Talking and thinking about the government’s asset sales – sorry: partial privitisation – policy this weekend, the following points seem valid:
- The partial privitisation policy is the Key government’s flagship policy for this term.
- It is a disaster.
- There isn’t much comment on this in the media
Maybe I’m wrong about point 2 or 3? But looking back at the pre-election promises, the intent was to raise up to $7 billion dollars. It looks like Key and English will end up spending hundreds of millions more on the sales process than they promised and end up with less than $5 billion, which is less than their lowest estimate. And yes, you can point to reasons it’s been a disaster. Solid Energy was supposed to be worth billions but is actually worthless, Meridian’s major customer is threatening to close down, and extorted the government out of $30 million dollars, the Greens and Labour have sabotaged the economy by failing to support the privitisation process and having energy policies of their own. But Key and English are supposed to be financial super-geniuses: couldn’t they have NOT, say, mis-managed Solid Energy into the ground, or anticipated the Rio Tinto problem? Like I said, this is their flagship policy, and the last two years have mostly consisted of National failing to anticipate really obvious problems – like the opposition opposing it – until they blow up in their face and cost the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
And maybe I’m just being a biased left-winger here, but I don’t really see much media commentary around the signature failure of the government’s signature policy. Seems that if a left-wing government’s biggest initiative fell over this horribly to the tune of billions of dollars it’d be a really big deal.
I think there’s some conventional wisdom involved: the general media impression of Key is that he has magic powers, at least in financial terms, while English is a ‘safe pair of hands’, also ‘dour’, ‘Scottish’ a ‘Southlander’, ‘frugal’ and so-on. The reality seems to be the exact opposite: they’ve hemorrhaged taxpayer money while botching their flagship policy. (If you add up the amount of money ‘dour, frugal’ Bill English has simply given away to the commercial sector in the last five years it’d probably be close to the two billion dollar mark.) But commentators would have to challenge their core assumptions about contemporary politics before the scale of the failure here became obvious.