Stats prove we're not doing that well

Last updated 05:00 28/10/2012

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As well as painting a glass-is-not-just-half-full-but-overflowing portrait of bureaucratic greatness, the annual reports of our government departments tell us quite a bit about the nation's money life.

In their search for statistics and measures to demonstrate their success, they offer a slew of nuggets that tell us quite a bit about our aggregate money behaviour, our peccadilloes and penchants.

Each is a story in itself, but not all of them are particularly flattering, such as the big role that sacrificial offerings to the gods of chance play in our money lives.

In the year to the end of March, we spent a collective $948.1 million on lottery tickets, the NZ Lotteries Commission reported. By contrast, employee contributions to KiwiSaver were $1321.5m.

Let's not be too puritanical. Everyone needs some hope of putting their money worries behind them.

NZ Post's success with Kiwibank shows the continuing flood of New Zealanders seeking a home-grown bank over one of the Aussie incumbents. But the state-owned postie is embarked on a e-growth strategy, driven by the remarkable continued collapse of letter sending, and the statistic that 51 per cent of New Zealanders made an online purchase in the 2011-12 financial year.

The Internal Affairs annual report provides one of the most thought-provoking numbers - the $52.5 million that it spent providing lower income households with rates rebates.

Whether everyone who is entitled to a rebate gets one is a moot point - Internal Affairs projections suggest not - but it is clear the amount local authorities charge to pay for core services, public amenities and vanity projects is too much for many.

Living means buying, and commerce operates under the rule of law. Well, much operates in ignorance of it, so buyer beware. The Commerce Commission's annual report suggests that many businesses have little awareness of their responsibilities under key consumer protection legislation. For businesses with fewer than 100 employees, just 64 per cent know the Commerce Act, and 85 per cent the Fair Trading Act.

We don't have to take abuses lying down. In the past year the Commerce Commission's contact centre has received 9371 inquiries or complaints.

Kiwis are a cultural bunch. The Ministry of Culture and Heritage reported New Zealanders value culture and cultural activities highly and spend more on cultural items than they do on clothing and footwear, healthcare or passenger transport.

"The average spend per person at festivals from June 2010 to June 2012 was $201.85," it reported.

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Treasury reported New Zealand's overall growth performance had been weak for some time. "An income gap of around 30 per cent to 40 per cent separates us from many advanced countries."

It's tough to find investment opportunities for those with money to deploy. The Ministry of Economic Development's final annual report (it is being merged into a super ministry with other departments), reported that just 490 prospectuses were filed in the 2011-12 financial year compared to 574 the previous year. It had expected 625.

It also found that lack of activity reflected in people's desire to launch companies. It expected to see 45,000 created, an uptick from 44137 the previous year. Just 43,028 were created.

By contrast 68,407 companies were removed from the Companies register, when it expected 34,000.

These are not figures the Government will be pleased to see. Nor will it be delighted to see that we are collectively poorer. The MED reported that: "Total household financial assets as a percentage of household disposable income, as a three-year rolling average was 170 per cent in December 2011, which was little changed from 168.3 per cent in December 2010, 169.9 per cent in December 2009 and 173.2 per cent in December 2008."

Little changed, but changed, especially as inflation has continued to move the cost of living upwards.

The MED has one more money nugget of interest, and that's the price and capacity of telecommunications.

"New Zealand was ranked 30th in the OECD on average advertised broadband download speeds in September 2011, compared to 21st in September 2010."

The OECD has 34 members. Ranked on the price of 100 pre-pay mobile calls, we were 33rd. On 100 post-pay calls we were 20th.

- Sunday Star Times

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