The illusion of control

In general policy discussion there seems to be a growing acceptance that a government needs to steer the economy. However, this entire discussion ignores one important issue – can the government really steer the economy, or recognise what the impacts of policy will be before putting it in place. Trying to control what we observe, but don’t understand, is more than likely going to make us all worse off.

Time for rethinking the census

Last Tuesday would have been census day. A day when our statistical agency collects all sorts of personal information about our working lives, our living circumstances and our family structures . But the devastating second earthquake in Christchurch has scuppered the five yearly poll. The nation’s resources will be severely stretched over the next few years and this may be an opportunity to trial less costly ways to collect information on our population than a full count of every individual in New Zealand.

How fit are feed in tariffs?

In South Australia my cousin is paid 44c/kWh (soon to rise to 54c) by the local electricity company for electricity that she sells into the grid from her solar photovoltaic system. When she has to buy power from the power company the price is 19c/kWh. Furthermore, the capital cost of her photovoltaic system was heavily subsidised, resulting in an expected payback period of about ten years. So it is quite a good investment – from her perspective.

Doing a better job of guaranteeing deposits

The collapse of South Canterbury Finance (SCF) and the $1.6bn taxpayer bail-out has turned the spotlight firmly on the government’s deposit guarantee scheme. Originally introduced in October 2008 at the height of the global financial crisis, the scheme’s intent was to give investors confidence that their money in New Zealand banks and financial institutions would be safe. The scheme came at a time when institutions were failing both here and overseas, and there was a real risk of bank run contagion as investors wanted to withdraw their money before their own bank of choice hit the wall.

The daily grind

At the turn of the century, telecommuting was a big buzz word in IT and management circles. Many white-collar workers wondered if the days of commuting into the office five days a week were numbered. But while communication and remote access technology has matured considerably over the last decade, most of us seem unwilling or unable to make the switch and start predominately working from home.