Nolan on commun currency

August 24th, 2009 at 10:52 am by David Farrar

at TVHE looks at the pros and cons of a common currency with Australia.

Benefits

  1. Lower transaction costs.  As Aussie is our main trading partner this is a biggie.
  2. Removes exchange rate risk for trade between nations, both in terms of relative prices and account reporting.
  3. Prevents damage from exchange rate verring from fundamental level.
  4. Makes trade protectionism more difficult.
  5. Added I would also add that, in this case, having the Aussie dollar will reduce the risk premium we have to pay for credit

Costs

  1. Can’t use monetary policy to compensate for region specific shocks – dairy price crashes and we can’t use a lower interest rate to help buffer the fall.  This is the primary concern.
  2. Can’t use inflation to lower public debt – our monetary policy is now determined by Aussie.  However, we don’t do this so it doesn’t matter.
  3. As fiscal policy is independent it can cause issues with splitting “seigniorage revenue“.  With a low inflation target this is not a biggie at all.
  4. Speculative attacks prior to the union.

I have not checked myself, but understand it has been very rare for the NZ Reserve Bank to be increasing interest rates while the Australian RB is lowering them, and vice-versa.

Hence it seems to me the pros rather outweigh the cons.

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37 Responses to “Nolan on commun currency”

  1. KiwiGreg (3,211 comments) says:

    A year ago I would have said take the USD over the AUD if we want to give up our currency (as most of our exports and imports are effectively denominated in USD) now I’m not so sure I’d want that.

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  2. Grant Michael McKenna (1,156 comments) says:

    The region specific shocks can be dealt with in part by enabling lines of credit to Fonterra et al.

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  3. dime (9,611 comments) says:

    It would be a new currency? or the aussie dollar?

    if its the aussie dollar, wages would go down 15% over night. that would impress people!

    they would have to reduce the minimum wage heh

    [DPF: Wages would not go down. You would receive less Australian dollars than NZ dollars, but prices would also be in Australian dollars and be reduced also. Purchasing power would not be affected]

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  4. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    This drinking and blogging thing isn’t doing wonders for the blogger’s spelling I must say :-D

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  5. big bruv (13,464 comments) says:

    Bring it on!….the sooner we become a state of Aussie the better.

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  6. Chthoniid (2,029 comments) says:

    I think we are getting to the point with our economic integration, that a common currency is really worth considering. There’s probably a better economic case already (only 2 countries, longer and cleaner intergration through CER) than there was for the EC and the euro.

    The NZD is pretty pointless for travel or commercial use. And for the last 20 years our monetary policy has been pretty much aligned with Australias (tacitly anyway)- through the 1990-91 recession, dotcom bubbles bursting, Asian crisis etc. It’s not like the option to have an independent monetary policy matters all that much in practice. Banking laws and regulations are pretty compatible already, and the actual banks are pretty much the same both sides of the Tasman.

    A new ANZAC dollar (Australia- New Zealand- Amalgamated-Currency) works for me.
    Just so long as we keep birds and wildlife on the currency, rather than politicians :)

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  7. tvb (4,236 comments) says:

    It will not be called the ANZAC dollar, that would be giving in too much to NZ which now has a GDP/head lower than all the other Aussie states.

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  8. dime (9,611 comments) says:

    DPF – yea i know. but can you imagine explaining purchasing power to kiwis? good luck.

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  9. Gosman (336 comments) says:

    While I generally agree with the sentiments expressed in this post I do have one major reservation about a combined currency which you did not include in the Cost column. While not a direct economic cost I think there is a cost to our national pride if we dump the Kiwi dollar and just start using the Aussie Dollar without the Aussies making concessions to us. I wouldn’t be happy to stop havi ng currency without a Kiwi icon like Ed Hillary on it. Ideally we should look to have a situation like in the UK where Northern Ireland and Scotland can have separate money circulating although being in the same currency.

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  10. oxymoron (34 comments) says:

    I’ll believe it when I see it. The issue of combined currency is like the debate for New Zealand to become a republic. Both major parties say it’s a good idea but can’t be bothered advancing it.

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  11. kisekiman (224 comments) says:

    Fantastic idea but the numpties come out of the woodwork citing loss of national pride etc…as if under a combined currency the All Blacks would be banned and our kids would be forced to sing Advance Australia Fair in school. It’s only money folks.

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  12. davidp (3,551 comments) says:

    At the moment, the Australian government and Reserve Bank makes monetary policy decisions on the basis of what is best for the Australian economy. Then because the two economies are so interconnected the NZ economy feels the effects of that policy.

    Presumably a single currency would mean monetary policy would be set by a Reserve Bank of Australia and NZ, with representatives chosen by both governments. In which case NZ would have more influence on the decisions that effect us.

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  13. KiwiGreg (3,211 comments) says:

    The Australian cuurency could have all those Ozzy icons like Phar Lap, the Finn bothers, Russell Crowe (except when he throws phones, then he is a kiwi) etc….

    The bigger problem is I see our economies diverging further, due to Australia’s strength through hard commodities. A strong (Aussie) dollar would just hurt New Zealand more as we inexorably sink into economic irrelevency.

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  14. peterwn (3,194 comments) says:

    Let us go the whole hog and adopt the Euro or the Greenback. Panama uses the Greenback and seems to be OK. The Euro is probably better as NZ has much more in common with Europe than the USA.

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  15. Chthoniid (2,029 comments) says:

    @KiwiGreg

    The bigger problem is I see our economies diverging further, due to Australia’s strength through hard commodities. A strong (Aussie) dollar would just hurt New Zealand more as we inexorably sink into economic irrelevency.

    But not Australian states share this endowment in minerals etc. There is already a lot of variation in wages and growth within Australia. Indeed, 10 years ago NZ was the ‘average’ Australian state. That is, in terms of population and incomes etc, we were behind NSW and Queensland- bit ahead of some of the others.

    Of course, that has changed but there is no need for it to be a permanent change.

    Anyway, the point of my ramble is that if we compare NZ to the other Australian states (rather than the whole Australian economy) we fall (mostly) within that economic variation anyway. There’s already a lot of variation within Australia- it’s not an homogenous economy.

    So I don’t think the divergence angle matters as much as people might think.

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  16. big bruv (13,464 comments) says:

    I see no downside to adopting the Aussie dollar, sure some nationalistic idiots will hate the idea of using Aussie bank notes but eventually they will get over it.

    If national identity really becomes such a big issue then we could always print local versions of the Aussie bank notes (as long as the Ockers agree) in a similar way as it currently done in the UK with Scottish banknotes.

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  17. BlairM (2,303 comments) says:

    Never mind nationalism, amalgamating the currency has the potential for economic disaster. You effectively lose control over the ability to improve economic conditions.

    It is all very well if the NZ and Australian economies are moving in sync, but what if they don’t? We are stuck with a currency based on the larger country’s economy. If we are doing less well, New Zealand becomes too expensive to invest in – if we are doing better, we can’t capitalise on it. Either way it will see a mass exodus west towards the bigger economy.

    You can see this even within countries, as people move away from rural areas to the big cities. Whereas if, say, the West Coast had its own currency, it would trade at a lower rate – encouraging businesses to invest and set up there.

    We should be encouraging more currencies and means of exchange, not less. Joining the NZD with the AUD would mean goods and services here would reflect their Australian value, not their real value, and the discrepancy would see us suffer for it.

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  18. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    I feel that over the last couple of years, the 2 countries having separate currencies has cost me in excess of $1000 in bank fees alone. This is typical of the average kiwi who lives in Australia but still has interests in New Zealand (ie a mortgage or student loan to pay). It costs $A30 to send the money from the Commonwealth Bank, and $NZ22 to receive it at the ASB in New Zealand. On top of that, both banks have a spread of what they buy and sell their currencies at (this can be anywhere up to 5%, and Commbank generally seem to be cheaper than ASB) so it only takes sending back $1000 ten times to add up to $1000 of fees. Yes there are other ways to send money internationally but are either inconvenient or just as expensive. Commbank own the ASB FFS!
    A common currency (and some sort of amalgamation of the domestic banking systems) would greatly reduce the fees payable in these circumstances – even if it cost $5 to move $1000 it is much better than the current $50+ that it currently does.
    I am all for New Zealand adopting the Australian dollar. It must be noted that the RBNZ tend to follow the RBA in adjusting the Official Cash rate, although the RBNZ tend to go to more extremes than the RBA. The NZD pretty much follows the AUD anyway, it has pretty much been $1.22 (say, plus or minus 2c) for the whole time I have been following it.

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  19. Jack5 (4,786 comments) says:

    Making the Australian dollar legal tender in NZ might be a good idea, but there are other choices.

    Agreed, that at present, the Kiwi dollar, in the top 12 traded by speculators, is way out of kilter with our country’s economic reality.

    In response to Blair M’s point re adopting the aussie dollar: the Reserve Bank of NZ would still set NZ short-term interest rates, and it doesn’t control the level of the NZ dollar now. Also, a floating currency was supposed to work as an automatic correction device for current account balance present and expected. The kiwi dollar has failed in this, and we have to seek some way to stop this country’s economy bleeding to death.

    There must have been countries in the past that have had more than one legal-tender currency at once. If retailers, employment contracts, etc specified which currency prices and contracts were to be settled in, would it matter? It would just mean the country stepping back and allowing the people and markets to establish which currency was used more.

    Computerisation, the internet and so on must help facilitate new monetary systems such as one using multiple currencies internally.

    Don Brash has said in the past that the Australian dollar moves about even more than the kiwi dollar so may not offer as much stability as some expect. Another problem he cited was the aussie dollar is affected by commodity prices such as for gold and coal that are far less relevant to the NZ economy. If gold boomed our exporters might suffer lower returns because of this. Those who say hedging overcomes this are only partly right. Hedging provides protection only for a limited time ahead.

    Adopting the aussie would entail loss to NZ of seigniorage (the difference between the face value of currency and its production costs) without necessarily being compensated for by a more stable currency environment for NZ exporters.

    In a multiple-currency regime, this environment could perhaps be made up of three currencies: the aussie, the kiwi, and the greenback, so exporters could choose the one that not only their business traded in, but based its wages and other input costs on, and also financially reported in.

    Yes it would be complicated, but exporters and importers at present cope in an unstable currency environment.

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  20. ISeeRed (244 comments) says:

    The bleaters who argue a common currency is inevitable make me angry. Is Singapore, another small economy like New Zealand, considering adopting another currency? If not, why not? What about tiny Switzerland? When did it adopt the Euro? What are they doing right that we are doing wrong? Adopting the Aussie dollar (it won’t be a merger) is such a copout for government economic mismanagement and reckless runaway social spending. After the Douglas reforms, we had almost 20 years to reach per-capita GDP parity with Australia. That would only have taken growth rates that were consistently 1-2% above that of Australia’s. Instead, both National and Labour just kept spending more and more every year, depositing more and more layers more rules and regulations on the economy like sedimentary rock.

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  21. ISeeRed (244 comments) says:

    The edit function certainly doesn’t allow you much time to edit! Make that “depositing more and more layers of rules and regulations on the economy…”

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  22. Casey (11 comments) says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. In the past 20 years there’s been times when in fact we would have loved to float an Auckland Dollar to cushion us from something happening in Auckland that wasn’t elsewhere (i.e. property boom that was pushing the whole country’s interest rates higher). Even right now, here we are in a situation where Australia’s hard commodities are rising in price (and therefore rightly the AUD), but NZ’s are not, and as a consequence we are benefiting by being well lower over the past few months against the AUD – if we had previously adopted the AUD we would be getting well and truly screwed over at the moment.

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  23. Jack5 (4,786 comments) says:

    Perhaps, ISeeRed, perhaps some sort of multi-currency system would give you the feeling of freedom you seem to advocate. However, I’m not sure how there would be any more bureaucracy from changing the official currency.

    In ISeeRed’s comparisons with Singapore and Switzerland, these figures may be relevant:

    GDP 2008 (IMF figures, in USD):
    NZ $128.49 billion; Singapore $181.9 billion; Switzerland $492.5 billion.

    Current account balance 2008: (CIA World Fact Book, estimates, USD):
    NZ negative (ie deficit) 9.047 billion; Singapore: positive $28.42 billion; Switzerland positive $40;80b.

    Singapore and Switzerland aren’t in the same squeeze as NZ.

    It will be interesting to see what Brash comes up with in his productivity inquiry. Currency moves can’t solve all of NZ’s economic distortions, but they could be a good start.

    And Casey: the speculators who use NZD as a chip, seem to link it with the aussie dollar somewhat any way, don’t they, and even with the Canadian dollar?

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  24. Michael E (274 comments) says:

    We don’t have to adopt an Australian dollar, we can just tie the NZD to the AUD rate, say at NZ1 = AU80c. Or we could create a narrow trading band of .78 to .82. That way we can decouple if there are pressures on the NZ economy that are too strong to withhold. China and others do this with the USD rate.

    Argentina tied it’s Peso to the US Dollar in the 90s and the USD soared – making Argentine exports uncompetitive and causing a currency crisis as people traded Pesos for dollars. In the end the Argentine government was forced to devalue by a whooping percentage causing civil unrest as it effectively wiped out half the value of everyones savings.

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  25. Jack5 (4,786 comments) says:

    Can some astute economist tell us whether, if the kiwi dollar continues to soar and our current account balance to deteriorate, NZ might be forced into some sort of approach such as a “crawling peg” to lower it?

    And is a “crawling peg” the same as fixing the national currency to a basket of foreign currencies, as I think we once did in NZ?

    A brief bit on the crawling peg (which to me as a layman seems a bit like the suggestion of Michael E at 8.25 — the post immediately before this one):

    http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/crawlingpeg.asp

    And does all the talk about Australian currency come back to the question of whether NZ is big enough to survive as an independent economy with a Western standard of living?

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  26. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    Jack5 – Do you really think having three currencies (all of which are called dollars) as legal tender won’t create utter confusion?
    Singapore and Switzerland both make a lot of money because of their powerful banking systems and low tax rates. Maybe we could copy them as a model of economic management?

    The New Zealand position is fairly unique with one close neighbour accounting for a quarter of all trade – perhaps only Canada is in a similar position, although a much larger economy. It makes lot of sense to cut back the biggest difficulty in this trade by considering using the same currency, being the Australian Dollar.

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  27. Jack5 (4,786 comments) says:

    Gazzmaniac, at 8.45 pm. Perhaps three currencies would be confusing. A century or two back there was less concern about official currencies. You might be happy to be paid in doubloons, or Spanish gold or dollars or whatever. I’m not sure about today. I know NZ has got a really big problem with its high kiwi dollar, however. We need to solve it before it wipes out our exporters. All possibilities should be on the table for consideration.

    As for copying Singapore an Switzerland by setting up a powerful banking system: how would we do that? Expand Kiwibank and TSB and SBS? It seems to me wishful thinking along the lines that NZ was going to become a world financial centre because of its time zone slot. Never happened, because they trade round the clock in the big foreign financial centres.

    Even Britain, which largely let its industrial, manufacturing sector die while Germany and France at least kept much of theirs alive, must be wondering how wise it was to think that it would always be prosperous from its financial industry. In fact finance seems to follow other industry. Is the Tokyo Stock Exchange bigger than London’s? Does Japan have more big banks than Britain? Aren’t giant banks emerging in China? Who holds America’s foreign debt – Britain or China and Japan?

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  28. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    Jack5 – 100 years ago currency was based on a gold standard, and it was pretty easy to work out the exchange rates because of the proportion of gold in each coin (be it with actual coins or with bank notes), and it would be fairly easy to adjust a price according to what currency was available. I understand that there was a fairly severe lack of coinage in this part of the world as late as the 1930s and that may well have contributed to being able to take what you can get. Maybe with your suggestion we shouldn’t have a “legal tender” at all, but businesses should accept whatever money they get offered. This would turn everyone into a currency trader by default.

    The reason (IMHO) that Singapore and Switzerland have big banking sectors is more to do with their tax system and less to do with their currency. Vanuatu also has a banking system disproportionate to the size of its economy.

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  29. Casey (11 comments) says:

    Guys – since the world effectively went off the gold standard in 1971 this is the longest any fiat currency (i.e. all the world’s currencies currently) has survived without returning to a gold type standard – not one in the history of mankind has made it through. This debate is academic because this set of fiat currencies are now reaching the point of implosion at which point the global monetary system will have to be rebuilt. The NZD will just be part of that process, with the only debate in my mind is will it happen in the next 5 years, or ten ?

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  30. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    Casey – you make a good point about being off the gold standard, which many people are talking about at the moment, though I am yet to be convinced that a total collapse is as imminent as everyone says.
    The Romans progressively devalued their currency over several centuries until their “gold” coins had very little gold at all, and their trading partners stopped accepting their currency. It may be simplistic and of course there are other factors, but one can actually trace the decline of the Roman empire by the precious metal content of its coinage. It may be argued the same for the British (they partially left the gold standard in 1912 and totally during the depression). It was only the USA who left the gold standard in 1971.
    The lack of a stable currency will have a detrimental effect on the stability of a country’s trade and thus the overall stability of the country. New Zealand’s economy is intrinsically linked with Australia’s anyway, so perhaps using the more stable Australian dollar (be it linked to gold or not) is not such a bad idea.

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  31. Casey (11 comments) says:

    Yes agreed it was the USD that went off the gold standard in 1971, but being the world’s reserve currency, my understanding is that effectively took everyone off it i.e. you could no longer take your USD receivables and demand them to be converted to gold by the Fed as the French were doing in bulk, and which ultimately triggered the change (i.e. default of the US to their stated obligations).

    And yes, timing is the issue, the only reason that I’m thinking sooner rather than decades away, is the fact that the level of debt in the world in unprecedented by a massive margin – there is a crisis brewing, and currencies will be a big part of that.

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  32. ISeeRed (244 comments) says:

    Hi Jack5. Thanks for your figures. They illustrate my point perfectly. Per capita, we used to be richer than Singapore and Switzerland. Now we’re poorer. Why? Singapore only has 15% more people than NZ, yet has 40% more GDP according to your figures? Switzerland doesn’t even have twice our population, but has FOUR TIMES our GDP! Was the magic bullet adopting a foreign currency in each case? No?

    The solution isn’t begging Australia to adopt their dollar or form some new Aussie-dominated “ANZAC”. (What’s in it for Australia?) It’s to man up as a country and start putting policies in place that push us down the part towards a high-wage, low-tax, high-growth economy like Singapore and Switzerland. A common currency is little more than an ambulance that’s not even parked at the bottom of the right cliff.

    And before anyone whines about how Singapore and Switzerland are unique: all countries are unique! Look at a globe and see how far New Zealand is from our markets. What would make us more competitive? How about lower, flatter taxes and less onerous regulations on business? Quality spending in education, science and technology and less on wasted welfare and bloated bureaucracy? That might help reverse our relative economic decline more than minting some new fiat funny money.

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  33. xyzzy (23 comments) says:

    New Zealand is rated as the 5th easiest place in the world to do business. Admittedly behind Singapore (#2) but ahead of Switzerland (#9). It is worth noting that Singapore has major issues with regards to democracy (they are one of, if not the most authoritarian first world country) and press & political freedoms and rights. If you want to move more to a Singaporean system fine, but some of New Zealand’s most fundamental freedoms (like not having the same party in power since independence!) would immediately be lost. Singapore (and #1, Hong Kong) have massive advantages with being city states (infrastructure is very easy to maintain) and Ireland (#4) benefits hugely from the massive European single market (the EU). Admittedly, Australia is #3 but we are becoming “more economically free” at a higher rate than them. see also http://www.heritage.org/index/

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  34. ISeeRed (244 comments) says:

    xyzzy, if Switzerland is only 9th, and we’re 5th, yet Switzerland is easily twice as rich according to Jack5′s figures, there must be a lot more to it than what some international survey from a Washington DC think tank claims.

    Fuck I despise this treacherous defeatist line of thinking and the ne-ver-end-ing litany of excuses. Singapore has this, Ireland has that. Boo hoo, we just can’t do it! It’s too hard! Yeah, we have absolutely nothing to learn from any other small but richer economies which used to be poorer than us. There Is No Alternative except merging our currency with Australia’s in the same way a whale merges with an individual krill. Why not give up altogether and become a state of Australia and be done with it. Tasmania will cheer us on, at least, since we’ll take their title of being the sick man of Australia. Maybe if the Aussies ran the show, they’d have the guts to start exploiting our mineral resources (Google “Gorgon Project” and “Olympic Dam”).

    New Zealand: a small cuntry (sic) of small minds.

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  35. BlairM (2,303 comments) says:

    In response to Blair M’s point re adopting the aussie dollar: the Reserve Bank of NZ would still set NZ short-term interest rates, and it doesn’t control the level of the NZ dollar now.

    I never suggested it did! International investors control the value of the New Zealand dollar. So if the NZ economy is tanking, why would they invest here if they can only do so in Aussie dollars? It means labour and goods here cost the same as they do in Australia, so they just go to Australia where conditions are better. But if they have a NZ dollar, they can buy it at a lower price and everything becomes cheaper. Hitherto unprofitable ventures become profitable, and NZ becomes a better place to invest.

    Take away the NZ dollar and you take away the market’s automatic ability to guard against recession.

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  36. Jack5 (4,786 comments) says:

    Re BlairM’s 7.30am post…

    That’s the way a floating currency’s supposed to work. However, markets aren’t perfect, especially in the short term, and the speculators who have pushed little NZ’s dollar into the top 12 traded currencies of the world, are stuffing things up for our exporters.

    Countries, especially exporting countries, that manipulated their currencies to low levles seem to have obtained great growth (until they reached a peak or joined the EU), catching and even passing those that followed traditional Anglo-Saxon economic models. Consider Germany and Japan after World War 2 and China now.

    In contrast, the mad fluctuation of the floating kiwi dollar is choking NZ export growth. The economists the media listen to can deny there’s any other path, but perhaps these economists are frozen in the Group Think phenomenon. Economists and econometricians are intellectually fallible as their new financial derivatives have shown in triggering the world financial crisis.

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  37. Jack5 (4,786 comments) says:

    A good piece on why NZ economic change is urgent.

    http://www.interest.co.nz/ratesblog/index.php/2009/08/25/opinion-why-the-stage-is-set-for-kiwi-living-standards-to-be-forced-to-change/

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