Economic growth, inflation, and interest rates around the globe remain significantly lower than they were prior to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. The limited success of efforts to stimulate the economy over the last 12 years are reminiscent of the Japanese economy’s stagnation during the 1990s. Are other developed economies, including New Zealand, at risk of suffering the same malaise as Japan over the medium-term?
Housing looks set to continue dominating headlines in 2020, as house prices look to rally again and rent pressures grow. Who’s got property, who’s paying for property, and how many need property will all be key issues through the year as we build towards another election. But separate from that, the spotlight will keep shining on the housing market as New Zealand’s primary method of wealth creation. With so much money and interest wrapped up in property, here are some of the components to watch in 2020.
There’s a saying that it takes money to make money. There are, of course, exceptions to any rule, but this saying generally aligns with Thomas Piketty’s thesis (Capital in the Twenty-First Century) that if the rate of return on capital exceeds the economy’s growth rate, then wealth will gradually accumulate in the hands of fewer and fewer people. That is, if investment returns are growing faster than the economy, this wealth accumulates.
African Swine Fever (ASF) is now firmly entrenched in every province of China and has recently been reported in several other South East Asian countries, causing an upheaval in the world’s meat market. The Fever, a highly contagious, incurable virus that is fatal to pigs but harmless to humans, has also been detected in parts of Eastern Europe since 2014.
Every time we have local elections there is lots of talk about the low levels of turnout, and rightly so. In 2016, turnout was up nationally to an unimpressive 42%. The 2019 preliminary results from Local Government NZ show a drop in national turnout to 41.4%. At a slightly more detailed level, “metro” council areas followed a similar zigzag of up in 2016 and down in 2019. Interestingly “provincial” and “rural” council areas showed an inverse zigzag, with decreased turnout in 2016 and increased turnout in 2019.
The global economic slowdown will continue to be a drag on New Zealand’s economy over the next year, according to Infometrics’ latest forecasts. Escalating tariffs as a result of the trade war between the US and China have seen global growth expectations steadily downgraded. China, New Zealand’s largest export market and the major engine of the global economy over the last decade, is growing at its slowest rate in 30 years. All these factors mean that next year the world economy could record its slowest growth since 2012.
With local elections in full swing, there’s a greater focus on the direction that our councils are moving towards and how much is it going to cost. Wrapped up in these discussions is the the fact that right across New Zealand we need to address our infrastructure deficit after decades of neglect. Planning to address this deficit will not be easy, or cheap, but is critical to aiding growth and fixing our housing issues.
The long-awaited reset of KiwiBuild confirms that the government still doesn’t grasp why the policy went so spectacularly wrong. When KiwiBuild was conceived back in 2012, it was easy to blame the unaffordability of housing on a lack of supply – new dwelling consents the previous year had plunged to a 58-year low of 13,236. But with consents now at a 45-year high of 35,472, it no longer makes sense to suggest that high house prices are due to a lack of construction activity. KiwiBuild remains a policy that has been formulated to treat the symptoms of a problem that the government has failed to properly diagnose or understand.
Plastic packaging is being talked about more than any other time since it was first invented. With single-use plastic bags now banned, and our ability to outsource soft plastic recycling overseas becoming less viable, there are some fundamental shifts occurring for New Zealand. With more efforts to switch to reusable alternatives, and a rethink about plastic recycling, we need to focus much more on how we manage our waste.
The July 2019 Infometrics forecasts show a long, slow, slowdown is on the cards for the New Zealand economy. With lower growth on the way, it’s worth highlighting some of the options that are available to New Zealand to combat the slowdown along with the opportunities and challenges of these options.