Saturday, September 19, 2015

4 in 10 Superannuitants don't use the internet

MSD launched some new website yesterday. Money to burn.

This surprised me though.

61 per cent of New Zealanders over the age of 65 used the internet last year.

That's a truckload of people missing out on all the wonderful communication, knowledge and entertainment available through the web. Close to a quarter million.

39 percent non-users is higher than I would have thought. An elderly friend of mine recently lost her cat. I thought she would replace it but she feels she is just too old and it would outlive her. Last time I saw her though she was utterly animated and over the sadness. Her son had bought her a tablet and she was buzzing with everything she could do with it. I don't think elderly people actually understand that they can access a wealth of nostalgic material they never thought they'd enjoy again. All they see is the negative aspects of social media, and it's too easy to carp on about people losing communication skills etc.

They don't know what they are missing.

Friday, September 18, 2015

State confiscation of private wealth

State confiscation of private wealth. That's all it is. Appalling.

The Government's rejection of the Lochinver sale causes some issues, not the least being what happens to the station now.
It is owned by the Stevenson Group which wanted to complete the sale to free up capital to reinvest in other businesses such as expanding its quarry in Drury and investing in a West Coast coal mine.
It is unlikely a New Zealand buyer with $88 million can be found, reducing the value of the property on the open market.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Beneficiary advocates could drive this into court

Asked yesterday by Radio NZ for a comment(s) about this incidence of seeming law-misinterpretation by the Ministry of Social Development that has seen new benefit grants paid out a day late, I said that beneficiary advocacy groups were like a dog with a bone. There are precedents where they have forced MSD into court and MSD has lost. So I wouldn't under-estimate what the taxpayer could be up for. By my calculation easily $200 million.  I don't know if the government can successfully retrospectively change the legislation to get MSD off the hook.

But the beneficiary advocates are over-egging the effect of a pay-out citing hardship and child poverty etc. Collectively the sum is large but individually the pay-outs are small. One grant would equate to an average of $40 or thereabouts. And the poorest beneficiaries - those on welfare long-term - would get the smallest payout or none at all.

I have no idea how a 'compensation'  process would work but if WINZ were to invite people to make a claim with the exact date of application and any other relevant details, it might just be too tough to bother.

Though who knows. That option might not be legal either.

I did say to the reporter that benefits, whilst an entitlement, are a privilege. New Zealand's welfare system is among the most generous in the world in terms of the length of time people can claim welfare for, and one day's payment wasn't a big deal in the scheme of things. The beneficiary advocates could find better bones to chew on.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Universities are going to hate this aren't they?

Just announced

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce has today announced that from 2017 all Universities, Wānanga and Polytechnics will be required to publish information about the employment status and earnings of their graduates broken down by specific degrees and diplomas.
“This Government is committed to providing better information to assist students’ decisions. This is important so students can make the most of their time in tertiary education, and because of the significant investment students and taxpayers make,” says Mr Joyce.

This is a great move. User-pays has incentivised universities to get more bums on seats and, in some areas,  dumbed-down the level of  learning and graduate. But I don't think throwing out user-pays is the solution.

My son (in his last year at Uni) said, "I am going to become a statistic". I observed probably "compulsorily" as with other government surveys. At least this survey will provide really useful information.

Update: A reader sent the following graph which shows 'earning advantages from tertiary  vs secondary education ratio'

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A nation of inveterate moaners

New Zealanders are encouraged to moan about how hard done by they are by groups of people with political axes to grind, hobby horses to rock and incomes to generate. The strategy isn't just domestic - it is rife in the first world. Instead of righting any injustice though, it breeds bitterness, animosity and division.

Enough of the rant.

In practical terms, the dividers use statistics to support their chosen cause. But for those who can think for themselves, reference to official data (the best we have) will  always turn up a counter-balancing statistic.

For instance - and this presented itself randomly as I caught up with Statistics NZ latest - median incomes.  (Below is revised on the basis of Census data but the changes are not statistically significant so visually indiscernible).

Median incomes have risen steadily since 1997 except during the GFC.

But without inflation adjustment the graph is meaningless.

At 1998 the income level was around $300. By 2014 it had doubled. But what was $300 worth in 2014 $? Using general CPI here's what the Reserve Bank calculates:

Apart from housing, other goods and services measured -  transport, food, and clothing - cost far less in 2014. For instance, $300 in 2014 would buy double the amount of clothing it would in 1998.

But good news isn't exciting unless it's personal. Almost masochistically, people latch on to the bad news stories - inequality, poverty, disease, violence and premature death.

In reality, Fred Dagg said it best. And New Zealanders once believed it. We don't know how lucky we are.

News flash - it's still true.