Hickey on Economy

Bernard Hickey writes:

BNZ Economist Stephen Toplis compiled some figures showing New Zealand’s GDP is still 1.5 per cent below its previous peak in late 2007 and is down 4.2 per cent on a per capita basis from the peak because of the migration and natural population growth we’ve had recently.

This is the truly shocking result from the recession and the debt-fuelled growth that preceded it. Per capita GDP in New Zealand is now back at the levels it was at in the June quarter of 2004.

Think about that for a moment. The “stronger for longer” economic growth bragged about by Helen Clark and Michael Cullen from 2000 to 2008 was a fraud.

It was growth built on debt and now New Zealanders are having to consolidate and repay that debt, and doing it on lower incomes.

After the housing boom and years of spending, New Zealanders have seen their per capita GDP fall, but total debt rise $97.5 billion to $246.5 billion in the last six years.

No wonder this recovery feels more like a hangover.

And this isn’t just because of inflation or because we’ve invested heavily overseas.

Our net international investment position, which includes debt and equity owned and owed by New Zealanders here and overseas, deteriorated by $55.4 billion to a deficit of $163.7 billion.

Household debt as a percentage of disposable income rose to 154 per cent from 127.5 per cent in that six-year period.

So what was the point? Now we produce less per person than we did in 2004. And now we have to repay a much bigger debt.

It wasn’t even a wasted six years. We went backwards.

The 2010 budget should help with the re-balancing economists talk about – greater incentives to invest and save, and less of an incentive to borrow and spend.

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