Catching up with Australia

In your dreams John: not at this rate

Yeah, I know they’ve given up on the promise. The disgusting thing is they shouldn’t have. We can catch Australia. But the longer we leave it the more difficult it becomes – the people we need to do it will all be in Australia.

Since I last investigated our dreadful economic performance the plot’s thickened. The table below is the most current comparison of GDP per capita for the richest 51 countries in the world, click on it to see it full-size. The figures in the table are taken from the CIA’s World Factbook. You may not be enamoured of the CIA, but they do their homework.

You can find us quite easily. The reason I’ve made it so long is that we’re at the very bottom.

per capita gdg table

With a bit of Googling you’ll find figures from other organisations showing us at a higher position than 51st. It depends upon several things including how GDP is defined, how recent the figures are, and whom they include in the stats. Nevertheless, the trend is the same. Steadily downward and with no sign of relief.

Most often our position is quoted as in the 20s. That’s because they usually only include OECD countries. We’ve been overtaken by a whole gaggle of countries which aren’t even in the OECD.

Mr Bollard and Mr Key please note

    • Since the 2007 update Australia has moved up 5 places, New Zealand have moved down 5 places.
    • Before leaping to the conclusion that the Aussies are just digging dollars out of the ground bear in mind that minerals (including oil & gas) comprised only 8% of their GDP in 2007. 7% according to some.

But GDP isn’t everything

Yes, I hear your cry. There are more important things than GDP. I’d rather live in New Zealand than in wealthy Qatar or Hong Kong. I’ve been to both those places and they’re not my cup of tea. Nevertheless, although the best things in life aren’t things, there comes a point where relative wealth becomes important. When a country can no longer afford the level of health care, policing, educational resources, defence and welfare its people expect, then per capita GDP becomes a very big issue.

When the outflow of our most valuable people becomes a steady torrent our collective future well-being is at risk. We need these people creating wealth for New Zealand so that we can repay our rapidly rising debt. I need my grandchildren to live in my country.

We need these people to continue the precious New Zealand can-do, string-and-barbed-wire, punch-above-our-weight culture built up over a dozen decades and more.

We’re paying for our education system to churn out people to build Australia; the medical and dental professions are becoming dominated by people for whom English is a second language; soon we’ll fall behind Botswana and Khazakstan economically.

It matters alright.

  • To re-iterate, if you wish to find New Zealand in a hurry on this chart, we’re at the bottom of the table at #51.
  • When I was very young we were #2.

Pray tell me:

  • What resources do Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Jersey, Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Iceland have that New Zealand can’t match or exceed?
  • Why can’t we compete, for instance, with the Danes? The Swede’s say about Denmark “Stand on a box and you can see their whole damn country.” Like many other economies on this list they have very few natural resources: just good people.
  • Greenland! Before the crash were they selling ice as well as fish? They’re down now but watch them rebound.
    If you want answers to these questions, check my links below.

We need action

A few hints:

  • More research and development.
  • Proactive mentoring in entrepreneurial skills for small and medium sized businesses.
  • Sort out our education services. Less technology, more 3 Rs. Get people with real work experience onto the education coalface.
  • Jobs, jobs, jobs.
  • What happened to the war on bureaucracy? Bring the public sector into the real world.
  • In case it’s escaped notice, the much-maligned employers are the people who create jobs and wealth.
  • Less arts and law degrees, more science and engineering.
  • Less time wasters in the student body.
  • Less welfare, more work.
  • Less borrowing for hire purchase, more for investment.
  • Less consumption, more work and education.
  • Did I mention jobs?

For more insight into where our country is going wrong read my series: New Zealand’s Economic Decline and watch Sir Paul Callaghan’s inspirational presentation Beyond the Farm and the Theme Park.

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