Second term asset sales

New Zealand is the only country in the OECD that has a ban on asset sales. Even socialist governments throughout Europe have sold assets where there is no need for the state to own them, or at least own 100% of them.

A welcome sign that National may go into the 2011 election with a more flexible policy is reported by the NZ Herald:

The National Government has given its strongest indication yet that it will sell state-owned assets should it get a second term.

Finance Minister Bill English yesterday singled out Kiwibank as a particularly attractive asset for buyers.

But he said the Government would not sell assets without a mandate from the public.

The public will get to decide.

Mr English, fresh from delivering the 2010 Budget, told a gathering of South Island business people yesterday that the Government might consider a change of policy “to free up capital and put product on the market for Kiwi mums and dads”.

Kiwibank was a good example of an asset that needed to be dealt with. It had reached the size where it needed either a Government guarantee or an “awful lot of capital”.

“If there’s any asset that’s regarded as risky by credit rating agencies, it’s a small, fast-growing bank,” he said.

“So one option would be to go to the market and raise capital. Keep majority Crown ownership, but raise the rest of the capital from the market.

Makes sense to me.

Labour leader Phil Goff said state-owned asset sales were “absolutely all on” if National won a second term, “and they might not even wait until then”.

Mr Goff should know all about selling assets without a mandate. However National has made it very clear they will only sell or part sell significant assets with a specific mandate.

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