By Matt Cooney,
Rob Muldoon had no need to be loved. The three-term prime minister and minister of finance was content to be feared (though some New Zealanders loved him for it). His government was the cradle-to-grave type, and there wasn’t much of a role for enterprise.
His successor as minister of finance, Roger Douglas, was also not looking for approval; he just wanted to reinvent the economy, and as rapidly and dramatically as possible.
Forgive the history lesson, but it’s relevant. These two gentlemen can take some blame for New Zealand’s current economic malaise. One deformed our economy; the other reformed it so quickly that in a matter of a few years many New Zealanders got rich. And then came the 1987 sharemarket crash, an ugly event in much of the world but a catastrophe in New Zealand. As Sam Morgan points out in this issue, the experience put generations of New Zealanders off investing in anything that doesn’t have a street address.
What malaise is that, you ask? This issue of Idealog carries some uncomfortable news: despite current PM John Key restating the aim to catch Australia economically by 2025, on current trends we’ll be a little less wealthy than Kazakhstan by then. If that sounds unbelievable, you’ll want to read Vincent Heeringa’s report on page 96, which sets out the situation, pans Key’s timid response and puts forward a plan for recovery. Key and colleagues understand the problem. To solve it they might have to sacrifice some popularity but, as Muldoon and Douglas knew, that’s how you get things done.
Elsewhere in this issue, don’t miss Morgan’s revealing and generous interview on page 26, and on page 82 Bette Flagler reports on the weird world of nano-sized objects and the advances that Kiwis are making in the field. We meet the guys behind the truly funny television show 7 Days on page 76, and publish the second part of our well-received guide to commercialising ideas on page 33.