Sunday, April 29, 2012

Communicating Policy – An Abject Failure in N.Z.

When 9,600 people march down Queen Street protesting against partial privatisation you know you have an abject failure to communicate policy adequately.

Privatisation is, on average, a global policy success and is understood and in full swing across the globe in cultures and economies as disparate as Somalia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Russia, the UK, the EU, Japan, South East Asia, the U.S. and Australia – amongst numerous others.

In China in the late 90s some 3,950 state businesses were “partially privatised”. It’s difficult to argue that wasn’t a success.

Why then in N.Z. don’t we “get it”?  Very simply because no one has explained in simple terms why it is a good policy which creates benefits.

Why not? Very simply because at least half the people implementing it don’t understand why it is a strong policy, how it works and they are confused about the criticisms. Worse they don’t seem to care.

They think it feels right. Not good enough – by far.

Plus the “spin doctors” employed to sell the policy don’t understand it or why it is a good idea. Rather than put some brain work into understanding the economics, they spit out politically driven clichés which they fondly believe will “bring people round”. Clearly another fail.

No wonder journalists reporting such “spin” are wildly confused as well.

National Governments have never been renowned for taking a strong analytical interest in policy. That might be defensible – as the ever eloquent Rachel H. once said “we don’t all have to be brain boxes.”

But they do employ people who are supposed to understand and communicate policy.  Those people – their communicators - do their political masters a vast disservice by either failing to understand or failing to communicate or both.

Meanwhile the economy suffers as the stage is cleared for those with other agendas to strut loony tunes about the wonders of the state as a great investor.



  1. It seems a bit arrogant to imply that most New Zealanders don't "get it" simply because it hasn't been explained adequately to them by the spinmasters. Perhaps most New Zealanders are sufficiently sophisticated that they do understand the nuances of market behaviour, where privatization is genuinely beneficial and where it isn't, and on their own analysis don't want to go there in this instance. But I'm all for the elaboration of policy and economic mechanics over political cliche. All parties could do this a lot better :-)

  2. Previously I thought libertarians lacked the imagination, mathematical skill or humanity to conceive of or model a system that allowed for simple co-operation or real world observations. Yet I'm strangely compelled by the opportunity to turn NZ into Somalia or China.