The Minister of Finance is presently on his summer holidays but his office have released his thoughts on the state on the New Zealand economy and it duly appeared in the New Zealand Herald today.

In a short article titled 'Now Let's Get the Economy Growing', Bill English claims that New Zealand is emerging from the recession. He also indulges in a whole load of backslapping. Apparently we can thank the National Government (and Bill) for successfully 'managing New Zealand through the recession.'

Presumably having a 'Jobs Summit' - that didn't actually produce any jobs - was all part of this 'masterful' management.

English's claim that the economic recession is over has been repeated by his government for at least the last nine months. As far back as July last year the Prime Minister was claiming that an economic recovery was underway.

He told the media that he had been privately telling his ministers that New Zealand was coming out of recession.

Asked whether he thought the worse was over he said:

'It feels a bit like that from an international perspective but the government has a huge task in front of it.'

Some nine months later we are still coming out of recession. We seem to be ever 'coming out' of the recession but never actually arriving. It's a variation on the 'cheque is in the mail'.

While Bill claims he's doing a great job leading us all to economic prosperity, all the evidence suggests we are still firmly rooted in the economic quagmire that the acolytes of neoliberalism created in the first place.

On the very same day that Bill was blowing his own trumpet, there was further bad economic news in my local newspaper.

The Press, quoting from a Treasury report, says that the number of New Zealanders vulnerable to high debt has doubled in four years. According to Treasury one in five families spend almost a third of their incomes on debt repayment.

Rather than seeing Bill's clear blue skies on the horizon, the Treasury warns of 'a perfect storm ahead: a significant rise in household debt, falling house prices, rising unemployment and a worsening savings rate.'

Of course the message of Treasury is ideological - 'we must live within out means'. That's easy to say if you are a Treasury cadre on a six figure salary (plus allowances) but this is basically code for wage cuts, welfare cuts and the like for the rest of us.

The real problem is that before the end of the golden weather, much of New Zealand had fallen deeply into unsustainable debt because it had no other way to maintain its standard of living. That's because for so many years almost all the gains of economic growth have been going to a relatively small number of people at the top.

Here's the thing - the 'trickle down' theory was complete rubbish.

For ordinary folk, 'putting it on the credit card' became an economic necessity. Had the New Zealand working class actually been delivered the economic fruits promised to them by the likes of Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson and Michael Cullen, they would not have had to borrow so much. But, under neoliberalism, the rich have got richer and the poor have got poorer.

Without wanting to continually beat this drum, I once again make the point that this occurred under the nine years of the previous Labour Government and with the active compliance of the trade union bureaucracy.

While its been argued that Phil Goff has moved the Labour Party 'leftwards', I see no evidence that Goff is prepared to repudiate the neoliberalism he and the Labour Party have enthusiastically pursued for over twenty-five years.

Bill English might want us to believe that good times lie immediately ahead of us but he is, frankly, being 'economical with the truth'. Too many New Zealanders have lost their jobs, incomes, homes and savings. That means most of us won't have the purchasing power to buy nearly all the goods and services the economy demands that we buy. And without enough demand, the economy can't get out of the doldrums.

As long as income and wealth keep concentrating at the top, and the great divide between New Zealand's have-mores and have-lesses continues to widen, the Great Recession won't end.


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