Bigger or Better?

Why do I keep reading the New Zealand Herald? I really should stop. However, as it is the widest read media source in New Zealand I feel it is important to keep up to date with the information that is being propagated. Today’s Herald contained a business article based on a new report; Lifting Export Performance, conducted by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) on behalf of the lobby group ExportNZ.

Once again NZIER states that New Zealand “needs” to aim for a population of 15 million by 2060 in order to overcome issues of size and isolation. I think most New Zealanders believe that New Zealand “needs” this rapid growth in population like it needs a Nuclear Power Station or two. Anyway, what is this abstract “New Zealand” that is referred to? Why is it that New Zealand as a nation of citizens working together for the common good is now simply a business entity (aka NZ Inc – it makes me sick to use such a descriptor of Aotearoa) in which it’s inhabitants are merely consumers and labour units.

To be sure, a larger population could assist New Zealand to overcome some size issues (if there really are any), however, the issue of isolation is not easily addressed unless the Tasman Sea stops expanding and tectonic forces rapidly reverse. In fact, it is possible that an increase in population size could compound our issues of isolation. For example, would tourists would want to travel all the way to New Zealand to experience a country as densely populated as much of the rest of the world.

If size is so important then how come there is no relationship between population size and national income per capita or export growth (See Figure 1. of NZIER Report). Slovakia, with a population similar in size to New Zealand, has had more than twice New Zealand’s annual export growth in recent years, and Norway, also with a similar sized population to New Zealand, has about twice New Zealand’s national income per capita. I am no economist, yet clearly it is far too simplistic to claim that a larger population would solve much of our economic woes.

Obviously all those who wrote the report will be dead by the time 2060 comes along and the New Zealand that is today will no longer exist. Therefore what gives those who will cease to be, the right to make choices (or limit the choices) for those who are yet to be? It seems to me that the main reason for neo-liberal economic interests to promote such growth is that 2.5% annual population growth (as they propose) would likely result in annual GDP growth of 2.5% or more (potentially less) and therefore enrich the oligarchical masters of our society. Whether such growth would result in increased quality of life and social well-being for the majority of New Zealanders is moot – clearly my opinion is that such growth would only be detrimental in this regard.

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