Sell the silver if it turns to gold

Owen Glenn has an opinion piece in the NZ Herald this morning about the partial sale of state assets.

Private and public partnerships certainly stir debate. Especially when the “private” side encroaches on what is deemed public property.

This sentiment is being stoked in the context of a partial sale of SOEs. If selling the “family silver” produces gold, and a continuing return on investment, then it makes sound economic sense.

Playing on these fears is providing one of the pillars of Labour’s attempts to shore up a constituency in the elections.

Legitimate concerns about selling strategic assets aside, tugging the heartstrings for a knee-jerk reaction does nothing to address the issue which is this: New Zealand is up to its eyeballs in debt – drowning, in fact.

Labour’s policy is bizarre to say the least. They want?expansive?Kiwisaver accounts and yet are preventing the very assets that would be ideal for Kiwisaver accounts to invest in.

Unquestionably, leadership, fresh thinking and practical steps are needed to overcome this untenable and unsustainable situation.

Labour’s solution is more taxation without yet any announced plausible means of how to increase productivity to counterbalance this extra burden.

One of National’s ideas is the partial sale of some SOEs with safeguards against loss of New Zealand control.

State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall has described the tension he’ll face in creating the compromise between getting the best price for the assets versus achieving a level of New Zealand ownership which will provide opportunities for Kiwis to become individual shareholding investors.

I think partial privatisation is a good idea although I would rather see this money reinvested to drive growth in productivity rather than simply paying off debt. The bigger issue is the SOE model is past its use-by date mainly because the shareholders are politicians not investors.

Politicians make poor shareholders, that is for sure.

My investment in the University of Auckland Business School was to help build something that would endure and inspire. I left research and curriculum development to the experts.

With the AUT-Millennium Institute and New Zealand Hockey the investment is focused on getting more of our children, youth and their families involved in sport.

I’d challenge others to contribute in a similar way but not as a handout but a hand-up.

Look for opportunities where an investment in New Zealand will directly help individuals and the country overall and then get behind them.

And Owen Glenn is set to give even more to New Zealand with an investment of $100 million in youth. I hope more entrepreneurs take up his challenge rather than putting their own hands out for corporate welfare.