Monday, September 24, 2007

Shock Horror! National might sell a few farms and part of a coalmine.

"Selling off the family silver."
What emotional claptrap we see over the government owning a few power companies, Solid Energy and some farms.
Bill English has proposed a modest plan to sell off parts of various government 'assets' like power firms to help raise revenue for infrastructure, with the government retaining control.
And while Clayton Cosgrove has yet to trot out the 'family silver' line, I guess it won't be long before someone does.
New Zealand has a crazy mish-mash of state-owned enterprise, crown entities, etc, etc, running on various lines of indpendence from the government and with full or parial state ownership.
For some entities, in practice we do not know whether they are state-owned or not.
Take power, Mercury Energy over the Fuliaga case some months back. This evile greedy corporate was actually an SOE meeting financial targets set by Cullen and Dear Leader. Private power companies were actually more 'socially responsible.'
Look around at what the government does own, control, supply, and what do we see- poor and expensive service, poor quality, general failure.
State supplied health is a mess, state-supplied education is a mess, state-supplied roads, much as I oppose tollways, are also a mess. Yet costs are always increasing rapidly to provide such services, badly. The provision of water services and related sewage is proving controversial and expensive in Auckland, for example.
We hear some on the left talk about 'essential services' saying that because they are essential, they must be provided by the state. Growing up in Britain, I certainly survived the provision of privatised water , privated gas, privatised electricity.
Let us have state-owned supermarkets then and nationalise the farms. There are few things more essential than food. Imagine how Liarbour would mess this up? Could Cullen run Pak'N'Save, Steve Maharey Foodtown, Annette King New World? It would be a recipe for starvation and shortages.
We hear people complain about schools, health, crime, the traffic, all things the government controls or supplies the bulk of. Yet, our supermarkets satisfy millions of kiwis everyday.
I am not advocating we suddenly sell off the schools and hospitals tomorrow, but seeing how badly managed they are in New Zealand, could some form of private provision be any worse?
For now, I'd be happy to see sensible debate on what government should own and what it should not. Does it need to own a few farms on the South Island or wherever? What does Landcorp do that a private owner cannot? Why should the mining of coal be state owned when the mining/quarrying of stone and other buildings materials are not?
Why do we have such a complicated mish mash of SOEs, council-owned operations, trust owned firms, private firms, etc, in the utility sectors? Might a restructured set up of few larger privately-owned operators be more efficient, gaining economies of scale?
Instead, let's hear Liarbour spout emotional claptrap over "selling the family silver". But if they do, consider how well they run the assets they currently do. Perhaps health and education might not be in such a sorry mess if government could concentrate on fewer 'core' services/ assetts?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was raised in the run-up to the last election... and at that time it was also pointed out that despite Labour's line that it was selling off our assets, landcorp under the labour government was routinely selling-off farms themselves anyway.