Not hurting enough?

It appears that economists at Infometrics believe New Zealand is not hurting enough from the global recession – that we aren’t noticing the true underlying risk of our debt position.

Well at least that is what the title says.  Reading the article indicates to me that the commentary is not on the current crisis at all – but about how we grow when we come out of it.  Infometrics seems to be of the opinion that once the crisis is over, fundamental imbalances in the domestic and global economies will drive us back to high current account deficits and a worse net debt position.

Once this happens, a global economy that has recently been stung by risk loving behaviour will punish us – forcing us to take on an adjustment that we didn’t complete during the current crisis.

Now I buy that reasoning.  But my only question (which isn’t covered in the newspaper article) is, what are the structural factors in the New Zealand/global economy causing this imbalance.  Is it our artificially high exchange rate (against fixed Asian currencies), is it artificially low interest rates, is it no capital gains tax, is it poor financial education, is it an inherent bias towards housing as an investment vehicle, is it poor investment decisions by firms, is it uncertainty surrounding policy?

Without an answer to this question, how are we supposed to know what New Zealand is supposed “to learn” 😛 .

  • I only read the newspaper article, but I really don’t understand Infometrics’ view. What’s with this command-and-control, make em hurt to teach em a lesson thing? Are they saying that people are too dumb to now what’s best for them? Cos that would be distinctly… unorthodox.

    As you point out, what most economists would do is point to structural issues that are distorting peoples’ decisions or incentives. The fact that Infometrics doesn’t do anything of the sort leads me to believe that they just think they know better. It really smacks of the sort of superiority complex that you’ve often lambasted public servants for, Matt. I’d hate to be there when you let those Infometrics people have it 😛

  • And I quote:

    “Well at least that is what the title says. Reading the article indicates to me that the commentary is not on the current crisis at all – but about how we grow when we come out of it. Infometrics seems to be of the opinion that once the crisis is over, fundamental imbalances in the domestic and global economies will drive us back to high current account deficits and a worse net debt position.”

    So I would note that the actual article doesn’t actually take a command and control point of view – even though the journalists title makes it sound like that. I am sure that when talking to paying clients Infometrics discusses the structural issues in some detail, after all as you say there must be some sort of market failure for the actions of individuals to not be in their best interest 😉

    In fact, what knows, my newspaper article on Saturday might even discuss the structural issues …

  • It sounds like a form of masochism. But the point about post-crisis problems for New Zealand sounds plausible enough. My only question is why aren’t we feeling the effects of this already? Surely the information is all there?

  • @Bill Bennett

    If it is a structural issue in the economy then no amount of cajoling from an unrelated global recession will solve it.

    The question of what the structural issues are, and what is causing them, is undoubtedly a question that should now be rising to prominence. My fear is that the government will try to blame it on irrationality and just further limit individual choice – this wouldn’t be my preference, and I believe it would miss the point.

  • What about the possibility that the gloom and doom predictions are just that. Fear sells really well, it keeps people coming back for more. Everyone wants to stay glued to the predictions so they will know when the storm is coming and how to weather it.

    “Everything is ok, and everything is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future”… just doesn’t sell that well.

  • @DC Recruiters

    Well that would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that New Zealand does owe a whole lot and has no obvious way of repaying it …

    I hope as much as anyone else that all the investment we performed over the last 5+ years suddenly starts to provide an awesome rate of return – but I suspect that these Infometrics forecasts are just admitting the fact that this doesn’t seem to be the case.

  • @mattnolan

    Agreed. By the way, I’m frustrated by the lack of debate over this in the media. As a journalist I realise Michael Jackson sells newspapers, but it looks as if New Zealand is missing a huge opportunity to put structural things right at the moment. At the very least we should be thinking out loud about these matters,

  • Miguel Sanchez

    I tend to share the sentiment that this recession hasn’t burned people badly enough to make them change their behaviour voluntarily. But I don’t think the problem is structural imbalances per se; the real danger that policymakers act on the assumption that people will behave differently this time. For instance, assuming that people will save rather than borrow even if you keep interest rates at the lowest levels in decades. I’d say that might lead to some imbalances in the economy, just as I might say that’s what caused the imbalances last time around.

  • As you point out, what best economists would do is point to structural issues that are distorting peoples’ decisions or incentives. The actuality that Infometrics doesn’t do annihilation of the array leads me to accept that they aloof anticipate they apperceive better. It absolutely smacks of the array of ahead circuitous that you’ve generally lambasted accessible agents for, Matt. I’d abhorrence to be there back you let those Infometrics bodies accept it

  • I alone apprehend the bi-weekly article, but I absolutely don’t accept Infometrics’ view. What’s with this command-and-control, accomplish em aching to advise em a assignment thing? Are they adage that bodies are too impaired to now what’s best for them? Cos that would be distinctly… unorthodox.

  • I think the recession has only hit certain fields to be honest, I work in IT and myself and friends in the same profession haven’t noticed a change.

    I mean it obviously did effect people, but I think its been made out worse than it actually was.

  • The fact that Infometrics doesn’t do anything of the sort leads me to believe that they just think they know better.

  • I agree with McBonio, the current stage that the economy is in is being a little exaggerated. Some positions are hurting more than others but it’s not to panic about yet.

  • I can see how the adjustment might make faltering economies less stable if and when we emerge, but I think the risk is overblown(as usual). People see a roadside bomb in the news, some investing firm drives the price of oil, or corn, or wheat, or any other commodity(New Zealand mostly exports its agricultural products). The stocks dwindle slowly until the next panic ensues, and we get new artificial booms. The New Zealand economy isn’t really as great as the world thinks it is, it’s just in a convenient trade position for the current mindset of society.

  • @McBonio
    Don’t forget that average changes are still usually felt at the margin. Most people won’t see a big difference, but many more people than usual will lose their jobs or be refused a pay rise. For some people it will be catastrophic, while for most it won’t be a big deal. On average the economy’s hurting, but you may not be able to tell from your vantage point. I think that’s the big problem with trying to extrapolate from your personal experiences how the economy’s performing.

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  • I will believe them that they are not hurting enough if they are able to aid other countries who do feel the recession.

  • was nice article.
    thank you.

  • @rauparaha great points, I suppose my view has been blinkered to one extent. Also I think I’m apprehensive of the press as they often blow things out of all proportion.

  • This article throws up a lot of questions. Why isn’t anything being done to prevent the damage that will occur once th recession ends?

  • The UN is a club for legitimising dictators and a tool for those who believe that the answer to everything is less freedom for everyone and more government.

    As a starter they should kick out every government which doesn’t uphold the people’s rights, and put a large bounty on their heads.