Friday, July 15, 2011

Population Shortage

New Zealand has too small a population. That's my view. Many share it but an awful lot of people do not.

Statistics New Zealand estimate the population to be 4,408,227 as of today on their population clock. Let's look at that and the consequences of having a country wide population similar to that of a moderately large city in other parts of the world.

New Zealanders like to consider themselves to be part of the modern world and on the surface that's true. We have new technology, a reasonable standard of living, not too many people that are grossly disadvantaged but we are groaning under the strain of having almost no manufacturing base, no widespread access to services, virtually no public transport system. Why? Because we do not have enough people here.

The campaign 'Buy New Zealand Made' has been around for years so the other night TV One found a guinea pig to visit. This family thought they were pretty good at buying NZ Made but when their home was studied and none NZ Made products removed the home was almost empty.

The fact is that it is impossible to practice the 'Buy New Zealand Made' philosophy and to have any sort of reasonable standard of living. Manufacturing here is very difficult if you have a consumer product. With 4.2 million a decent production run would saturate the market and you are left with no one to sell to unless you can find an export market.

Almost all consumer goods are imported creating a huge trade deficit. We have a strong agricultural sector, some good wine producers and food producers and also a growing sector of IT companies that are doing well on a world stage but it's not enough. Global markets have led to ridiculous prices being paid for locally produced food with the consequent income going to the relatively few producers while a growing percentage of the population see their standard of living in decline.

Access to health care is at worst almost none existent and at best moderate if you should happen to live in a city or one of their suburbs. The best doctors and specialists go overseas where they can get a greater range and amount of experience leaving NZ with what's left. They are no doubt good but not at the forefront of the latest trends.

Some years ago in the early 1970's I was living in Great Britain and had a car accident. An ambulance arrived and took me off to hospital for treatment, all very quickly. Thinking about this the other day I realised that from where the accident occurred the ambulance could have taken me to either of 4 large hospitals within a 10 kilometre radius. From where I live now, on State Highway 1, NZ's major road in the North Island, I could not find 1 hospital within a 60 kilometre radius.

The government needs to make a bold move to increase the population three fold at least. Bring in lots of young people who have families or will do soon. Where are the job? People ask. Well if there is no demand there are no jobs. People create a demand for goods and services and jobs are created. We can't just go on drip feeding the population growth and hoping that we will one day have a viable home market.

The worlds larger economies tend to have large populations that have good local demand, this allows companies to grow and gain a critical mass that enables them to enter the world stage in a strong manner and with credibility. It's all fine and well to aim for niche markets and pretend that all is well but that isn't putting bread and butter onto the table of the average family.

We are highly taxed because successive governments want to leave their mark on the country and continually introduce new laws, new standards, more compliance cost and therefore the demand for more income from the tiny population who contribute via taxes. End result, we continue to get poorer as we struggle to fulfill government and local government bludgeoning expenditure.

New Zealand could follow the Australia lead and open up the country to use the natural resources but unfortunately we have a huge number of Luddites in the country who think that they know best and like all pressure groups the manage to influence government and we end up with the tail wagging the dog.

That goes for the political system too. With MMP we have a system that on the surface looks representative but with half the MP's not being directly elected we end up with the representation the political parties choose and not the electorate. But that is another issue for another day.

Let's grow the country, the economy and make this a place where the best leading edge services and manufacturing can flourish.

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