Should the Super Fund own all SOEs

Politik reports:

Michael Cullen, by whose name the New Zealand Super Fund is better known and who until yesterday was the Chair of NZ Post thinks the fund should own all SOEs.

But only on Sunday, Labour’s former Finance Minister and (until yesterday) Chair of NZ Post, the owners of Kiwibank, Sir Michael Cullen, floated the idea of putting all the SOEs into Super Fund ownership and also having them pay their dividends directly into the fund.

“I’ve got a personal hobby horse about transferring what little is left of actual valuable commercial enterprises the Government owns and putting the shares into the super fund,” he told a Fabian forum in Auckland.

“That would help protect the shareholding as well as actually assist in paying New Zealand super in the long term.”

Sitting alongside Sir Michael at the Forum was Labour’s State-owned enterprise’s spokesperson, David Parker, who appeared to agree with the former Finance Minister.

I think the Government should sell most SOEs, especially ones like TVNZ and NZ Post which are at risk of becoming worthless due to technological challenges.

But if they are to remain Government owned, there are advantages to doing in through the NZ Super Fund.

The first is it reduces the ability of Ministers to interfere in decisions of SOEs by having chat to directors (whom they appoint).

The second is that NZSF has many staff who are commercial experts in assessing performance of a company, and would be better positioned to monitor how an SOE is doing and whether or not there is a case for more capital.

The third is the NZSF would then appoint the directors, rather than Ministers.

So I’m in favour.

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