09 July 2009

Semester 2, 2009

As I was on leave last semester, this blog has been inactive for quite a while. But, with the second semester about to begin, it's timely to reflect on some of the big issues that will be of interest to students of social policy, political economy and public management.

To say the least, the last 12 months have seen some world-changing events, especially the massive economic collapse. As governments struggled to deal with the effects - if only to be seen to be doing something - they abandoned the 'free market' purism of recent decades and began nationalizing banks, guaranteeing deposits, printing money, and (in the case of the US auto industry) controlling major manufacturers. A while ago, such interventions would have been heresy!

At home, to add to this, we have had a change of government. While National had quietly adopted many of Labour's programmes (such as Kiwisaver), they have also signalled a change of direction. But, not without unwelcome restrictions due to the Recession (note the capital R!). Consequently, they have had to indefinitely postpone promised tax-cuts, and (I believe) to shelve plans to allow private-sector insurers to provide workers' compensation. The new government will have to live with projected budget deficits, funded through increased public debt, for the foreseeable future. This radically reduces their policy and spending options, and has seen them getting much tougher on public-sector job-cuts than they had indicated prior to the Election. Overall, their options for tackling the Recession through stimulatory policies are very limited, largely because NZ as a nation is already heavily indebted (that is, we have been living beyond our means for far too long, and further borrowing is only going to make it tougher.)

So, the biggest thing on the National-led government's mind right now is the reform of Auckland's local governance. As I write this, many of the key aspects of those reforms are undecided, but there is no doubt that the 'super-city' is going to become a reality. Will this reform deliver on its promises, and make Auckland a better place to live, to work and to invest? Will the new governance structure work more effectively to deliver infrastructure development? Will it help to restrain growth in rates?

From the student's point of view, though, the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance provided us with a wealth of information and research on just about everything to do with local governance in the region. See the papers posted on the Commission's website, especially volume 4 Research Papers.


At 7:28 PM, Anonymous warren_hatcher@hotmail.com said...

Hi Grant
I am one of your students this year in 179.201.
Is it possible for you to send me the your lecture notes from class.


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