Four Cs keep brakes on income growth

BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander
BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander

This will be my final column, writes Tony Alexander.

Many thanks to those people who have emailed giving me their thoughts over the years and for those interested in keeping up with how I am viewing the economy, you can access my material at - though the website is having some issues which I hope will be fixed soon.

Last week, I noted some things I have learnt since starting this column in 1998, such as exchange rates cannot be reasonably predicted, house prices will remain high and keep rising, we householders on average will continue to not save, investment failures - whether involving houses, managed funds, finance companies or angora bunnies - will continue to happen, and the rising middle class in Asia will underpin our growth.

Some other things worth thinking about are that as our population ages, lots of new business opportunities will open up in areas like in-home health monitoring and care, home maintenance services, pharmaceuticals and nutriceuticals, and maybe panelbeating.

One needs to be wary of forecasts that migration flows will stay negative. We appear quite attractive to many people, including nearly 1 million expat Kiwis, and we can see, in just the past few months, the start of a turning in the cycle of outflows to Australia plus improving net inflows from the Britain, China, and other Asian countries.

With most migrants going to Auckland it may pay to give thought to how your region can attract ageing Aucklanders and how you can attract a greater share of the newbies and returning Kiwis.

Expect to see New Zealand interest rates remain above those in most other countries. We Kiwis are very thick-skinned when it comes to paying interest rates which people overseas would not touch with a barge pole.

Be more wary of debt. The lesson that many people have learnt many times in the past three decades is that debt when used properly can be useful in growing one's wealth. But it pays to get it down as quickly as possible and, from as early an age as possible, start grappling with the problem at the other end of the money spectrum - how to invest wisely.

The rule there is to avoid portfolio investments with very long payoffs, ones that you cannot get out of within a day, those where you have little if any say over where the money goes, and those fronted by well-known people, in beautiful landscapes, and lots of smiling faces.

Be wary of anyone who says that voting for them will lead to an income surge in the economy. The key factors holding our income growth back have been what I've decided to call the four Cs. Our lack of adequately developed Capital markets, our lack of Connectivity with the rest of the world (not the internet but physical meetings between diverse people), our Culture of laidbackness and the three Bs (bach, BMW and boat), and lack of managerial Competence, especially inhuman resource management and internationalisation.

I hope I will be able to make some contribution to improving these four areas in coming years. All the best and enjoy the coming summer.

The Southland Times