"More of The Same"
by Judith Bell, MADENZ
For those caught up in the hype and hope of the recent launch of The New Zealand Institute -purportedly an apolitical organisation whose purpose is 'to generate new thinking, new ideas and new solutions that contribute to a better and more prosperous New Zealand for all New Zealanders' - they should know better than to hold out any hope that these 'think tankers' will pull us out of the hole we are in, as a number of them represent organisations (many of them foreign owned) that dug the hole in the first place.
The institutes newly appointed chief executive is David Skilling, former Treasury principal adviser who was quoted in the New Zealand Herald as saying, "I am interested in ideas that work".
This begs the question, "What took him so long?"
For the past twenty years Treasury has been the main driving force behind the very policies that have resulted in the grim economic statistics currently being presented by the New Zealand Institute - statistics that portray an ever widening gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' in New Zealand.
But like George W Bush, David Skilling has as his institute base, the 'have-mores'. One hardly expects this man to advocate policies that jeopardise the businesses of those who pay his wages.
A cursory glance over the names of the New Zealand Institute's seventeen executive board members who each paid the $35,000 membership fee, reveals that eight of them are relics of the ineffective 'Knowledge Wave Trust Advisory Board', which crashed on the rocks of the free market ideology that still encircles our economy today
Imagine David Skilling suggesting to institute member Stephen Tindall of The Warehouse Ltd, that in order for New Zealand to become a high waged, fully employed and prosperous society we must change the rules and encourage the creation of high paid, import substituting manufacturing jobs here, rather than exporting our jobs to China?
Or imagine Skilling suggesting to member Chris Liddell of International Paper, that in order for our Kinleith mill workers to prosper they should be paid more and that the minimum wage should be lifted to the equivalent of the Australians.
And imagine Skilling suggesting to member Ann Sherry of Westpac Banking, that young first home buyers in New Zealand should be given more favourable interest rates and that the foreign owned banks should subsidise such a scheme - not the New Zealand taxpayer.
Frankly, the chances of Skilling making such suggestions, let alone having them accepted by his board, are remote.
Even more remote is the expectation that The New Zealand Institute and its members will have the effect of creating 'more ownership' for the majority of society in New Zealand.