marsden_online: (write)
I communicate with the pollsters by e-survey, especially since auto-dialers put me offering my phone completely. One particular company often starts with the question "What do you see as the biggest issue facing NZ today.", or something similar. This week it was beefed up a bit and led to an extended series of thoughts which I posted on FB (as being the most convenient format at the time) but am repeating here as a less ephemeral record.

The question:
What are the main social problems in New Zealand that the Government and community as a whole need to address?
My initial answer:
Inequity and poverty:
With our GDP per capita there should be no excuse for not being able to provide everyone with the basics of a warm, dry, private space to call their own and sufficient to eat; as a matter of right with no need to jump through any hoops to prove they are entitled to it.
Address this issue and a great number of other issues which stem from or are exacerbated by it will also recede.

Half an hour or so later I also wrote the following (edited a bit for clarity):
---
Ongoing thought about why our current social welfare system doesn't work very well wrt eg housing and food.

It consists of (reluctantly) giving people money and then leaving them to be able to procure the required services from "the market". But they're not dealing with /one/ market they are dealing with /many/ markets - accommodation, food, electricity ... - /each of which/
- has the goal of acquiring as much of that money as possible /without concern/ for the balance of the customers' needs
- and prices accordingly.

The result of course is that there is not and probably will never be "enough" money - see also for example how private rent increases have tracked the accommodation supplement.

The supply industries also benefit in their pricing strategy from individuals being given the money to spend rather than the services being purchased in bulk by a central authority with the clout to negotiate and keep the prices down.

For this reason I'm not opposed to government purchasing services from private providers; I /am/ opposed to the private providers being selected on the basis of lowest cost or metrics such as how fast they can get people off their books (churn). The correct metric has to be based on standard of care.

That would unfortunately require the government to care about the well-being of it's /entire/ constituency, not just those who voted for the "ruling" party or contributed to its coffers. :/
---

Back to now and a couple of other thoughts

Dealing with poverty is not a problem which can be solved by a single approach.
- Giving people money (or some form of equivalent discretionary resource) directly so they can target their own needs in their own situation is one part of the solution and has been shown to work well for getting people back on their feet. But as a sole or primary approach it risks capture as described above; where funds meant to help people into a position to better their lives end up straight in the (mostly metaphorical these days) pockets of "service" providers.
- /But/ poverty is relative and targeting the affordability of common - even "basic" goods and services is another piece of the puzzle. Not in an ad-hoc manner (eg taxes on/off fresh/processed foods - this has been a regulatory nightmare wherever it has been tried, save it for genuine luxury goods) but in a whole-of-market approach like Pharmac.
Bulk demand can shift the costs down but this is not something those already struggling with their living situation are in a position to organise. In a democratic/capitalist welfare society this should be a function of government.

One government department I think could make more of an impact here (if they were permitted) is Housing New Zealand; right now they are limited by having to use their own housing stock (which they have been forced to run down and sell down over the past decade); but if they were also able to function as a not-for-profit property management company effectively handling maintenance and property standards for those who for example
- have an investment property "retirement plan" but find the details of renting it out more effort than it is worth
- have a social conscience
- will accept a low-end-of-the-market-rent-range return

they might well be able to
- apply downward pressure on rental prices
- fill up some of those homes we hear about sitting empty
- reduce their waiting lists
- provide security for a lot of people who currently have found they can't ever trust they will still have a place to live after the next review
- upgrade some of NZ's abysmal housing stock
- and potentially be in a position to acquire some of those properties to replenish their own stocks when the bubble bursts

Yes the deal would have to be structured so as to appeal to the property owners opening it up to the criticism of being a government handout to that class; but I am reasonably certain it could be made to work for no more than is currently being handed to them indirectly via the accommodation supplement and putting beneficiaries up in motels for a week while simultaneously lumbering them with a paper debt which will, realistically, never be recovered.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Giving is a major part of my life. Probably the greater part of it is invisible; charities I regularly support, flybys on givealittle and so forth but to be honest I find these less satisfying than what I can do directly for those around me. Making someone's life immediately better even if only for a short time kicks off one of the few emotional highs remaining to me. You can argue about whether than makes it altruistic giving or not elsewhere, I don't care. What is important to me is that there is less stress in a persons' life at frankly, little substantial cost to me.
- pad your groceries? People who have full stomachs are happier, healthier and think better.
- top up your bus card? Represents pocket change to me, to you might represent the freedom to leave the house and get to where you want/need to be when you want/need to be.
- covered an unexpected shortfall? Luck comes in good and bad, I have plenty of the former so please let me share it with you.

Life does not treat everyone equally, but it is within our power as people to redress the balance. Especially those of us to whom it has been more than fair; and I think compassion demands that we do so. Some people prefer to argue from a position of self interest - make sure other have (just) enough and they won't be motivated to try and take what you have to redress the balance. That's better than building fortresses ("gated communities") and hiring guards to keep the mob from the door I suppose.

I can understand how a person who has had to struggle, work and fight their whole life to get above the line and stay there might not be able to let go of that mindset, no matter how much success they achieve it may be that in their own mind they will always be poor and one unexpected bill away from disaster. But I also know that there are many who do not fall into that trap and having made their way to a comfortable position do a great deal to try and help others do the same. That makes much more sense to me - having been there how would not want to get other people out of the situation once you have means?

I am not one of of these; the metaphorical spoon in my mouth may not have been silver but it is less through my own efforts that I am where I am today than the gifts afforded from from my parents' hard labours. And so I can understand how, up to a certain age, a person can be raised simply not cognizant of the harsh realities of life for many. In the modern world my sympathy for that mindset runs out a year or two after they have reached university and should have had the opportunity to start taking a critical look at the world around them.

As always grateful that again, life has been more than fair to me and my sympathy for the struggles of others is born of intellect and a sense of fairness than hard personal experience.

So we come back to the position where I have- more than enough and so I endeavour to share my good fortune. I give this less than I would like; for two reasons
- Rationally I do need to keep putting some aside for my own future. How much is arguable, but I am not at the position where I can absolutely soak a large expense (such as the one about to be incurred for drain replacement) just yet, and I have no certainty that NZ's welfare state will be in a condition to look after me in my old age.
- it occupies not just the physical resources but also time and energy.

On this latter we have as a society theoretically harnessed the specialisation of labour to handle this. We pay takes to a central organisation (government) and one of the things they are supposed to do with them is make sure that if life treats us poorly we are looked after to a not-uncomfortable standard. In the meantime our money is (supposed to be) used to look after those who life is currently treating poorly. This should free us from the greater part of a need to worry about the circumstances of our families, friends, acquaintances / strangers.

Our current government is rejecting that part of it's duties (granted it is not the first to do so). Instead of going directly - in cash or in kind - to people who need food and shelter significant amounts of "our" money are shown to be being spent propping up companies that by National's own market ethos should probably be allowed to fail / take their business elsewhere, or paid in bribes to already wealthy individuals in countries where corruption is blatant, or siphoned off as indirect subsidies to private accommodation providers and old-boys-network businesspeople who are already "above the line".

One result of this is that I - multiplied by who-knows-how-many-others - have to spend more of my time and energy personally directing resource to the people I can see in need, and relying on the voids which are charities to be doing the right thing just to help regular people when they should be able to focus on those who positions are truly dire. And in some ways that /waste/ pisses me off just as much as seeing people around me living in poverty and the mis-appropriation of public money.

I am one person of good but still moderate means. I cannot do enough to even scrape the surface. I can feed a few people but I cannot house them. Organisations which have been set up explicitly to address the issues and channel the contributions of people like myself are barely scraping the surface. Central government is actively and deliberately following policies guaranteed to make the situation worse while benefiting those who already have more than enough.

My local council is one of the largest providers of social housing in the country (an operation which is currently being strong-armed to privatisation by central government). I occasionally encounter people who state vehemently how they are against their rates being used for such a purpose. I have no time for this attitude. Homelessness and poverty have both local and regional aspects and I absolutely expect our elected representatives at all levels to work together at the task of redirecting a sufficient portion of our taxes to those in need (rates being pretty much the closest we have in NZ to a formal tax on land even if they are not particularly responsive to capital gains).

Taking care of those who do not have the means to take care of themselves I consider the first duty of a supposedly democratic government. All else follows from or supports that. In doing so, for those of a more right-wing bent, people are freed to be more productive and contribute their best to society and the future rather than burning our all - and in the case of those who turn to crime, others all as well - just to survive.

[deep calming breaths]

The point I was getting around to is actually about the visibility of giving. This morning I posted quickly in my FB and Tumblr

When we talk about “give and take” why is the implication always that the giving and the taking are between the same two entities?

If I am in a position to give freely what someone needs why is it expected that I am expecting something in return? If you are in want of something why should it have to come from someone that already owes you or that you are then expected to owe?

Much better that we all give what we can when we see a need, and try to make out own desires visible without guilt or suspicion for others seeking to fulfil them - or be it necessarily with the the acceptance that there may not be anyone who feels they are in a position to do so.

I know a lot of people above and below the line, and plenty of those have moved from one side to the other and sometimes multiple times over the years. I am fairly public about much of the personal giving I do, not because I desire the plaudits (although they are nice) but in an endeavour to set an example to others above the line who may meander across my trail. To make giving freely visible and accepted, because I alone cannot make a lasting difference.

~~~
Related reading: that came through my Facebook feed while I was typing this up: How we got Here
marsden_online: (write)
Submissions to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) close tomorrow (March 11) barely two months after the treaty was signed and text made available. About 3am on Monday morning my brain decided it was time to write something, but Ithen got distracted by actually reading MFATs National Interest Analysis (NIA) (the better to make an informed submission. It of course paints a far rosier picture of the expected outcomes.

This post has three parts:
1. Useful links
2. The text of my submission (done through the online form)
3. Other rant triggered by reading the NIA (this was going to be rants but I have run out of time :( )

~~~
Online submission form (very limited life expectancy) (you will need to complete the verification at the bottom of the page and then click the "Make an online submission" button below to actually get to the form)
The NIA (pdf)
MFAT TPPA subsite

~~~
I felt it best to make a measured submission just highlighting a few points of concern.
As a member of the public who has been following the no TPPA actions but has also found the time to read the NIA (but not the earlier published fact sheets) I would still like to express some some concerns about the process and implementation of this treaty.

1. I understand that there is always an element of confidentiality required in trade negotiations but the secrecy surrounding this one - and indeed continuing for years after ratification seems to have be unprecedented. Combined with the very short amount of time allowed for public, expert, and opposition party representative examination of the text and consultation I find it difficult to have confidence in the benefit to New Zealand of any legislative changes which may be required.

2. Speaking of benefits it is not at all clear from the NIA /how/ the people of NZ generally benefit from the signing of this treaty. "Economic growth" and a forecast boost to GDP are presented as as self-explanatory benefits without justification; but this would only be the case if the wealth generated flows to those who are less-well off.

As it stands this treaty would appear to deliver the most benefit to
- those who are /already/ established enough to partake in international trade and
- a small minority of future SMEs producing exportable goods/services who manage to become established against the now-increased competition from our trading partners.

In short this treaty seems to offer no great benefit for the majority of NZ citizens and business while exposing them to economic attack by better-resourced established competitors from abroad.

3. Following on from that if the NIA is accurate the ISDS clauses have been well ring-fenced to protect "public-good" issues but it still seems to be a risk that if a local company were to come up with a disruptive technology or process which could challenge established players but would require tweaks to our - or our treaty partners - legislation to implement effectively (a recent examples from the news might be the taxi service Uber) the established players would be able to use the ISDS or the threat thereof to hinder implementation in an anti-competitive fashion.

I am hopeful that the government of the day would have the fortitude to support our business and accept the costs required to set an example which would prevent this happening a second time; if nothing else this would quantify "the actual costs of responding are unknown" (NIA p55)

~~~
Nevertheless as it seems that the implementation of the legislative changes required is a foregone conclusion I

- would strongly support a clause which only brings the changes into /effect/ at the point the treaty comes into force in a form substantively like it's current form, rather than incurring the front-loaded costs and "giving away the farm" the having nothing to negotiate with should other parties decide /not/ to pass it through their respective legislatory procedures in it's current form.

- look forward to the strengthening of NZ's environmental protection, labour protection and transparency legislations to bring them in line with the treaty obligations as explained in the NIA.


~~~
Rant time.

The NIA is very bullish about the amount of consultation carried out

9.2 Public consultation process
The consultation process for TPP has been among the most extensive a New Zealand Government has undertaken for any trade negotiation. Throughout the negotiation process the MFAT, together with other government agencies, has been active in engaging with a wide spectrum of stakeholders on TPP.
...
Throughout the negotiation there were two public calls for submissions. MFAT invited initial public
submissions in October 2008 on entering into negotiations with the US to expand the P4 agreement.
A second invitation for public comment was made in 2011 following the expressions of interest from other countries to join the TPP negotiations (Canada, Japan and Mexico) to better understand the views and interests of New Zealanders with regards to these three economies.
MFAT received 65 responses to the initial invitation for submissions, which expressed a diverse
range of views on the TPP
...
Following the second invitation for public comment in 2011, MFAT received fifteen responses. Thirteen were from business (including business councils) and industry organisations. Two were from other governments - Canada and Mexico.
...
Extensive public outreach and consultation took place throughout the negotiation of TPP, using printed, emailed and website information, supported by extensive briefings, discussions and correspondence with key stakeholders on New Zealand’s negotiating objectives and process.

A primary portal of information on the negotiations was the MFAT website, and dedicated internet column, “TPP Talk”. TPP Talk was regularly updated with the status of negotiations. Both the website and column
encouraged feedback on TPP from the public. In seeking views on TPP, the Government sought to encourage debate on the issues, including links to groups holding a range of views on the MFAT website.
...
Hundreds of meetings took place, including with business groups, iwi, local councils, health sector
representatives, unions, NGOs, Members of Parliament and individuals to seek input on the TPP and
to help ensure a high quality outcome that reflects stakeholders’ interests.
...
In a new initiative that reflected the level of public interest in TPP, MFAT also made provision for
stakeholder engagement with regard to the two TPP negotiating rounds held in New Zealand. With
regard to the round of negotiations held in Auckland in December 2012, the Ministry organised a
stakeholder programme attended by 72 New Zealand participants as well as other stakeholders from overseas.

... and so on.

Strangely I do not recall /any/ of the relevant ministers or officials saying in response to the noTPPA movement and media coverage "Hey, here is where you can go to get more information and to have your say." Apparently the broader public of New Zealand (or other parties) are not considered "stakeholders" in our international treaties.

We know who other treaty partners considered stakeholders from the mega-companies and lobbyists who got to peek at the proceedings and drafts. I wonder who in NZ our government actually considered important enough to be a stakeholder?

I'm going to be generous and assume whoever produced this analysis is so blinkered that they actually believe this number of submissions is a reasonable outcome rather than a failure to communicate.

Moreover I believe that an organisation believing in or proactive about public consultation would have opened another round more recently than five years ago, given the increased public profile of opposition to the matter under consideration.
marsden_online: (write)
After all I am one of the lucky ones; not only did I not lose anyone directly in the quakes I even benefited materially from the "repairs" to my home*. My life and work were mostly unaffected and since have continued on a generally upwards trajectory.

*( Like many the assessment was questionable, the workmanship left something to be desired in places and the scope was "tightened" several times between assessment and implementation meaning some things which probably should have been done rather than others were not. But my claim was acted on (un)fairly quickly and my home was still in better condition when they finished than before the quakes.)

If I only paid attention to my own situation or that of people like myself that might leave me content. But my social circles contain many who were not so fortunate. Their homes, lives, families, studies, health ... have been massively disrupted and I do not choose to disregard their experiences and those I read of from further afield. For so many people the past five years have been one battle after another; not all quake related but certainly quake-exacerbated, and so much of it seems to have been unnecessary.

~~~
In some ways the February 14th aftershock this year was beneficial. Some people might have been in danger of believing the platitudes which will have been spouted today about how well we are all doing; how well the rebuild is progressing. Instead as PTSD kicked in and "old" responses rose sharply to the surface there was an up-swell of awareness that no, everything is not all right; yes, we still need help.

In the last five years we have seen proof (if there had been any doubt) that the insurance industry is more interested in holding on to its money than in meeting it's contracted obligations. We've seen the one locally owned insurance company which was by nature overexposed to the risk "bailed out" by the government then promptly chopped up; the "good" bit sold off to one of the same overseas re/insurance companies which fights determinedly to not return the money they have taken from other insurees in premiums over the years (IAG) and the "bad" bit put into limbo (Southern Response, which can only progress so far without the goverment actually stumping up some money to cover the work that needs doing).

We have seen that we have a government who are more interested in bottom lines and doing deals with those same insurance companies than in standing up for the rights of the people they purport to represent. More interested in a magical accounting "surplus" than in the wellbeing not only of Christchurch but of the entire country. Only interested frankly, to all intents and purposes to improve the lot of "people like them" no matter the cost to anyone else. Quick to promise financial relief but very slow to spend any money which would not already have been spent.

We have learnt that our EQC disaster recovery fund had already been plundered by the government (through simply directing it to put the money into government-issued bonds), and there is no indication this government has any plan to rebuild it against future need.

We have seen control of "Christchurch's Recovery" taken away from Christchurch from the word "help". Hijacked by people who are more interested in vanity projects (which they then turn around and demand the people of Christchurch make ourselves responsible for paying for) than in the places people live. More interested in cutting costs and corners than in the human cost or actual repair. More interested in being "in charge" than in delivering what a broken city needs.

Today, the 22nd, is a day for reflecting on what we have lost in and around Christchurch. Not just people and buildings but well-being, dignity and agency. So much of which has not been taken by the quakes themselves but by the deliberate actions and inactions of those who claimed the people of Christchurch would be "looked after".

For those outside Christchurch it might be worth thinking about, "if a major disaster struck where you are, what would you lose?"

Emma summed up neatly why in her earthquake anniversary post so I am going to borrow her words to finish. "Because this isn’t about the past, five years on. Things are still happening."
marsden_online: (write)
Backgrounder: I engaged in the comments on this article about student debt at Stuff. Unfortunately comments closed partway through quite a long entry so I'm putting those thoughts here.

Preceding conversation
Matt N texas
Will Matthews, please explain to me why your or any persons student loan is any different, to my business loans ?...I have taken out loans for equipment, equal to or exceeding an "average student debt"...I have assumed all the risk and reward that comes with starting and running a business......no one is proposing to "wipe my loans"......why do you think that a person who borrows to fund higher education, with the intention of earning a higher income, should be subsidized by the taxpayer, as apposed to a business operator, who is also using borrowings to access a higher income ?.........thank you in advance for advocating that I receive the same treatment as a student (sic)

Marsden
Absolutely, the difference is in that taking out a business loan you are (presumably) in a position to immediately begin repaying down that debt and have done the numbers to indicate that the equipment will increase your immediate earning capacity immediately.

In taking out a student loan you are probably looking at at least 3 years before it has any effect on you earnings (in fact as laid out in the article you are looking at a very restricted income and probably taking on higher priority debt in the interim as well) before you can begin repayment, and that is /if/ you can find a position in a field where your degree adds a significant premium to your earnings. It is a massive gamble on an unpredictable future job market, but for many of the students I know (including many who already have previously "sought after" qualifications) the hope and a prayer is simply a better option than continuing to be stuck on the unemployment "benefit" (even with existing qualifications) in the current hostile job market.

Marsden
Additionally as I someone has noted in a more recent comment you would have been able to depreciate the value of that equipment on your books, thus offsetting some of your taxable income. Not possible with education, although perhaps is business owners could do that they would be more encouraged to invest in helping their employees gain relevant qualifications.

Matt N texas
Not really correct....it can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success..or an "immediate " return as you seem to think...business income can be as unpredictable as any job....in addition equipment can offen require ongoing costs,repairs etc...purchasing an existing business does mean an instant income stream, as apposed to starting a business from scratch, however business loans have to be paid back starting with the first month after inception regardless of cash generated.
As for depreciation...some depreciation is as low as 2.5% per year. For 30-40 years...hardly a boon to a budding business, and if you're luckily enough to have made a profit, tax will be payable....by contrast students have a great system, they can borrow without having to repay until they start achieving an income...and then it is painlessly repaid via a paycheck deduction to the IRD...simple.
Now the last part of your comments, are impractical, as a general rule businesses are not really required to educate you....as a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will stay..my investment is effectively lost..it is preferable to have the employee fund and achieve their own education, and if those qualifications are what I need or desire to operate my business, then I shall offer a salary or wages as negotiated.
It is plain to see you have not operated or owned a business


Marsden comment unposted

Once upon a time businesses were required to educate their employees, else they would have had no skilled staff at all.

This unwillingness to invest in training your own staff which has become endemic; probably dating back to the first days of public education when employers first decided that since the government was going to pay for training their potential employees it was a cost they no longer had to care about. And since the government has stopped paying all, rather than step back up to address the need themselves they now claim exactly as you do that it is up to the employee to shoulder the cost of the training; knowing that they will be able to use the threat of giving the job to someone who will work for less (read "is more desperate") to "negotiate" the wage or salary lower than the skills are fairly worth to the business.

This expectation that the government will pay for training; this determination to only employ people who are already educated - and often who are already experienced - is the reason despite our high unemployment rate and a glut of educated un-and-under-employed so many businesses are are crying out for skilled staff (as often mentioned in this publication and others). By requiring the prospective employees to take the gamble on what qualification might get them a well-enough-paying position after a year or more of study you guarantee that either
- there will be a glut of graduates with the skills you need (good for you because it forces the amount you have to pay for those skills down - but at the same time you constantly risk your employees leaving for a better paying position and having to pay the cost of replacing them)
- OR a shortage either because the public education is not actually providing the specific skills you are looking for or because few decide acquiring those skills are worth the risk of not having a job at the end of it, in which case your business suffers through having to pay highly for those skills or simply finding them unobtainable.

> .as a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will stay..my investment is effectively lost.

Not really - you get the benefit of that employee's increasing skill level throughout the period where they are both working for you and gaining their qualification; you get to leverage those skills directly into the specifics your business without the need for any sort of settling in or induction period; even if they do move on you hopefully have the opportunity to have them find a similarly skilled replacement from the cohort they have gone through the qualification with (and who will be able to tap them socially for institutional knowledge about your business again cutting down the amount of time spent coming up to speed).

As returns on investment go up-skilling your employees is almost always going to pay off. Even though as you said at the beginning of your comment:

> it can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success

~~~
Snark didn't make it into the final draft about what it says about his experience running a business with the attitude that he can't trust his employees not to leave. Snark didn't even reach the draft about the "painlessness" of losing 12% of your paycheck each month especially if your degree is not earning you a 12% premium on wages.
marsden_online: (write)
Posting here first ...

Some people also seem to think that
- because something can be called a "basic" service; i.e. ubiquitous, fundamental, necessary but probably with a low skill requirement / barrier to entry
- that this adjective also means it is a service which should be paid poorly; in the same way as one might pay little for a "basic" foodstuff or "basic" clothing.

Whereas if people had the freedom/resources to choose not to do this often also boring, strenuous, unpleasant or downright hazardous work because it is the only option/better of a very bad bunch available, these very "basic" jobs are ones which would command a significantly higher price.

Related, this link I have had sitting in my folder for some time:
The Most Basic Freedom Is Freedom to Quit (via The Chief Happiness Officer)
Freedom to quit distinguishes employment from slavery

The same principle also applies in the workplace. If you can’t quit your job because you are owned by or legally bound to your employer, or because economic necessity prevents you from quitting, then your employer can brutalize and exploit you and get away with it. If you can walk away, then your employer must treat you well if he or she wants to retain your services. The legal and economic capacity to quit is the force that tends to equalize the relationship between employer and employee. There is no mystery here.

(emphasis mine)
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
An acquaintance asked for suggestions on "worthy" investments in the range of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. My reply became long enough to do double duty as a blog post :)
~~~
Advice no. Opinions and a little experience.

Rule 0. Don't invest (lend) anything you can't afford to lose.

1. A lot depends on what you want to get out of your investment, usually defined as income (periodic dumps of money into your daily account) or growth (it just sits there getting bigger - hopefully).
1a. There's a third approach, since you use the descriptor "worthy", and that is assessing your "return" based not on dollars but on social good. See below.

2. (NZ specific) if you aren't in / making that minimum ~$1050 into Kiwisaver each year, top that up first. The government 50% match is hands-down the best return available.
2a. (aside) as a young person if you are in a 'default', conservative Kiwisaver scheme get yourself moved into a growth scheme ASAP.

3. If you think you will need to free up that money in the short to medium term just put it in a term deposit, (lightly) managed/index fund or maybe Bonus Bonds.
3a. (Bonus Bonds) the anecdotal consensus seems to be that you need ~$5000 in Bonus Bonds before it becomes worth it. Initially I was getting about net 4.8% which is significantly better than current term deposit options, but that has dropped back recently so I may just have had a few lucky months.

4. If you want to go directly into the share market - probably don't unless you have the time to spend schooling yourself on how it works and on the companies you are looking at investing in, and the discipline to stick with an investment strategy during the down periods.
4a. (I have nothing but the family silver (energy company) shares that the National govt was giving away the past couple of years; every few months that has resulted in $30-$60 worth of dividends; past performance is no indicator of future performance etc.)

*Higher risk options*
5. If you can afford to lose the money or are more interested in outcomes than returns the place to look for "worthy" investments right now are the equity crowdfunding sites. Examples of projects I have funds committed to are Carbonscape (a cleantech company with technology capable of converting waste biomass into Green Coke and other valuable products) and Breathe Easy (developing an inhaled medicine for the treatment of Cystic Fibrosis)(both through Snowball Effect) and Powerhouse Wind (developing a single-blade turbine)(through PledgeMe)
5a. These generally require a minimum of ~$1000 per project.
5b. I haven't had the spare funds to personally experiment with this yet (it's on the list), but Harmoney does NZ peer-to-peer lending.

6. There's always the direct option if someone you trust is trying to get a business going. The model I suggest for this is to agree on a total amount to be repaid (capital plus some) and then they repay it at a rate of $x per sale or $% of each sale. That generally means you recover at least some of your money in short order and they can factor the repayments into their prices as an overhead rather than stressing about finding the money to repay you if they have a quiet month.

YMMV, IANAP, etc etc
~~~
@todo as part of the conversation I have become aware of http://smartshares.co.nz/ which I will need to investigate closer next time I am looking into managed funds.
marsden_online: (write)
Last week the Government released "The first in a series of government discussion documents looking
towards a better tax administration system for New Zealanders".
NZ Herald article
The Government is floating the idea of businesses paying their tax on a pay-as-you-go (PAYE) basis, like individual taxpayers, in the biggest proposed shake-up of one of the building blocks of the income tax system since its introduction in 1957.

Revenue Minister Todd McClay announced the proposal to introduce a form of "business PAYE" among a raft of other possible reforms contained in a green paper seeking public submissions by May 29 ahead of a rolling maul of public consultation documents he plans to publish over the next three years to modernise and simplify the tax system, while improving the rate and accuracy of tax collection.

snip )

I've made comments in a few other places too (all pending moderation).
marsden_online: (write)
Environment Canterbury is currently seeking submissions on their Long Term Plan for 2015 - 2025. Locals may have found a print version in their mailbox over the past week or two. You can download the document and make submissions online at the Ecan Website

This is my first time being motivated enough to make such a submission. It may be a little wordy but I felt it important to convey a little of my personal perspective and background rather than a relatively context-less set of bullet points (which I couldn't have arrive at without writing all this out anyway).

long )

No Way TPPA

Mar. 9th, 2015 09:19 pm
marsden_online: (write)
This past Saturday I attended the local portion of an ongoing series of protest marches against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). While the current NZ government has done many things I consider #notinmyname this is the one that should it go ahead, as I fear it will for I have no faith the the major Opposition party will not equally roll over for it, is the one I feel that will do the most lasting damage to New Zealand. This is because it impacts not only on our economy and international trade but directly on our sovereignty and right to make our own laws as a country.

Now it is the way of properly negotiated international treaties that one or more signatories generally accepts some limits on what they as a sovereign state may do, by way of passing laws and such, in exchange for some perceived benefit. There are two things about the TPPA which I consider to be particularly dangerous; far outweighing any possible benefits.

The first is the near-total secrecy under which it is no only being negotiated but will apparently be brought before our "house of representatives" - with even those worthies (and I use the term loosely) except for a few privileged members of the ruling party being forbidden knowledge of the terms of the treaty. Let me spell that out a bit more - our representatives, whom we rely on to protect our interests, our democracy, will be being told (if this current government retains a majority) to accept this treaty with no opportunity to actually debate its worth to the country, no idea of what we may be giving away or getting in return, and no opportunity to bring it to us, the people and ask what we would have them do.

This turn of events would make an absolute mockery of what it is supposed to mean to live in a democracy. It is the first and most blatant attack on our sovereignty represented by the TPPA.

The second danger is the proliferation of clauses (leaked) enabling international corporations - not even Governments, corporations with no mandate to represent anything but their profit margin - to challenge laws passed by our government in international courts. Now for countries like Australia and NZ that might simply tie up public money which would be much better spent elsewhere, but smaller nations could be forced into "toeing the line" of their/our new corporate masters by the simple likelihood of bankruptcy if faced by these sort of proceedings*.

I don't personally have a great issue with NZ officially becoming a "client state", be it of America as we are currently or some international conglomerate. But that is a decision that should absolutely be discussed and reached publicly, not reached behind closed doors and presented as a coup accompli.

[tangent]
* For an example of this sort of thing already happening see Philip Morris Vs Uruguay and vs Australia, which reportedly (linked article) already has caused our NZ government to about-face on plain packaging for cigarettes. The closest I can find within NZ is this 2013 release from the Ministry of Health which contains the money quote
“To manage this, Cabinet has decided that the Government will wait and see what happens with Australia’s legal cases, making it a possibility that if necessary, enactment of New Zealand legislation and/or regulations could be delayed pending those outcomes.

“The Ministry of Health will now begin developing the detailed policy which will include the size and content of health warnings. I intend to introduce the legislation to Parliament before the end of this year.

The legislation was in fact introduced and judging from this late 2014 release is due for it's second reading. Promising quote
“A key finding from the committee came from their visit to Australia as part of an exchange programme. The data highlighted that daily smoking rates amongst those aged 14 and older have declined from 15.1% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2013, the lowest rate recorded to date. This is very impressive evidence received since the introduction of plain packaging in Australia.”

I do support this governments passage of this legislation, both the bill itself and the due process it appears to have followed.
[/tangent]

My photos from the march
Attacks basic freedoms
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Normally the news that a company like energy efficiency and insulation business Right House has gone into liquidation would pass through my radar with just a moment to pause in sadness for those whom have just lost their livelihoods. However this time there is an indirect personal connection - it was a telemarketing call from Right House house and the following obligation-free quote which made me decide that then was the time to start the ball rolling on actually getting grid connected solar installed here.

The first step of course was googling up solar installers in NZ and sending off for more quotes. when it came down to it though two I already had bookmarked gave the best results. A shout out here to CPS Solar (Canterbury based) who provided a lot of useful information and food-for-thought in our conversation. Definitely consider them.

My choice though has gone to Solar City despite the fact they they were the tardiest in replying to my enquiry. I'd like to write a bit about why.

First off is their innovative Solar Care offering. For $0 or $1000 down they will install panels on your house and sell you the electricity generated for a fixed monthly cost for the next 20 years. (You then use or sell excess power into the grid.) This effectively locks in the cost to you of that much power for the next 20 years, and the contract is set so that the cost-per-unit is probably lower than you are being charged now.

Personally I think projects like this are what the major generators should be doing, to conserve hydro and fossil-fuel (ugh) generation for night time and winter use. But of course they don't make money by providing people with cheap power :-/

I was almost sold on this, it works out very well for both the homeowner (who gets rapid access to solar without massive expenditure or worries about insurance, monitoring etc of the panels) and for the company who get regular cashflow (instead of constantly having to chase new installations) and to depreciate the value of the solar panels on their books :). Had I investment properties I would be having Solar Care systems installed ASAP. Any of my home-owning/paying-off friends I strongly recommend taking a look.

However the desire and years of expecting to outright own the installation asserted itself and I was unable to bring myself to deviate that far from the plan. What actually sold me on a fixed install from Solar City installation was not the price but the opportunity to become involved with / contribute to a new initiative they are setting up with the University of Otago to (quoting the flyer)
Conduct a comprehensive study into household and commercial solar energy use, to better inform and guide the nation towards a 100% renewable energy future.

(As a bonus, "Customers will have the opportunity to beta test new technologies in the energy efficiency and solar space." Eh-heh-heh ...)

This will involve a period of monitoring before the installation which is fine because for me "starting the ball rolling" on a project like this means I have a 12-18 month horizon in view for actually affording and completing it. This is something I make clear of my requests for quotes but find a lot of companies have difficulty with - and their pressure (and oft-times effectively bribes) to commit sooner is something which I find distinctly off-putting.

Companies, I am (charitably) sure that you are genuinely interested in making sure your customers get good value for money but if you want my custom please do me the courtesy of understanding that I know and understand my own values, finances and finance options and that I am not undertaking such a large project on the spur of the moment. If I am not the typical customer in this, well that is simply a sad observation on today's society.

Another issue where I have struggled to reach common ground with all the companies I have talked to is my desire to install more generation capacity than is "economically efficient" for me. (The generators don't pay a terrific amount for home-solar production fed into the grid and these tariffs have only been dropping.) The concept that I might have broader, non-economic goals like future-proofing the amount of generation on my roof (nominally economic), or happily working towards overall lower power prices for everyone else by feeding cheap power into the grid and setting an example for wider home generation is completely foreign.

(I've had to temporarily throw in the towel on that one, but the system I am getting is eminently extensible at a later date by the addition of more panels and micro-inverters.)

~~~
Speaking of finance options this entire post / mini-rant was actually triggered by a quote from the Right House article.
But the business had not had the demand for their services, from home insulation to energy advice, that it had hoped for, Fisk said.
"I think that has been influenced by whether people are getting offer subsidies to insulate their houses," Fisk said.
The company failure may seem "counter-intuitive" when there is a housing boom especially in Christchurch and Auckland, he said.
Asked if the government cuts to home insulation subsidies in 2013 had affected Right House, Fisk said he believed it had "some effect".

Now this is a Stuff article so don't assume that quote from the liquidator (probably not yet familiar with the company finances) is entirely in context. It's obviously being played a bit by the reporter and as such I believe it reflects a wider feeling that the only reason people might be interested in getting into solar (and more broadly other technologies) is the money. That's a meme I'd really like to squish out of society's group consciousness because there are so many wider possibilities once you broaden your view from what is purely best for the individual.

[tangent]For example Christchurch (City Council) is currently looking at painful rates rises and having to privatise some of it's utility assets to afford the costs of the earthquake rebuild foisted on us by the national government. But we could build a new asset as a (somewhat seasonal) electricity generator right alongside the rebuild to offset some of that cost if only by generating some of the power required. I think most households and businesses would be happy to have some council-owned panels on their roof in exchange for the promise of lower rates increases (or the offset in lower electricity costs).[/tangent]

It is true that for the majority of homeowners (unlike well-privileged, mortgage-free, no-dependants self) the availability of subsidies will probably have a significant impact on the affordability calculations. (And part of the genius of Solar Care is how it simplifies that calculation.) It is good business for eg. an installer to point out the available options which may make what they are selling more affordable.

[aside]If you have a mortgage with Kiwibank also check out their Sustainable Energy Loan (link not guaranteed to be current).[/aside]

But I don't believe it is broadly good that our consumerist, buy now (worry about paying later) culture tries to rush people into accelerating financial plans that should be taken time over and focuses on the monetary payback value of long-term purchases to the detriment of other values. And just like if your business relies on the government topping up your employees wages because you don't pay them enough to live; if your business relies on pressuring people into making financial decisions for cashflow perhaps you should take a hard look at how sustainable it / its growth path really is. When I look at who I give significant amounts of my actually-earned money to, you better believe I'm taking that into account. Often it is through [your business'] salespeople that I have the most direct experience of that.

[aside]No I'm not a fan of commission sales, why do you ask?[/aside]

~~~
Disclaimer: this has not been any sort of solicited promotion and I have no connection (yet) to any of the mentioned companies except as outlined above. (Haven't even signed and returned the quote.) :p
marsden_online: (camera2)
Protest March
Front line
marsden_online: (Default)
Maybe take time to ponder not only workers rights, and their erosion over the past few decades.

But also the rights of the "non-worker" in an age where many of the jobs that existed during Samuel Parnell's time and the decades thereafter have been supplanted by technology without technology necessarily creating similar or greater numbers of other jobs in their place.

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/labour-day

Grief

Sep. 21st, 2014 10:53 pm
marsden_online: (Cat Yarn)
Like most of my friends I went to bed last night in a state of grief. As the number of non-voters has come clearer today and the relatively small % of people who actually produced National's likely dominance of NZ politics and discourse for the next 3 years became apparent that grew into a deeper sadness.

This post is just a stream-of-consciousness, spit-wadding ideas which are floating around in my brain out against the wall.

First to note I'm not against National in general. My politics are well to their "traditional" left but that doesn't mean they don't have good policies. There are multiple ways to get things done and government in NZ is (supposed to be) about influencing which way - or preferably which middle path - is taken to address the challenges we face as a country. Unfortunately NZers in general don't seem to have wrapped their heads around the idea of consensus politics, and I include senior members of our parliament here.

I am against the sort of cult of personality, right to rule politics practiced by the current National leadership. I am strongly opposed to a lot of stuff the current national party is implementing which seems driven largely by ideology rather than with regard to proven (or disproven) outcomes or I fear by ulterior motives by which I mean the true results which is being sought are not the ones which are being promoted. This is unfortunately an inherent problem in politics.

My echo chamber is full of anger at the people who didn't vote/appear to be uninvolved or uninterested in politics. It is possible that this actually reflects positively on the general standard of living in NZ that so many people are able to feel that it won;t negatively impact on them regardless of who of the "right/left" is in power, but the truth of the matter is more likely that many of these people have such busy lives just keeping whatever standard of living they have that they do not have the luxury of taking time to engage with the issues of the day. Which to me is an indicator that society is not overall as well off as people think, because in a well off society this time would not be a luxury.

I've seen a lot of confusion over the way so many people seem to have split their vote Labour/National. In a lot of ways I see this blatant vote splitting as a positive, it means that a) the people who are engages understand the difference between who represents them locally and who has overall control of the country and b) the Labour/National(Greens) tribalism is starting to die off. Under MMP it should be perfectly feasible for a National/Labour coalition to form, given that the two parties aren't that far apart on many things. The only thing preventing closer relations between the two parties is that so many old-guard have so much invested in the brand of *not Being X*.

"The right" certainly did get it's vote out better that "the left", even given that explicit support does appear to have dropped since 2011. I think while everyone was distracted by the Brand Key sideshow behind the scenes they actually did work their networks and the party machine make sure that people were going to go to the polls, where the left relied heavily on people going to vote "for the greater good". "The right" understands at a far more integral level that once you have power/influence you have to work to keep that, constantly, and they have. Sadly they chose do do this through the last term by dirty means rather than on the strength of the outcomes of their policies, which one would be expecting to see by the end of a second term. Unfortunately it can be really hard for Sam Citizen to tell the difference between outcomes from policy and mediocre outcomes from a favourable environment.

The general agreement in the part of my echo chamber which talks about such things seems to be that the majority of non-voters probably fall somewhere between Labour and the Greens in the political spectrum, that there is a large gulf there who probably once would have been Labour but can't bring themselves to move Green. There is a lot of talk of Labour having to re-invent itself. Frankly I think Labour would do better splintering along it's well-recognized internal fractures into multiple smaller parties rather than trying to be "The party of the Left" that they once were - only that way can they actually address the spread of issues rather than failing to be all things to many people. It wouldn't hurt National to split either come to that. In my view that is the political landscape which would best show the power of proportional representation for actually building contextual solutions which address the concerns and interests of a majority of those affected, which grouping is going to be different for every situation, and thus widely accepted.

I do wonder how much of the non-vote was younger Internet party support which didn't actually get around to voting. Good on them for stirring up the youth and at least getting them enrolled (I think they had a positive effect there). Hopefully some of those young people rather than being disillusioned and put off politics for the next decade of their lives will maintain an interest and maybe help fill the desperate need for voices speaking up about issues that matter to that demographic, issues which in a lot of ways do overlap with mine but then I'm not "typical".

~~~
One thing is clear though - even if the bulk of NZ is doing OK this government is unlikely to do very much - or even less - for a lot of the people who are near the bottom of the heap in NZ, which means that the rest of us with the means to do so are going to need to step up even more. I may have to bring forward some plans I was not planning to implement until after putting more retirement savings / personal buffer aside.

Look after each other out there.
marsden_online: (write)
Back in my post on a Universal Base Income I briefly mentioned transactional tax. The more I think about it the more I like the idea of replacing large chunks of our current tax system with a comprehensive transactional tax or set of taxes.

Many of our current taxes can already be framed as transactional taxes with little effort. Our consumption tax GST is effectively a tax on certain transactions. So is income tax especially as it is currently implemented with PAYE. A transactional tax would also capture those capital gains (although would be considered hard on those taking capital losses).

Transactional taxes are usually considered to be a flat (to regressive) tax, but there's no reason one couldn't be implemented progressively based on the value of the transaction. Some people would doubtless find it worthwhile to "game" this - regardless of where the bands were set but they would also still be paying the lower tier (times n) regardless. It is likely that the bands could be set to minimise this.

Collecting transactional taxes in our electronic economy should prove little more difficult (technically) than accounting for that pesky withholding tax (also a transactional tax as it is deducted when interest is paid). Financial institutions will doubtless balk at being put in the position of tax collector but they are the ones who have the transaction records (and they also have the computing power) and the ability to deduct the taxes in the same way as they would deduct an account fee.

(With modern computing I'd expect the tax-accrued to an account to be able to be displayed with every balance request.)

Who pays the tax is another important question to answer: the person sending the money or the person receiving it. I toyed with the idea of halving the rate and having it apply equally to ingoing and outgoing transactions but viewed one the scale of income tax and the ease of PAYE it became obvious that this was not feasible. Having the recipient responsible for paying the tax in that case is a recipe for those with poor financial planning skills to end up with terrible outstanding tax bills and would be a step backwards. Additionally having to somehow tag every transaction into or out of an account as tax-paid / tax-incurring would be additional unwanted complications for every account holder. So it seems to me that such a tax must be implemented as the transaction is *outgoing*.

Some allowance would need to be made for the cash economy - I think this is simply handled by applying the tax to "cash" deposits (it would already apply to withdrawals) and not worrying too much about the intervening time except for transfers above a certain level which should be required to be declared.

Even a comprehensive transactional tax will need exceptions or claim-backs as with GST to prevent it all being loaded on to the consumer. And every-so-often waiving accrued amounts not worth collecting seems reasonable. Although given that a comprehensive transactional tax rate would be much lower than GST (we are hopefully talking fractions of a cent on the dollar) and overall everyone should have more to spend the accruing increases may not make sufficient difference to be worth it in many cases.

Why so low? We are, if you're a cynic, double dipping or taking many nibbles of the cherry.
- get paid? Taxed (paid by your employer).
- withdraw or deposit cash? Taxed (accrued to the account and deducted monthly / at a certain value by the bank - unless they are offering some sort of sweetener whereby they are paying t.tax on the account for you).
- purchase something with cash? Taxed (accrued to the merchant's account when they deposit the money).
- purchase something with EFTPOS, Credit Card or paying a bill by internet banking? Taxed (accrued to your account).
- paying off the credit card or otherwise moving funds between your accounts? Taxed (accrued to the originating account).
- sending money to a friend? Sorry, taxed to you.

I don't see an implementation of this sort of tax being sufficient to bankroll the country, not immediately anyway and Robin Hood tax effects notwithstanding, particularly if we're funding a progressive social welfare system. We would still need a (lower) income tax and we would still certainly want health-related excise taxes - tobacco, alcohol, carbon .... but it could simplify a few things and even if the effect on an individual were fiscally neutral I think the lower income and (preferably abolished) GST would be welcomed.
marsden_online: (write)
This is what the hamster was running on last night - it's still going this morning.

I've previously stated my support for the concept of a Universal Base Income or UBI. A UBI is an important step in moving away from the paradigm that you have to have a job to be of any value to society to one where we actually take advantage of increased automation to allow everyone to work less and has a host of benefits including de-stigmatising getting a benefit.

Of course were a progressive political party to take on a UBI as a policy platform there would be a lot of opposition. Some arguments which might be raised against and my counters are:
long post is long )
Whew. long post is long, and here are still tangential posts coming to be about culture and conservation.
marsden_online: (write)
You can read the full outline of the policy on the Labour Party website - I'm just going tto quote the bullet points relevant to my opinion
- $60 per week for a baby’s first year of life, universal for all families earning under $150,000 per year.
- Up to $60 per week between the child’s first and third birthdays, targeted at modest and middle income families.
- The first year payment will go to around 59,000 households, covering almost 95 percent of children under one year of age.
- The one and two year old payment will go to around 63,000 families, covering 56 percent of all one and two year olds.
- The Best Start Payment provides desperately needed support to the estimated 50,000 children under three who are currently living in poverty.
-The Best Start Payment will benefit all New Zealand children born after 1 April 2016.

Unsurprisingly to anyone who knows me I agree with the thrust of this policy. What is getting my dander up is they way it is being touted in the media: the conversation is being cast in terms of "bonus", or even "handout" (bad Radio Network news - I expected better from your editors).

(I'm neither here nor there on calling it an "election bribe" - actually correction here I'd go so far as to say it's a two-election bribe given when it is due to kick in - but that doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad idea.)

This policy is simply to newborns what superannuation is to retirees and the kiwisaver kickstart and "tax credit" are to working adults. Not a handout or a bonus but a (near-)universal entitlement to which no stigma should be attached.

What it is spent on can't be precisely targeted or course, but I am emphatically not in the camp which believes people are going to have a child for a measly $3000 (even $9000 over 3 years) from the government, or that it will just disappear on "beer and smokes". There might be a few who are that bad at maths - but the "Support for expectant parents" part of the policy shows intent to identify, catch and educate people this time around. (Whether the resources will follow to keep on top of this (responsibility is being offloaded onto the DHBs) may be another matter.)

For a high-income family (and I/S helpfully points out that the median is $75,000 this might only mean $3000 in a trust account towards future education fees or their child's inevitable OE. For a family on minimum wage $60 a week will represent the basics in food, nappies, and so forth without having to cut back somewhere else; or the lost wages from having to take a day off work to look after a sick child. For low and middle income families it might mean being able to cope with unexpected expenses like taking an older child or even an adult to the doctor before they infect the entire family/school with something contagious. And -that- is where the force-multiplier of this policy really lies - more than just a benefit to the babe and/or their parents but a benefit to society as a whole.

The benefits of alleviating poverty in terms of reduced health, law enforcement and welfare costs farther down the track are well researched. Unfortunately measured in terms-in-government that future may as well not exist. The value in a policy which will take decades to properly bear fruit unfortunately seems beyond the comprehension of many voters; or if not beyond comprehension then beyond consideration. And the value of working together to build on what previous governments have done right and giving due recognition regardless of where they may have fallen on the political spectrum is alas still foreign to our adversarial political system.

But this is a policy which slim though it is increases the odds of when a child looks around at the poverty trap their parents may be in and say, to quote Dasini, "That’s not gonna be me. Nuh-uh. Nope." circumstances will actually permit. This sort of policy is making luck - increasing the preparation, increasing the opportunity.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life
via FB: an in depth look at the life of an 11 year old girl and her family in New York - how they got there, what the future might bring. Very long, 5 parts of mostly heartache and the occasional faint glimmer of hope.
Her family lives in the Auburn Family Residence, a decrepit city-run shelter for the homeless. It is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, where feces and vomit plug communal toilets, where sexual predators have roamed and small children stand guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers.

It is no place for children. Yet Dasani is among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.

Nearly a quarter of Dasani’s childhood has unfolded at Auburn, where she shares a 520-square-foot room with her parents and seven siblings. As they begin to stir on this frigid January day, Dasani sets about her chores.

~~~~
One could be grateful that this is on the far side of the world, clearly someone else's problem. Could say that America does not have even the (increasingly holey) social security net that New Zealand boasts. Share it on Facebook as if to say "how bad the world is, how well we have it" and move along.

The NZ media does occasionally deign to pick up on these same issues in New Zealand - it was the topic du jour for a little while in 2010-11 but it seems unlikely little has changed.
- Entire families living in a relative's garage or multiple families crammed together in one home while they wait for state housing to become available. (2010)
- People's needs for accommodation deliberately not even recorded by Housing New Zealand leaving them with no option but to camp in the worst of private accommodation with no tenants rights (Both 2011 - I think WINZ has taking over determining accommodation eligibility but I have little confidence that anything has changed in practice).
- Garage life for two years (2013)

And I don't need a link for anyone reading this to know what the accommodation situation in Christchurch has been like for the past few years. "Temporary" must be starting to look like "childhood" for many.

The numbers may be debatable - perhaps things have improved in NZ since the first of these articles was written. But in the modern, caring, wealthy society which we supposedly aspire to be one person - especially one child - without even the option of a basic, clean, place to live in should be one too many.

And I am certain that the scope of the problem is still actually far wider than I can glimpse from my comfortable middle-class life. I sense a fear in me, that if I actually go looking I will be overwhelmed at the scale and feel unable to make any real difference - thus I "bide my time" and passively watch for opportunities to help within my means and not detrimental to my own (middle class) goals. Would I open my home to strangers? I've seriously considered it post-quake but decided against for mental health's sake (mine and my flatmate's (even if he agreed to the idea)).

Still we are losing bright children (truth be most if not all children are bright); now more than ever we as a society are throwing away their futures through our own inaction when we have the capacity to do better. A week ago I shared on FB an article about Variety looking for sponsors to help families pay back-to-school costs.
A charity is crying out for donors as poverty-stricken parents seek sponsorship for the back-to-school costs of their children.

More than 170 applications have been made for Kiwi Kid sponsorship so far this year, including 21 from Christchurch, and Variety - The Children's Charity needs more sponsors.

There were already 705 children - 116 from Christchurch - receiving financial support nationwide in its first year, much like that offered to children in Third World countries through World Vision.
.
At the time I said
This presses *many* of my buttons - children, local poverty, education...
I'm fighting a 3-way battle between reflexively signing up; knowing that I'm supposed to be keeping a tighter reign on my spending this year (and so far have been failing miserably); and feeling I could probably find someone in need that I could give the full $35+ per month to directly.
and at the time inertia won. Now I'm making a commitment to reassess my budget for the year, do some research and commit something regular on top of the irregular amounts I give the phone collectors and occasional worthy givealittle/pledgeme/etc call that comes across my radar - whether through Variety or some other avenue (I wonder if Adopt a Christchurch Family is still actually going).

~~~
This topic also conveniently leads into my next post - thoughts on the just-announced Labour party policy of an extra $60/week entitlement for families with newborns possibly following up to the age of 3 years.
marsden_online: (Default)
Mostly X-posted after-the-fact from FB

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/employment/news/article.cfm?c_id=11&objectid=11157291

This neatly lays out my concerns with the conflating of "Living" and "Minimum" wages.
Back in the 1930s, as described in Brian Easton's book Wages of the Poor, legislation required the court to set the basic wage in terms of the needs of a man, his wife at home and three children.

This was soon seen as a very inefficient way to provide an adequate income as it over-compensated single workers and under-compensated those with large families.
...
The living wage campaign has focused public attention on the need for low wage rates to be increased. But the Living Wage of $18.40 an hour was determined for a family with two children and two adults, one working full time, one part-time. This signals a return to the thinking of the 1930s. It would be better to focus on a realistic minimum individual hourly rate and ensure that Working for Families provides adequate extra income support when there are children.


The first purpose of a job is to provide for the worker and their dependants. This makes it reasonable for those who have no dependants (young, single etc) to occupy jobs which pay less*. It also suggests a moral responsibility on the part of an employer to pay at least a sufficient amount for at least the basic needs of a single person with no dependants.

* This is not in any way an advocation for a "youth rate".
(It also suggests those in poor health should have access to jobs which pay more, which in a caring society is not a paradox, and in modern society is (theoretically) substituted by social welfare.)

If as an employer you are not doing this then you are artificially lowering your labour costs and your business is not in fact technically economic or sustainable in the long term. (In the short.medium term or in a low-skill job in a "flexible" labour market it is a perfectly rational thing to do :( ).

With this in mind I would be in favour of having the basic social welfare (or preferably universal basic income) for an unemployed person set at that basic level (supplemented individually based on regional, family and medical factors) and the minimum wage set at some percentage above that, all inflation indexed as a matter of course. It then remains the responsibility of the employer to pay/recompense staff they wish to keep appropriate to their needs as well as their experience/expertise and the responsibility of the worker who wants a stable job (not everyone does) to seek out an employer who wishes to retain them.
marsden_online: (write)
This evening I did two things, neither of which took very long
- put in an application for Meridian Energy shares
- put in my "postal" votes for the Mighty River AGM in November
Both were quick and easy processes online.
Also relevant is that a couple of weeks ago a dividend from Mighty River slipped into my bank account with absolutely no fuss.

So I thought it was time to put down some of my thoughts about the whole process and experience, as one of the few "Mum and Dad" investors who actually went for the scheme (despite being neither a mother or a father). To get it out of the way - my motivation was simple. The asset sales were and are a bad idea, the only thing I could do to mitigate them in any way was to take up the offer and bottom-drawer the shares I could afford until some time as they are re-nationalised or forcibly acquired by offshore interests.

1. One of the things that was talked about in the lead up to the MRP offer was showing people that investing in shares can be easy. I give full credit to those involved for making the process practically painless in these instances. Application by internet was simple, the forms were well designed and logical, and there wasn't really a lot of information you needed to supply. A for effort those people.

However I have my doubts (given the low uptake by small personal investors) that this message was actually experienced by many. Moreover
- I have no idea if the ease of purchase facilitated for these special issues, complete with dedicated websites, at all compares to privately purchasing shares in any other company.
- attempting to sell my shares or to purchase more (should I wish to do so) still seems like an intimidating process and I would not know where to start.

My post-share-purchasing experience with ComputerShare's online system has been adequate. It is functional for what it seems intended to do but badly in need of a makeover.

Overall B-, after initially considering considered a C+

2. I now practically understand something I have struggled with in the past - the difference between buying shares for growth and buying for income. To my way of thinking either way ones paper worth goes up, and dividends can just as easily be re-invested (in fact that was the primary use I saw for them at my stage in the investment cycle). That MRP dividend sliding into my bank account made it clear how buying with dividends in mind you can actually purchase a (probable) future income stream. I do quite like that idea.

3. I have come to the conclusion that "investing in shares" and "investing in the company those share are issued by" are two different things, especially if you are buying for growth. It seems to me that you can only claim to be investing *in a company* if you buy the shares fresh from issue (or the company reselling after a buyback) and hold, or secondarily if you are increasing your holding with the intent of using the increased voting power to the company's benefit. (Whether what you want to accomplish with that influence will actually be in the best interests of the company notwithstanding - it's a genuine intent that counts).

In the other cases - purchasing existing shares for dividends or purchasing for growth - you are either
- investing in the income stream that the company may provide, but not actually providing *them* any new capital.
- investing in the likelihood that someone at some future point in time will give you more money for the shares than you paid for them. While this may certainly given you a firm *interest* in how the company performs it is not an *investment in the company* because it is not from the company that you expect to realise your return.

I am of course only referring to publicly traded shares here. There are a lot of ways to invest in especially smaller companies, many of which involve taking a "share" of the company which you might intend to cash in once the company has grown in value. Those are different beasts.

4. I find I have confirmed a strong preference for investing *in* companies. Buying existing shares explicitly for growth actually feels dishonest to me on some fundamental level. Buying for dividends - income - still seems like a potentially sensible thing to do. I think this comes down to my general approach that money is only worth what you can do with it, and you can actually do something with a dividend. You can't do much with the money represented by a share which is just getting fatter.

There are grey areas of course - my Kiwisaver for instance is in an "Active Growth" fund. But then I know (or believe) that the managers of that fund actively seek out investments in smaller companies with the potential for growth, and will purchase freshly minted shares in such companies. And I do wish I'd been able to pick up some Telecom shares for resale when they crashed to about $1.80 a year or so ago.

~~~
In truth I would rather put my money - if I can afford it - directly into a company knowing how it would help that company grow. Don't lend/invest what you can't afford to lose they say, and I've kept that firmly in mind. I am fortunate to have the resources to throw at these offers, and count lost.

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