Monday, 27 April 2020

Free Press, 27 April 2020


War Is Over

Peace returns, sort of. The end of lockdown means a return to work for many, but not all, businesses and workers. It is also time to survey the ruins. The Government has belatedly realised how damaging the lockdown is and now seeks Alert Level Two as soon as possible. Two weeks won’t be long enough to see what the rate of spread is under Alert Level Three conditions, but it is long enough for the Government to save face from admitting it overreacted.

Aspiration Beats Fear

We are constantly told how bad the virus is and how lucky we are to have had good leadership. We need to dump the fear and become aspirational. We could start by changing the countries we look to. Instead of saying ‘thank god we are not Italy’ we could be asking ‘why we are not Taiwan?’ We should also be openly asking what Sweden (with no lockdown) and Iceland can teach us, even Australia.

The Taiwanese Miracle...

...was not a miracle. They decided to go smart and go early. Yesterday’s conversation between David Seymour and Jeff Liu, a local representative of the Taiwanese Government, shows how 23 million people only 150km from China managed 400 cases and 6 deaths without a lockdown. When they say smart, they used big data to pinpoint where the infection was (don’t worry, they are a democracy). When they say early, their Government's response was fully implemented by 20 January.

We Need An Open Debate

The Government can be forgiven for taking drastic action under pressure at the end of March. But the modelling it relied upon hasn’t been vindicated by real New Zealand transmission rates. The rigid insistence on continuing severe measures did not account for the economic and health costs it imposed. Many people do not want to accept we might have got it wrong, but we must ask how we could have done better.

Transparency Still Matters

Keen eyes have noticed that the moniker for Alert Level 4 used to be ‘Eliminate’ but after 16 April it became ‘Lockdown.’ Why the change? Will any journalist ask this? There is a nagging feeling that the Government originally meant elimination in the plain language sense, realised its error, and is trying to back away from the concept.

An Honorable Role

Throughout the crisis, ACT has been first to call for the borders to be closed, for the Government to take the crisis seriously, for MP pay to be cut, for ‘safe not essential’ businesses to be open, and for hunting to be allowed, among much other lobbying and suggestions. All along the way we have kept to David Seymour’s maxim of making constructive criticisms where necessary and helpful suggestions where possible.

Good Economics Before The Crisis

…remains good economics after the crisis. Nobody outside South America has ever campaigned on taking people’s money and scattering it from a helicopter. Normally even Labour Finance Ministers would laugh at the suggestion. The fact that giving every citizen $1500 of taxpayers’ money is even suggested shows how far we’ve slipped from basic policy sense.

Lots To Do

New Zealand went into this election with four per cent unemployment and just over 20 per cent public debt because our underlying policy settings that date to Roger Douglas’s time are sound. We need to defend these settings from weird and wonderful onslaughts while advocating supply side reforms that will aid in the recovery. We will need to roll back pointless and costly regulations, balance the budget as soon as possible, and open to the world with the smartest borders possible. That’s the path back to prosperity.