Now for some more sobering news

“Government has placed an emphasis on improving economic performance and there is much worthwhile discussion, planning and change, but lot remains to be done,” says New Zealand Institute director Dr Rick Boven.

Half of the 16 key measures used to monitor New Zealand’s performance have been reassessed, based on the availability of new data, since NZ Institute’s first report card was released six months ago. No measures have been regraded upwards and one measure, life expectancy, has been regraded from B to C, with our rate of improvement in life expectancy below the OECD average. Boven says expert research is required to diagnose the causes of this and identify strategies to improve relative performance.

There is new data on household wealth that confirms New Zealand is not performing well on this measure. “While the Government’s debt position is strength, the weaknesses are small holdings of financial assets and high private debt,” says Boven. “This reinforces how important the Savings Working Group conclusions will be.”

The report notes that disadvantaged segments of the population remain seriously so relative to similar segments of populations in other OECD countries and environmental assets remain under pressure.

Boven says the Government’s emphasis has been on improving economic performance. Many relatively small-scale economic changes have been made in the areas of focus defined by the Economic Growth Agenda and the initiatives are well-chosen.

“What is still required is more than an agenda, more than plans, more than improvements. New Zealand needs strong economic strategy. There is not yet widely shared understanding of what the economic strategy for New Zealand is.”

Efforts to improve social wellbeing and environment outcomes appear to have lower priority so rapid improvement in these measures cannot be expected. That may be understandable given the immediate importance of improving economic outcomes and the challenges and constraints imposed by the recession and Christchurch earthquake, says Boven.

“However, more balanced approach will be required in the medium term or New Zealand will fall further behind on important social and environment measures. Strong social and environment performance is required for long-term economic success.”

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