When do you start attributing things to the new Government

NewZblog tries very lamely to blame National for the high migration in October 2008, arguing it should have reduced because National was ahead in the polls.

Now I think one doesn’t even have to try and respond to the lame attempt to blame National for migration figures that are for the month before the election. But it does raise the issue, when should you start holding a new Government accountable? Is it the Nov 2008 figures? Dec 2008?

A tend to to think 9 – 12 months is the usual lead in time you look for, to expect a Government to be “accountable” for various statistics. Accountable doesn’t mean they have a hell of a lot of control over them, but means that the country is now operating under the new policy settings.

Very few people or companies change behaviour just because a Government changes. Employers don’t go out the day after the election and start advertising new jobs they were holding off on. Expats don’t suddenly pack up their homes and get the next flight home.

What they do respond to, is policy changes. And generally it takes nine or more months to pass a law, and you have to wait until the budget in May next year for changes in government spending and taxation – and those changes may be spread over the next year or so also.

Another key thing to look for is what was the trend up until the change of Government, and did the trend then change? For example In 1990 unemployment was skyrocketing andat the end of the year National came into power. Unemployment kept increasing for nine months, and then it turned about and declined for the next five years. I blame the increase from Dec 1990 to Sep 1991 on the mess inherited from the former Government.

Some stats will not turn around for years and years, if at all. If you accept part of the solution to outwards migration is wage levels, and you also accept that the solution to wage levels is increased productivity growth, well it is a very long-term project to increase productivity growth. So at first what you might look out for is not a reversal in the trend, but even a slowing.

The other thing to look for is not just measuring actual vs actual, but actual vs projected. For example National will have a bigger deficit in next year’s budget than Cullen will have this year. The correct comparison to look at will be the size of the deficit compared to the projected deficit from the DEFU next month.

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