a set of rules to ensure fair and free trade.  The “Free Trade” nations rely on the “level playing field” that is they rely on all partners acting honestly and openly and according to the same set of rules.  This however is not the practice.  Only some countries abide by the rules.  The effect of the cheats versus the honest players is the same as in cards.  Cheats prosper.  One of the basic concepts of free trades is the floating exchange rate.  The floating exchange rate should in theory result in each country’s exchange rate moving to a point where its imports and exports balance because the value of its currency will move up when it’s export flows improve and down when its imports become excessive.  The result is that a country with a strong exchange rate will import more and a weak one will produce more internally.  The fundamental flaw in the world of trade is that not all parties do this.  If any one country can artificially fix its’ currency at an artificially low level then it will have a trading advantage that is equivalent to a tariff on imports and a subsidy on exports.  Conversely with a country like New Zealand where we have a severely over valued currency we are effectively subsidising imports and placing a tariff on exports.  Our indebtedness is a clear testimony to that.

The Central Intelligence Agency publishes an annual set of Country Reports and in 2008 its summary of nation’s current account balance had the greatest surpluses in the hands of the countries that are oil rich and have nationalised their oil resources, Saudi Arabia, Russia Norway and Kuwait, or that have currency controls and are centrally planned economies China, Japan Singapore and arguably Switzerland.  The beneficiary nations of the European Union also rank up there as the EU set permanent currency distortions with undervalued currencies for the northern European countries and over valued for the southern nations.


Current account balance
$ 363,300,000,000
$ 195,900,000,000
$ 185,100,000,000
$ 88,890,000,000
$ 74,000,000,000
$ 67,890,000,000
$ 59,280,000,000
$ 55,820,000,000
$ 51,490,000,000
Central planned
$ 41,390,000,000

At the bottom of the list we have the global trade basket cases.  What is interesting to note is that most of the worst cases are governed by free market ideologies.  India has the same cheap labour pool advantages as China.  Australia has an equivalent natural resource wealth as Saudi Arabia.  

New Zealand is on a per capita basis one of the most well endowed countries on the planet.  But we are at the losing end of the global trade war.  Our indebtedness means that we are becoming ever poorer as the cheats at the game of global free trade take our money from us and use it to buy our assets.  This makes us poorer again.  Our indebtedness is a black hole and our fatal path into its’ depths is inexorable – under the current ideology.  
Resource rich free market
$ -9,973,000,000
Free market/overvalued
$ -12,600,000,000
Free market/overvalued
$ -18,130,000,000

$ -18,530,000,000

$ -18,530,000,000
Resource rich free market
$ -20,060,000,000

$ -22,600,000,000
Free market/overvalued
$ -35,940,000,000
Free market/overvalued
$ -36,270,000,000
Free market/overvalued
$ -36,400,000,000
Resource rich free market
$ -50,960,000,000
Free market/overvalued
$ -57,940,000,000
Free market/overvalued
$ -111,000,000,000
Free market/overvalued
$ -126,300,000,000
Resource rich free market
$ -747,100,000,000

Our free market ideology endows us with a victim mentality.   We can’t remove ourselves from the abuse and we applaud our abusers.

China, the worst offender doesn’t just cheat on the floating currency, it cheats on copyright, it cheats on employment and environment law and it subsidises energy. It also uses a wide range of non-tariff barriers to trade to protect its own domestic economy.  It also trades in our domestic market without having to meet all the costs of production that the domestic producer must face.  The more of our domestic production that imports displace, the fewer domestic producers remain to cover the social overhead of our domestic economy with the result that the domestic producer is either crushed by the overheads or shifts production to a place where these overheads don’t exist. 

China has seen the flaws in our ideology and is exploiting them.  China will end up owning us using our own money to buy us.  This is as inevitable as gravity.  The global trade imbalance is structural and it will persist and grow for as long as we its victims allow it to.  As resource owners we have the power, as the oil owning states that have nationalised their resources have already learned.   If we want to get out of this situation we need to learn from our abusers and stop listening to our fellow abused who can be identified on the CIA list along side us.  Several of these have already fallen into the economic black hole.  We are only being prevented from joining them because we are resource exporters and we have major capital inflows as our resources are removed from our ownership.  This is a temporary respite.  

We can escape from this situation but it will take a very different approach to trade and commerce and to finance to achieve it.


  1. This is a somewhat chilling assessment darkhorse and one that would interest all students of our demise.
    Have you considered writing a blog :-)

  2. not as chilling as the reality Rob and not one blog but several and thanks for "deflowering" my new blog with the first comment - an auspicious start?

  3. i'm a fan of your writing - = )

    very thoughtful and not imbued with technicalities that job bloggs can't understand. i think the political will is lacking and the greed of the interest power brokers will keep wagging the dog, and alot of the masses enslaved in capitalist behaviours will just keep buying into blind ideology fully knowing well that deep down, something has gone seriously awry ... i think it will take something cataclysmic to occur before enduring change for real redistribution takes place ....... hopefully we won't bear the full brunt of such an event!

    Julian Ang

  4. Love it!.


  5. who does free trade benefit? the money men, who see the dollar signs of growth, difficult to get in mature economies.
    So it is they who insist there are no trade barriers which is totally absurd against economies that provide nothing to their workers beyond subsistence wages.

    Globalised trade should by default not be free and from that exceptions made to aid developing countries and emerging markets. But it should be an elastic band, not an open door.

    to do otherwise is simply to send our jobs overseas.