How NZ is ranking

April 7th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Have had a quick look through the global country rankings that have come out in the last year or two, to see how NZ is placed. Have to say pretty good overall. Here’s what I’ve got, remembering there are around 200 countries:

  • Rule of Law 6th
  • Economic Freedom 5th
  • Best to do business in 2nd
  • Least Corrupt 1st
  • Open Data 4th
  • Prosperous 5th
  • Best to be a woman 7th
  • Competitiveness 18th
  • Peaceful 3rd
  • Democratic 5th
  • Human Development 6th
  • Best for working women 1st
  • Freedom 1st
  • Open Budget 2nd
  • Best to be a mother 4th
  • Humanitarian responses 3rd
  • Smallest gender gap 5th
  • Generous 1st
  • Least failed 7th
  • Trade competitiveness 4th
  • Social progress 1st

You have to say overall New Zealand is a pretty awesome place!

You also wonder at those who claim the neo-liberal reforms have made New Zealand such an awful place that we need to over-throw them.


NZ No 1 for social progress in the world

April 3rd, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Washington-based think-tank has found that New Zealand is the most socially advanced country in the world.

The Social Progress Imperative, whose advisory board is led by Harvard economist Professor Michael Porter, has put New Zealand first out of 130 countries based on 54 indicators of social progress.

The country tops the world on indicators of personal rights and freedoms, and comes in the top four for water and sanitation, access to schooling and tertiary education, and tolerance and inclusion of minority groups.

That’s excellent. We’re not No 1 in everything but when you take all 54 indicators together, we’re at the top.

The top 10 countries are:

  1. New Zealand 88.24
  2. Switzerland 88.19
  3. Iceland 88.07
  4. Netherlands 87.37
  5. Norway 87.12
  6. Sweden 87.08
  7. Canada 86.95
  8. Finland 86.91
  9. Denmark 86.55
  10. Australia 86.10

It scores a low 28th on nutrition and basic medical care partly because of a relatively high death rate for women in childbirth, 35th for health and wellbeing partly because of high obesity and suicide rates, and 32nd for ecosystem sustainability.

So definitely still more work to do in some areas.

Think-tank director Michael Green, a London-based economist and author ofPhilanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World, said New Zealand’s placing as the world’s most socially advanced nation contrasted with its 25th place in GDP per person.

“In terms of converting economic output into quality of life, New Zealand is doing really well,” he said.

It would be good to also lift the GDP.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said: “This report is great news and it backs up what we all know – that we live in a fantastic country.”

Labour social development spokeswoman Sue Moroney said New Zealand’s high scored reflected “Labour’s progressive agenda” in building up public health and education over many decades.

Interesting that Paula just says it reflects well on the country while Moroney tries to have her party claim credit for it!

In terms of the three major category groupings, NZ was:

  • Opportunity 1st
  • Foundations of Wellbeing 6th
  • Basic Human Needs 18th

NZ 4th for trade competitiveness

April 3rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand is well ahead of Australia in trade competitiveness, according to a new international report.

The Geneva-based World Economic Forum’s enabling trade index for 2014 ranks New Zealand fourth out of 138 countries, up from fifth when the index was last released in 2012.

4th isn’t bad.

It assessed countries in four areas – market access, border administration, infrastructure, and the operating environment.

New Zealand performed well in most categories, getting an overall score of 5.2 out of seven.

However, it rated poorly in foreign-market access, coming in 65th at just 2.6 out of seven.

A big part of this was due to high cost or delays caused by international transportation, which the report found to be the most problematic factor for both importers and exporters.

Almost one in five respondents (18.7 per cent) picked it as the biggest problem for exporting, narrowly ahead of tariff barriers abroad (18.4 per cent).

Still a lot of work to be done, but things are looking good for exporters and importers.


NZ 6th for rule of law

March 7th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand has been ranked sixth overall in a global index measuring the rule of law.

The World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index surveyed 99 countries on eight categories including government accountability, crime, corruption, fundamental rights, access to justice and order and security.

New Zealand came sixth after Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands.

That’s not bad.

New Zealand also came second in the index’s open government category – beaten only by Norway – and third in the absence of corruption category.

Even better.

The country reports are here. NZ’s sub-rankings are:

  1. Open Government 2nd
  2. Absence of Corruption 3rd
  3. Constraints on Government Powers 4th
  4. Regulatory Environment 5th
  5. Fundamental Rights 7th
  6. Civil Justice 9th
  7. Order and Security 11th
  8. Criminal Justice 12th

NZ 5th for economic freedom

January 16th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Heritage Foundation has released the 2014 economic freedom index. The top 10 are:

  1. Hong Kong 90.1 (+0.8)
  2. Singapore 78.4 (+1.4)
  3. Australia 82.0 (-0.6)
  4. Switzerland 81.6 (+0.6)
  5. New Zealand 81.2 (-0.2)
  6. Canada 80.2 (+0.8)
  7. Chile 78.7 (-0.3)
  8. Mauritius 76.5 (-0.4)
  9. Ireland 76.2 (+0.5)
  10. Denmark 76.1 (nc)

Only six countries are ranked free (above 80), 27 are mainly free (70 – 80), 56 moderately free (60 to 70), 61 mostly unfree (50 to 60) and 27 repressed (under 50).

The bottom five are:

  1. North Korea 1.0
  2. Cuba 28.7
  3. Zimbabwe 35.5
  4. Venezuela 36.3
  5. Eritrea 38.5

NZ’s rankings are below

Read more about New Zealand Economy.
See more from the 2014 Index.

The level of government spending is the only area in which we score really badly. They state:

The overall tax burden equals 31.7 percent of gross domestic income. Government spending equates to about 47.5 percent of GDP, and public debt is steady at 38 percent of GDP.

All need to drop down.

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NZ 2nd place country to do business in

December 8th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand has been named the world’s second best country to do business in, behind only resurgent Ireland in the annual list compiled by Forbes’ magazine.

The survey found New Zealand had the best scores among all countries for personal freedom and investor protection, as well as lack of red tape and corruption. …

Despite being the smallest economy to make the top 10, with an annual Gross Domestic Product of US$170 billion, New Zealand was one of the fastest growing last year with GDP jumping by 2.5 per cent.

Unless we vote for tax hikes, more debt and spending, and nationalisation.

The index is based on 11 factors, and the ranking for NZ for each is:

  1. property rights – 2nd
  2. innovation – 25th
  3. taxes – 21st
  4. technology – 24th
  5. corruption – 1st
  6. personal freedom – 1st
  7. trade freedom – 10th
  8. monetary freedom – 9th
  9. red tape – 1st
  10. investor protection – 1st
  11. stock market performance – 36th

So the areas for improvement are innovation, technology and reducing the tax burden – plus improving the stock market performance.



NZ remains least corrupt country

December 6th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Transparency International has found the NZ public sector remains the least corrupt in the world. The top 10 countries are (100 means perfect):

  • New Zealand 91/100 (+1)
  • Denmark 91 (+1)
  • Finland 89 (-1)
  • Sweden 89(+1)
  • Norway 86 (+1)
  • Singapore 86 (-1)
  • Switzerland 85 (-1)
  • Netherlands 83 (-1)
  • Australia 81 (-4)
  • Canada 81 (-3)

At the bottom is Afghanistan, Somalia and North Korea on 8.

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No room for complacency

December 4th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Kiwi students are falling behind the rest of the world in reading, maths and science, a global education report has revealed.

New Zealand’s education ranking has fallen from seventh to 18th in science, from 12th to 23rd in maths, and from seventh to 13th in reading, according to a report released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last night.

Just over 4000 15-year-old Kiwi students took part in the assessment, which is done every three years.

Opposition MPs say students are falling behind because teachers are too busy filling in government forms to concentrate on teaching.

But Education Minister Hekia Parata pointed the finger at issues to which the study group has been exposed, including the bedding-in of a new curriculum, under-investment in teachers, and a poor culture of behaviour in some schools.

“This Government is addressing all of these long-standing issues,” she said.

The students measured by the report were in the education system from 2001 to 2012, which meant they had never been caught by the national standards system, Parata said.

This should be a wake up call for those who resist change in the education system. Stagnation and decline is not acceptable. If you talk to secondary teachers, you’ll know that it is too late for them to do much with a student if they get to secondary school with inadequate literacy and numeracy schools.

We’ve had the bigotry of low expectations for too long, where the 15% tail are allowed to fail. Not everyone will be able to get good qualifications, but everyone must leave school with functional literacy and numeracy.

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NZ imprisonment rates

November 25th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Most of us have probably heard at some stage a stat that NZ has the second highest imprisonment rate in the world. Well it seems that stat is massively wrong.

Stats Chat blogs that in fact NZ has only the 8th highest in the OECD and the 74th highest in the world.

Would still be nice for them to be lower – but than comes about if we have fewer serious or repeat criminals – and the recent trend is for both the violent crime rate and the imprisonment rate to be dropping.

Not sure how the myth started of NZ having the second highest rate. Maybe it once was true – but clearly isn’t today.

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OECD scores NZ Government highly

November 16th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The OECD has published ratings for its members governments. The overall data is pretty good for New Zealand. Some highlights:

  • Citizens rate government satisfaction 10% higher than OECD average
  • ICT expenditure by Govt is highest in OECD at 2%
  • Trust in Government up 2% since 2007 (down 5% for overall OECD)
  • Income inequality (Gini coefficient) reduces from 0.45 to 0.32 after tax and welfare transfers.
  • Education performance on PISA is 521 compared to OECD average of 495 despite average expenditure per student of US$70,100 compared to OECD of $83,500.
  • Govt employees make up 9.7% of labour force compared to OECD of 15.5%
  • Women are 29% of Ministers compared to 25% for OECD
  • Confidence in government is 61% (OECD 40%), Police 83% (72%), Education 71% (66%), Health care system 83% (71%) and Justice system 58% (51%)

On the not so good side:

  • Deficit at 7.5% of GDP is higher than OECD average of 3.5%. But this is 2010 data which includes earthquake. Still shows how important it is to reduce and eliminate the deficit.
  • Government senior managers paid $397,000 on average compared to $232,00 OECD average (in US$ PPP)!


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NZ 4th for open data

November 12th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Open Data Institute has ranked NZ 4th best in the world for open data in its 2013 report. The top countries are:

  1. UK
  2. US
  3. Sweden
  4. NZ
  5. Denmark/Norway

NZ scored 82/100 for readiness, 65 for implementation and 90 for impact. The comments on NZ are:

The OGD initiative in New Zealand is part of a wider Open and Transparent Government Agenda, initially driven by the ‘Open Government Information and Data Re-use Working Group’ established in 2009, and later by the 2011 ‘Declaration on Open and Transparent Government’ approved by the Cabinet in August 2011. This declaration mandates public service departments, notably with the explicit inclusion of the New Zealand Intelligence Service, to “commit to releasing high value public data actively for re-use…in accordance with the NZGOAL Review and Release process”. NZGOAL is the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing Framework, based on the Creative Commons framework.

The New Zealand Government has put considerable effort into monitoring progress towards open government and open data, with Agencies asked to regularly report to Ministers on their progress, case studies collated on re-uses of open data, and an annual reporting process on adoption of the Declaration on Open and Transparent Government. New Zealand was one of the few countries in the Barometer where a significant emphasis on environmental impacts of open data could be observed, with a wide range of environmental datasets made available and seeing re-use, particularly in supporting coordination around extreme weather and geological events.

Bill English has commented:

“This is a real coup for New Zealand.  The Barometer is the first survey of global trends which ranks 77 countries on how they release their public data and the benefits those initiatives have for citizens and the economy,” says Mr English. 

“This is proof we are lifting the performance of the public sector through transparency and shared information. New Zealand was commended for its Declaration on Open and Transparent Government, its release of open data, in particular, maps, land ownership and census data and for regular reporting to Ministers.”

“The open government data work aligns with the Government’s better public service targets that New Zealand businesses have a one-stop online shop for all government support and can complete their transactions with the Government easily in a digital environment,” says Mr Tremain.

Bill deserves much credit for this. He has pushed open data from the very top, backed up with a lot of enthusiasm from many in the public service, and the wider community.

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NZ 5th most prosperous in the world

October 31st, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The 2013 Legatum Prosperity Index has just been published. NZ is in 5th place out of 142 countries, which is the highest rating for an Asia-Pacific country. The top 10 are:

  1. Norway
  2. Switzerland
  3. Canada
  4. Sweden
  5. New Zealand
  6. Denmark
  7. Australia
  8. Finland
  9. Netherlands
  10. Luxembourg

The bottom 10 are:

  1. Chad
  2. Central African Republic
  3. Congo
  4. Afghanistan
  5. Burundi
  6. Togo
  7. Yemen
  8. Guinea
  9. Haiti
  10. Angola

For NZ the sub-indices were:

  • Economy 17th
  • Entrepreneurship & Opportunity 15th
  • Governance 2nd
  • Education 1st
  • Health 20th
  • Safety & Security 15th
  • Personal Freedom 5th
  • Social Capital 2nd

There’s a lot worse places to live!



NZ in top ten for women

October 28th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand is among the top 10 best places to be a woman, according to a worldwide report on gender equality.

It ranked seventh out of 136 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2013, with narrow gaps between the sexes in the health, education, economic and political sectors.

New Zealand was at number one – equal with several European countries – for educational attainment, which included literacy rates and enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education.

In terms of educational achievement, women are not just at a par with men, but streaks ahead.

It would be interesting to see a large table of countries for men also. I don’t mean to suggest that in most areas men do not have advantages – they do. But in some areas such as education, health, life expectancy men constantly do worse and it would be interesting to see what the gaps are in different countries.

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Leading the world in …

October 24th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar


You can click on the image for a larger copy. From here.

The list of top ranks for each country range from the amusing to the fascinating.


NZ competitiveness

September 7th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

For the first time, New Zealand is ahead of Australia in the Global Competitive Index.

The annual report by the World Economic Forum shows New Zealand is 18th, up five places in the past year. Australia dropped one place to 21st.

New Zealand’s rise reflected a steady economic recovery and “prudent pro-growth policies”, said Oliver Hartwich, executive director of the New Zealand Initiative, which helped compile the survey data.

New Zealand was ranked among the top 10 in the world for the quality of its institutions, health and primary education, higher education, goods and labour market efficiency, and financial markets development, the report shows.

Hartwich cautioned against complacency. The country had failed to make any improvement on its innovation and business sophistication factors, ranking 27th globally, behind Puerto Rico and Qatar.

Switzerland, which was ranked second in the world for innovation and business sophistication, was named the most competitive economy in the world for a fifth year. The next most competitive countries were Finland, Japan, Germany, Sweden, the United States, the Netherlands, Israel, Taiwan and Britain.

Good to be improving. Global competitiveness is a key factor in prosperity – not increased barriers and destroying competition.

The full report is here. Our individual rankings are:

  • Institutions 2nd
  • Infrastructure 27th
  • Macroeconomic environment 43rd
  • Health and primary education 5th
  • Higher education & training 9th
  • Goods market efficiency 9th
  • Labor market efficiency 8th
  • Financial market development 4th
  • Technological readiness 24th
  • Market size 62nd
  • Business sophistication 26th
  • Innovation 26th

The most problematic factors for doing business were:

  1. Inadequate supply of infrastructure
  2. Inadequately educated workforce
  3. Insufficient capacity to innovate
  4. Inefficient government bureaucracy
  5. Access to financing
  6. Tax rates

7th Global Peace Index

June 14th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The 2013 Global Peace Index finds:

  • The world has become 5% less peaceful since 2008
  • Europe is the most peaceful region, with 13 of the top 20 most peaceful countries
  • War ravaged Afghanistan returns to the bottom of the index
  • Syria’s GPI score has fallen by 70% sine 2008
  • The total economic impact of containing violence is estimated to be US$9.46 trillion in 2012
  • The top three most peaceful countries are Iceland, Denmark and New Zealand.
  • With a newly elected government and a steady recovery from the 2011 turmoil, Libya had the biggest improvement in peace score since last year.
  • The three least peaceful countries are Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria.
  • Syria’s score dropped by the largest margin, with the biggest ever score deterioration in the history of the GPI.

So if we can just get Iceland and Demark to invade each other, we’ll be number one!

The top 10 are:

  1. Iceland 1.16
  2. Denmark 1.21
  3. NZ 1.24
  4. Austria 1.25
  5. Switzerland 1.27
  6. Japan 1.29
  7. Finland 1.30
  8. Canada 1.31
  9. Sweden 1.32
  10. Belgium 1.34

Australia is 16th=, UK 44th. The summary for NZ is:

The majority of the GPI’s measures of safety and security suggest that New Zealand society is broadly harmonious; violent demonstrations are highly unlikely, while homicides and terrorist acts are very rare. The jailed population dropped, but not sufficiently to have an impact on the country’s overall GPI score; at 194 per 100,000, it remains higher than that of most OECD countries, notably Japan (55) and Switzerland (76). New Zealand’s political scene remained stable, with support for the prime minister, John Key, and the ruling centre-right National Party holding up amid confidence over the government’s handling of the economy, which grew by 2.5% in 2012. New Zealand maintained harmonious relations with its neighbours in 2012; links with Australia are underpinned by the 1983 Closer Economic Relations (CER) agreement. The two governments are negotiating a protocol on a common border, pension portability and joint investment, all of which would move the countries closer to their goal of forming a single economic market

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NZ 5th on democracy index

April 6th, 2013 at 10:05 am by David Farrar

The Economist has published their 2012 democracy index.

Our score out of a maximum 10 is 9.26. Norway is top on 9.93. North Korea bottom on 1.08.

25 countries are classified as full democracies, 54 as flawed democracies, 36 as hybrid regimes and 52 states as authoritarian.

In terms of the global population only 11.3% live in a full democracy compared to 37.1% who live in authoritarian regimes.

NZ scores are:

  • Electoral process and pluralism 10.00
  • Functioning of Government 9.29
  • Political participation 8.89
  • Political culture 8.13
  • Civil liberties 10.00

The 2013 Human Development Index

March 29th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The UNDP has released their 2013 Human Development Index. New Zealand remains in 6th place with an HDI score of 0.919, just ahead of Sweden and Ireland.  Israel is 16th, Finland 21st and UK 26th.

At the bottom end are Congo and Niger.

All things said, no other place I’d rather live in.

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NZ best for working women

March 9th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Economist reports:

IF YOU are a working woman, you would do well to move to New Zealand—or if that is a little out of the way, you could try one of the Nordic countries. To mark International Women’s Day, The Economist has compiled its own “glass-ceiling index” to show where women have the best chance of equal treatment at work. Based on data mainly from the OECD, it compares five indicators across 26 countries: the number of men and women respectively with tertiary education; female labour-force participation; the male-female wage gap; the proportion of women in senior jobs; and net child-care costs relative to the average wage. The first four are given equal weighting, the fifth a lower one, since not all working women have children. New Zealand scores high on all the indicators.

The index weighting is 23% each for the first four factors and 8% for child-care costs.

NZ has a far higher proportion of women than men in tertiary education which will be part of the reason NZ is ranked the best place in the world to be a working woman.

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NZ most free country on earth

January 15th, 2013 at 7:51 am by David Farrar

One News reported:

New Zealanders have the most freedom in the world, according to an international index that ranks 123 countries.

The report, which was released today by the Fraser Institute, Canada’s leading public policy think-tank, and Germany’s Liberales Institut, examines the characteristics of freedom and how it can best be measured and compared between different nations.

New Zealand was ranked number one for offering the highest level of freedom worldwide, followed by the Netherlands then Hong Kong.

Australia, Canada and Ireland tied for fourth spot, with the United States and Denmark tied for seventh.

The lowest-ranked countries were Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Syria.

I’m surprised Sri Lanka is so low. The full report is here. They assign a score out of 10 for personal freedom and economic freedom. We get 9.2 and 8.2 respectively. On each individual factor we are ranked 2nd or 3rd, but overall 1st with 8.7. The Netherlands and Uruguay are ranked slightly higher for personal freedoms but significantly lower for economic freedoms. The only country higher for economic freedom is Hong Kong but obviously they are not so good on personal freedoms.

The median personal freedom is 7.5, economic freedom 6.9 and overall index 7.1.

The correlation between the economic freedom ratings and personal freedom ratings was 0.60. That there would be at least that level of correlation was not a surprise given theory and cruder but indicative previous attempts to discover such a relationship.

This is one of the reasons I support both. Generally countries with greater personal freedoms have greater economic freedom and vice-versa.

The factors involved in the freedom ratings and NZ scores out of 10 are:

  • Extrajudicial Killing 10
  • Torture 10
  • Political Imprisonment 10
  • Disappearance 10
  • Battle-related Deaths 10
  • Level of organized conflict 10
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Son Preference
  • Homicide 9.4
  • Human Trafficking 10
  • Sexual Violence 0.9
  • Assault 9.5
  • Level of perceived criminality in society 7.5
  • Theft 0
  • Burglary 0
  • Inheritance
  • Hostility to foreigners & their private property 10
  • Forcibly Displaced Populations 10
  • Freedom of Foreign Movement 10
  • Freedom of Domestic Movement 10
  • Women’s Freedom of Movement
  • Press Killings 10
  • Freedom of Speech 10
  • Laws and regulations that influence media content 9.3
  • Political pressures and controls on media content 8.8
  • Dress code in public
  • Freedom of Assembly and Association 10
  • Parental Authority
  • Religion – Government Restrictions 9.6
  • Religion – Social Hostility 9.1
  • Male to Male Relationship 10
  • Female to Female Relationship 10
  • Age of Consent for Homosexual Couples 10
  • Adoption by Homosexuals

The authors note:

There needs to be a discussion in the main text regarding the women’s
freedom and homosexuality variables to point out that these are not
about women or homosexual activity per se, but are instead trying to
get at the extent certain groups are discriminated against under the law. Equality before the law is a key component of the classical liberal tradition. By the same token, the freedom to speak, denounce, and even privately discriminate against people is also a part of the classical liberal tradition. An expanded discussion of this nuance would be helpful. The bottom line from the classical liberal tradition is that private inequality of treatment is allowable but the government and legal system, which is based on force, must treat people equally.

Also of interest in this methodology:

This index of freedom also does not incorporate measures of democracy or “political freedom.” The reason is that democracy describes a “power relationship,” to use Fred McMahon’s term, in which freedom may increase or decrease depending on the collective decisions of the elected government. Democracy may be more consistent than other forms of government at safeguarding freedom, but it is not freedom, nor does it necessarily guarantee freedom.4 The relationship between democracy and freedom is of crucial interest to all advocates of liberty, which is all the more reason to establish an independent measure of freedom.

A key point. Just being in a democracy does not make you free. It is about far more than whether once every few years you get a vote.

An author at Crooks and Liars lauds NZ over the US, and cites our placement on a number of rankings. His or her post has been shared over 10,000 times on social media!

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Education Results

December 19th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The IEA’s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study has some interesting results.



Singapore, Korea and Hong Kong are tops, all over 600. The midpoint is 500 and NZ is 486. Bottom is Yemen on 248.



Korea, Singapore, and Finland are tops, all over 570. The midpoint is 500 and NZ is 497. Bottom is Yemen on 209.



Hong Kong, Russia and Finland are tops, all over 568. The midpoint is 500 and NZ is 531. Bottom is Morocco on 310.

The graphs are worth looking at, because they show the distribution for each country also. You can also see the results for 2001 and 2006 as well as 2011.


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NZ least corrupt again

December 6th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Daly at Stuff reports:

New Zealand’s reputation for clean government continues to sparkle, as the country again comes out best in Transparency International’s global corruption perceptions index.

It is the seventh year in a row that New Zealand, either on its own or tied with Nordic countries or Singapore, has topped the index for having the lowest perceived levels of public sector corruption.

In the 2012 report, released today, New Zealand is first-equal with Denmark and Finland.

The winners were helped by strong access to information systems and rules governing the behaviour of people in public positions, Transparency International said.

This year’s index used an updated methodology that provided greater clarity on how it was constructed, making it easier to trace how data was rescaled for inclusion.

For the future, local chapter Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) recently launched a so-called national integrity system assessment to provide a more nuanced and detailed report on the country’s vulnerability to corruption.

The assessment would provide the most detailed information yet about factors that caused New Zealand to consistently rank at the top, TINZ chairwoman Suzanne Snively said.

It would measure how well various state and non-state institutions contributed to preventing or mitigating corrupt activities, looking at institutions such as the media, parliament, political parties, the judiciary, the public service, and the private sector.

“The results will show where the integrity of New Zealand society and government is strongest and weakest,” Snively said. 

We had the odd corrupt official, but as far as I know we have never had institutional corruption where there is a wide-spread cover up. Basically we have a very healthy culture.

Denmark, Finland and Sweden all got 90 out of 100. At the bottom on 8 was Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan.

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The Prosperity Index

November 6th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting index called the Legatum Prosperity Index places NZ as 5th out of 142 countries. The breakdown by sub-factor is:

  • Economy 27th
  • Entrepreneurship 13th
  • Governance 2nd
  • Education 1st
  • Health 20th
  • Safety 13th
  • Personal Freedom 2nd
  • Social Capital 4th

So 5th overall is good. Norway is top and Finland 7th.


One index to rule them all

July 2nd, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Philip Booth blogs at the IEA:

The UNDP held a forum this week entitled: ‘Beyond GDP: Measuring the Future We Want’. What they actually mean, of course, is ‘measuring the future the UN wants’. The best way to ensure that we get the future we (the people) want is to have a free market, governed under the rule of law, with good protection for property rights (including, where appropriate, property rights for environmental goods). The seven billion people in the world all want a rather different future from each other. We can only achieve those different aspirations if we are free.

That is not to say that an argument cannot be made for the subsidisation of, for example, education and health care for the poor and for other forms of assistance through government. However, the success of the human race as a whole cannot and should not be measured by some kind of unified aggregate index.

Specifically, Helen Clark has proposed that the UN develop an index that combines: ‘Equity, dignity, happiness, sustainability’ arguing that ‘these are all fundamental to our lives but absent in the GDP.’ Just because something is fundamental to our lives does not mean that we need to measure it and combine it with other variables into a single index measure. Relationships are fundamental to our lives, but do we need to measure the success of the relationships of seven billion people and combine that measure with other data into some kind of aggregate index? Indeed, it is interesting that the best conditions for GDP growth in the history of the UK were created before we even started measuring GDP.

It is just about possible, nevertheless, to make a coherent case for measuring GDP. GDP does, at least, make a reasonably rigorous allowance for trade-offs that different people make in their everyday lives. If I give up £1 worth of apples to buy £1 worth of oranges and Mark Littlewood does the opposite, it can (within certain bounds of reasonableness) be said that we both have £1 of utility from the transaction. Austrian arguments can certainly be made regarding the undesirability of aggregating data and the fact that all transactions involve consumer surplus, but there is some reasonableness and consistency there.

We can also look at other statistics such as working hours, travel time, leisure time, carbon footprint (if it is thought necessary), and so on, to obtain a more comprehensive picture if we wish. However, once we try to produce an aggregate index of everything that is important, the index will lose all meaning. How can we trade off a small increase in reported happiness for somebody in Zambia for an extra £500 a year of national income per head in New Zealand? How can we trade off a tiny change in the Gini coefficient in Rwanda with a small change in the stability of marriages in India, and so on? These things have completely different values to different people.

Even trying to track one of these datasets is problematic. As the IEA’s monographs on happiness economics showed, well-being measures are suspect. There is no clear indication of a relationship between reported well-being and almost any other reasonable indicator of social progress.

Overall, we have the biggest folly imaginable: the body that some would desire to be a world government attempting to measure in a single index number everything that matters to everybody.

GDP does record economic activity only, and that is not everything – absolutely. But trying to come up with one master index will never work, because as the IEA states, we all value different things.

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The Happy Planet Index

June 25th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

 New Zealand has trumped Australia as a happier country in a survey ranking the well-being of nations.

The New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index rated New Zealand as the world’s 28th-happiest country – well above Australia’s ranking of 76.

Yay, NZ is above Australia on an index. Does that mean we can relax, and not worry about their greater economic wealth? Nope. Luke Malpass at the NZ Initiative looks closer at the index:

This week, the New Economic Foundation (NEF) released its third Happy Planet Index (HPI). New Zealand scored 51.6 and is ranked 28th out of 151 countries.

The HPI is one of several trendy ranking reports that have sprung up over the past decade. It does not rely on per capita GDP growth alone as a proxy measure of a nation’s well-being.

Such reports argue that in the post-materialist world in which we live, it is important to measure things other than material prosperity through the useful but blunt measure of GDP growth. That sounds sensible and laudable but only until you see how it is calculated – and who performs well.

This particular survey uses the following formula:
HPI = experience well-being x life expectancy ÷ ecological footprint

The ‘life expectancy’ part of the equation is taken from the UNDP Human Development Report and is based on hard data. The ‘experienced life well-being’ bit is based on asking people how they feel about life, and the ‘ecological footprint’ is some consumption measure cooked up by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF).

The NEF claims: “The HPI is a clear and meaningful barometer of how well a nation is doing. This is its key value.” It sounds very nice, but who ranks where?

New Zealand is ranked 28th, Jordan is one place ahead of us, and Norway one place behind. Ranked above us are nations such as Algeria, the Philippines and Cuba. Bangladesh ranks 10th, and Vietnam 2nd. Pakistan – a nation where civil society has all but broken down – makes the top 20. Australia is 76th, below peaceful and prosperous paradises such as Myanmar, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Algeria is a nice place to live, if you are a man. Men become adults at age 18. Women do not get any adult rights until they are married to a man. Cuba, Bangladesh and Pakistan all sound very happy places to live also.

And it is not just NZ that has beaten Australia – so has Myanmar – that impoverished dictatorship.

Obviously the question one might ask is: Would anyone really want to live in a poor dump ruled by human rights abusing dictators rather than a peaceful, wealthy democracy? Probably not. The HPI acknowledges that as extreme human rights abuses tend to affect minorities, the index methodology might understate them.

A yearning for competing indices to GDP growth arises out of good intentions – GDP is a narrow measure. However, at least it measures something measurable.

By contrast, most competing happiness indexes, including the HPI, tell us precisely nothing, including where we might like to live.

Like Luke, whenever I see a report I don’t just report it. I always look at their methodology and check out what exactly they are basing their rankings on.

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