Great Chinese advice; why NIMBYs should be ignored; why pessimists are losers; a look at Ethiopia; the trap of prescriptive regulation; a coming centralised bargaining inflation jolt, and heaps of cartoons

Great Chinese advice; why NIMBYs should be ignored; why pessimists are losers; a look at Ethiopia; the trap of prescriptive regulation; a coming centralised bargaining inflation jolt, and heaps of cartoons

Today's Top 10 is from David Chaston.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to

And if you're interested in contributing the occasional Top 10 yourself, contact

See all previous Top 10s here.


1. Good advice from a Chinese regulator.

Blaming others when taking risks, even if unintended, is often thought of as a Western, developed world, coddled middle-class failing. Apparently not so. The problems under-capitalised small businesses have with banks are very much part of what is driving some of the Aussie Royal Commission. But the issue is wider that that; consumers always seem to seek redress if their sure-fire, can't-miss investment goes sour. It is always someone else's fault.

China’s senior-most government economist has emphasised the need for education during a key speech delivered at an official meeting on “Improving Systemic Financial Risk Prevention” (健全系统性金融风险防范体系) held in Beijing in May.

With regard to China’s general investing public, Liu called for “establishing behavioural restraints and psychological guidance…to ensure that all of society understands that doing business means having capital, borrowing money means making repayments, investment means undertaking risk, and doing bad things means paying a price.”

It's a message worth repeating for Kiwis as well: "doing business means having capital, borrowing money means making repayments, investment means undertaking risk, and doing bad things means paying a price". If it involves money, do your homework. And remember, (memo to bank depositors) there is no such thing as completely risk-free.

2. Shameless promotion.

The RBNZ has launched its valuable Dashboard tool, enabling many more people including bank depositors, to compare how each retail bank stacks up on a wide range of key financial features. It is a tool best suited for people who have a fundamental understanding of how to read financial statements, and understand what financial ratios mean. But even if you don't have an in-depth skill, the tool will be very useful, especially as it explains in various ways what these ratios mean, how they are caluculated, and why they are relevant.

Still, despite the attractive layout, for people not used to numbers, it is still quite dense.

We have used their data sources to build a simplified comparator, just focusing on comparing three banks you choose - our Key bank metrics tool. All the same data is in our tool. If you are a depositor in any New Zealand bank, it is very wise indeed to compare the strengths of the institution you choose, and try to avoid the weaker ones. With these two tools, at least it is now possible, which is new and to be commended. Kudos to the RBNZ for establishing a world's first, raising the bar, and setting a high standard.

3. 'Yes to affordable housing in my backyard.'

McKinsey Global Institute's Jan Mischke sees housing affordability issues everywhere he looks aroung the world. The same issues everywhere. Proposals to increase housing density are frequently met by opposition from current residents, whose NIMBY fears range from adverse impact on services to downward pressure on existing home values (or upward pressure and gentrification). But how to overcome these squeaky wheels? He says, champion the the benefits of growth and especially those benefits that include everyone.

City governments can win support for new housing by convincing constituents that population growth fuels economic growth. The alternative – allowing serious housing shortages to go unaddressed – will make it impossible for future generations to put down roots. By managing density carefully, authorities can overcome opposition and get their cities building again.

4. Today's rational exhuberance.

The comment section is full of pessimists. Anatole Kaletsky says what many still see as a temporary bubble, pumped up by artificial and unsustainable monetary stimulus, is maturing into a structural expansion of economic activity, profits, and employment that probably has many more years to run. There are at least four reasons for such optimism, he says. Pessimists are wasting their anxiety unnecessarily, he reckons.

During recessions, investor opinion is dominated by long-term anxieties about debt burdens, aging, and weak productivity growth, as has been true in the period since 2008. In economic upswings, psychology shifts toward the benefits of low interest rates, leverage, and technological progress.

When this optimistic shift goes too far, asset valuations rise exponentially and the bull market reaches a dangerous climax. Some speculative assets, such as cyber currencies, have already reached this point, and shares in even the best public companies are bound to experience temporary setbacks if they run up too fast. But for stock markets generally, valuations are not yet excessive, and investors are far from euphoric. So long as such cautiousness continues, asset prices are more likely to rise than fall.

5. Destined to be be great, again.

We don't follow African economies much. Many see the continent rising and there is much talk of this being the African Century. For all its troubles, economic growth is impressive in may countries; we only hear of the troubles, economic and disease-wise. But if climate change doesn't get them (and that is a very big 'if'), African countries have a good chance of winning the demographic races in the next century.

But it is easy to be sceptical. However there is one country that will surprise many over its progress: Ethiopia. Really. Tyler Cowan was there recently, and he pointed out it is the 'China of Africa', making impressive gains, often in partnership with China.

But what really sets it apart is its civil and social structure and backbone.

The Ethiopians I have interacted with express a remarkable degree of enthusiasm for their country and culture. Maybe that isn’t unusual in a rapidly growing nation, but I’ve been struck by how historically rooted these sentiments have been. Ethiopians are acutely aware of their past successes, including their role in biblical history. Like many Iranians, they think of themselves as a civilization and not just a country. They very self-consciously separate themselves from the broader strands of African history and culture. And, as in China, they hold an ideological belief that their country is destined to be great again.

6. Orwellian pursuit.

Don't get me wrong. I think if you have committed a crime in any country (other than one that is a simple political disagreement), you should face the music there and do the time. "Doing bad things means paying a price." But the way China pursues its fugutives is somewhat unnerving. Download this page, and then use Google Translate. The translation might be somewhat crude, but you get the idea. China has little respect for the laws of overseas countries, and it shamelessly says it uses overseas Chinese in the hunt for its targets. Just being an ethnic Han Chinese overseas seems to be enough for them to exert their power, no matter what country they live in. It is an active development of a fifth column, and is grossly unfair on Han Chinese citizens of other countries, including New Zealanders and those that want to be New Zealanders. Not only should we resist Trumpism, we should resist this shameless Chinese outreach as well. It's Orwellian.

7. Staying principled.

The problem with regulations is that they tend to be prescriptive. Prescriptive regulation just asks to be gamed. This is the real problem in Australia. Their regulators issued mountains of rules and guidance and then the smart lawyers got to work trying to find the 'legal way' through the thicket. In the end both regulator and regulated get found out. What is needed is principled regulation - regulating for outcomes rather than procedure. This tends to be the New Zealand way (although it is always under pressure when we import bureaucrats from Australia, the UK, the EU, etc to run our institutions). We are better off with principled regulation.

The Chinese are learning about regulation too. And they naturally prefer command/prescriptive rules. Their problem is that those being regulated just love the game. They are much more comfortable sailing close to the edge - or even over it. Chinese regulators face huge cultural impediments. For example in banking. Shadow banking is all about gaming regulations. And the game might just threaten their debt system. This from the Wall Street Journal shows just how risk and creativity work around regulation easily.

You can say this for Chinese banks—they’re pretty creative when it comes to raising funds.

Banks’ role in China’s debt-fueled economy remains vital. If they can’t obtain enough cash to fund ever-expanding loan books, growth will surely suffer.

The latest products stepping into the breach are so-called structured deposits ...

What’s striking about these products is their apparent masochism.

Take the 367-day structured deposit, cited by Rhodium, that’s currently being offered byChina Merchants Bank . It’ll pay customers a generous 4.35% return, unless gold prices move up or down by $550 dollars during the product’s lifetime. In that highly unlikely event—given that gold is currently around the $1,350 mark—the rate would drop to just 1.75%.

But for its investors at CMB and other Chinese banks—who are likely to see net interest margins fall if such products proliferate further—it’s a worrying sign that as banks get ever more desperate for funds, their profits and share prices are likely at higher risk.

8. Big pay settlements imminent.

Under negotiation right now are two huge state payrolls that are currently running at $8.5 bln per year. Every +1% extra gained involves a +$85 mln claim on taxpayers. With strong surpluses and a union-friendly Government, the rises could come fast. Along with pay-equity changes, and downstream 'relativity' claims from other huge employers like the Police, Corrections, Defense staff, etc (not to mention local authority staff), the fiscal stimulus and tax claim requirements could get very large indeed.

First off the block, nurses want more money. They feel unappreciated at current pay levels. They have a claim of +6 to +8% going into negotiations. However, they are taking a DHB offer to members now and will decide on strike action after that. New grads start at $49,449 and rise steadily in automatic steps to $66,755 pa. Then the following applies:

27,000 people are affected by the core DHB pay claim. That alone is a $2 bln annual payroll. Negotiated rises will cascade through all other health professionals working in DHBs, then the other 93 collective agreements. These others involve another +$2 bln payroll. From an inflation-watch point of view, these negotiations are worth keeping an eye on. And whatever happens, the back-pay impact will be a significant one-off stimulus.

9. More big pay changes coming.

Here is the current scale for secondary teachers.

There are 47,000 teachers in the State education system (primary and secondary), and there are another 20,000 university staff. At current rates, the teacher payroll now exceeds $2.8 bln, the university payroll exceeds $1.8 bln.

10. Key quotes.

"The habit of saving is itself an education; it fosters every virtue, teaches self-denial, cultivates the sense of order, trains to forethought, and so broadens the mind." - T.T. Munger.

"I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too." - Steve Martin.

"I made my money the old-fashioned way. I was very nice to a wealthy relative right before he died." - Malcolm Forbes

11. And a bonus, in case you missed it earlier:

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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3 - Yes to affordable housing in my backyard

Depends on the backyard. One thing we can probably all agree on is that housing is very complicated as it involves all facets of urban life. Blanket ideas never work and the complexity of housing needs to be accepted not dismissed.

I would say this article misses the mark for area's in NZ such as Queesntown / Wanaka / Taupo. Is it really in NZ's best interest to over develop these strategically important tourist places and make them just like the cities people are trying to get away from for their holidays.

#no. 3 "City governments can win support for new housing by convincing constituents that population growth fuels economic growth."

As far as I can see population growth fuels a lowering of living standards for the existing population, a massive infrastructure deficit, and sure it may turn the economy into a bigger pie, but every persons slice is smaller.

yes agreed, what a misleading statement. Energy (read Oil) fuels economic growth. Population growth is just more energy users.

Maybe you need to ask the (probably jobless) residents of a place with flat or falling population what they think? A lot of places in the states like this (Trump voter places).

'The comment section is full of pessimists'

And all the people said 'amen and amen '

Yeah right, hence the Chinese have a huge debt problems.

Don't be ignorant

Ignoring the daily diet of gloom laden commentator predictions over the last 10 years has been the most profitable investment decision of my entire life

Happy for you

Have Eco, boatman and TM2 been at at for 10yrs?
At least some good came from it.

#5 "African countries have a good chance of winning the demographic races in the next century." ???? I wonder what that means. Hopefully it means they will get population growth under control. But possibly it means somebody thinks they will get bigger. And what's the race ??


Lol. Sub saharan Africa is not the first world. Lots of young people. Very little quality education or working.

Next century is an odd thing to write. Presumably well before then they will have their population increases under control, so before the end of this century they'll be facing their own demographic bulge of ageing people.

It is well to remember one of Greenspans better comments at the height of the bubble re new listings.

A few will succeed - most will fail - that's how markets work !

#8. Good to see these numbers DC. Despite all the fuss and commentary nobody has laid it out like this. Yes we all love the nurse, and that policeman who turns up when you need. But it seems to me the talk about them being underpaid is fluff. Yes, they are under stress, but show me working folk who aren't under stress, especially at those sorts of wages. I would like to see some commentary on those incomes from folk who work under the median wage.

The money will only change the mindset for a short period of time. Money in the bank doesn't change working conditions.

Give them an 8% rise and I'm sure they'll spend the next week maybe 2 tops loving their job. But then that euphoria will wear off and we will be back at square one.

Would be good to see a summary of overtime rates too and how much people actually earn, by income band and hours worked.

#8 and #9 together need to be summed. I've commented (or common tated, but that just sounds clumsy) that raising Woiker Expectations across the board is gonna:

  • feed straight into inflation, as input costs rise, firms take the universal pricing signal of (say) a State raise, and increase prices. Wash, rinse, repeat. Back to the decades-ago spiral...
  • blow out that 'rainy day fund' in short order: take a 10% average across DC's aggregate State payroll excluding nurses - 6.4 billion if my 10-digit calculator is working (didn't take off my socks, that gives a 20-digit model) and there's 0.64 billion right there in annual ongoing, without backpay. And teachers alone are muttering about 16% - that'd be 1.024 billion. Add the nurses - 0.25 billion annually - and we are talking serious annual Gubmint munny.
  • Set off a cascade effect on private sector wages. Relativities are the main driver here, aided and abetted by the Relendless Rise in the minimum wage, which is gonna skew relativities all the way up.

I simply don't think this inexperienced crew has yet realised the forces they have unleashed. Well done, DC, for alerting the masses.

If state workers get a pay rise it doesn't increase costs to the rest of us, not like apples going up or the guy who fixes your car, taxes may go up to pay for it but this not the same.
The rest of us are living in the no-growth economy like the guy who drives a truck and hasn't had a pay rise for 6 years. Labour still has unions block voting, and it's payback time.

In the UK wages are the lowest they have been relative to the cost of living for four decades. The world is not growing, balance sheets are shrinking.

DHB figures do not truly reflect the working situation for many nurses. For example many DHB will only pay overtime if it is approved in advance, so the nurse that stays on after the official end of a shift to manage a cardiac arrest, a death, an emergency admission or a distraught family and then completes documentation will not be paid for that time.
Senior nursing positions get a new job description when the incumbent leaves, and the new employee will be expected to do the same job at a lower rate on the pay scale.
Staff on leave are not replaced, their work load is spread amongst their colleagues. Vacancies may not be filled for months.
And one small mistake in drug calculation or administration can cause death. I think that is a different form of stress than most workplaces.

The numbers are highly misleading. The scale shows salaries for ‘senior nurses’ and there are very few of these positions available. The vast vast majority of nurses will be within the 49k to 66k bracket where there still remains no remuneration for higher education nor particular expertise. A nurse with a masters degree and 20yrs experience will still likely be on 66k. The work load, responsibility and (for the vast majority) poor pay have meant many nurses have left the profession. As a former nurse I would certainly never recomend it as a study option.

On NIMBYism - the Auckland Council has won another case (Okura) in its ongoing battle to prevent intensive development anywhere near Auckland City.

The money quote being from Councillor Chris Darby, chair of Auckland Council's Planning Committee, who said the decision "notable win for the city, protecting the 'green lungs' of Auckland and ensuring that we retain breathing space beyond the city limits for people and nature".

10,000's of cars "breathe" out tonnes of waste CO2 as they are forced to commute in from the remote and distant large exurbs of Auckland in ridiculously pointlessly long queues. How enforcing overly large amounts of car based pollution is positive for people and nature is unclear, but at least we know what Auckland Council favours.

And here is the link for the article quoted from.


If Okura is 25 km away, then Orewa is 35 km out from the CBD.

Auckland Council are building an exurban sprawl at Orewa, because it is much further away.

Okura near the city? Have they moved it?

You'd think it is north of Warkworth the way it is described as being pristine, but actually it is much closer than Orewa. Okura's environment is so close the place is routinely monitored for sewage outflow contamination from Auckland.

On a slightly related note, development of the genuinely pristine Mahurangi River and estuary is going well and soon the area will be home to a quadrupled urban population thanks to Auckland Council. Obviously that development is officially inside the Auckland RUL, because it is 40 km further away from Auckland and therefore meets all the criteria.

You do realise what urban planning is all about, right?

It is only sprawl in the case that you don't believe in polycentric organisation of cities.
Warkworth, being 60kms from Auckland centre is a hub in it's own right. It would be hard to argue that it is stealing development from south of the bridge.

Auckland urban planning is all about moving suburbs far apart?

And it becomes sprawl if people commute between the areas. Just go look at the commutes people make and you will see if it is sprawl.

BTW - Warkworth is stealing development from South Auckland, simply because both places are absurdly thrown inside the same RUL. I personally think Warkworth is far enough away to be completely separate. I think treating them as separate urban centres would be a brilliant idea.

Last year $500million worth of development was taken from Manurewa and some of it was redirected to Warkworth - ironically it was stripped from Manurewa land due a peat soiled instability risk and the plain west of Warkworth slated for development is a peat soiled instability risk.

Is Okura "near" Auckland?

I presume you saw the reason why it has been scuttled, from that I take it you don't give a damn about that environment as it is.

I can't see what is so special about Okura compared to Orewa, Mahurangi River, Waiheke, Clevedon, Clarks Beach, Kaukapakapa or any of the other places where this council stripped or attempted to strip environmental protections. I want to protect those places and believe that means building closer to Auckland.

Auckland Council recently lost its fight to strip environmental protections from Waiheke Island, in the Environment Court.

Oh it must be NIMBYISM because it cannot be there is a marine reserve under severe risk & stress due to nearby developments with many species in the reverse area dying off due to dumping of sedimentation. No it must be the Nimbys who want to maintain views & house values (even though they don't even live there it is not even their backyard), not the developer selling to rich cashed up buyers for the views, (no FHB can afford the multimillion dollar price tags), and damn the environment, protected species & reserve protection. You sound a lot like Augustine Lau, thinking he should be allowed to dump un-consented unsafe buildings with sewage feeding into the local stream. Seeing himself as allowed to repeatedly break the law by creating housing with a view. Sorry not everybody and every submission against a consent is a NIMBY there are plenty of VALID reasons to prevent a development. Harm to health, harm to the public, damage to the environment, unsafe traffic planning promoting undue risk, losing critical historic & cultural taonga are just a few. I don't hear you suggesting we should build on the volcanic cones of Mt Eden, Mt Vic and One Tree Hill, or over the domain, war memorials & cemeteries. Why is that? Prime land right close to the centre of town, certainly it must just be nimby neighbours who would want to protect those.

Not to mention there is BLOODY NO DECENT PUBLIC TRANSPORT to Okura. They all have to drive long distances or take multiple diesel buses which do not even connect to town or have regular schedules, certainly no school transport, so driving it is. If you even had a map and an ability to read one you could probably have seen that. Or better yet why not look at Victoria Park instead, inside town, no car transport needed, go at tiger. See if you can buy & consent houses into that. Not even to mention We can have electric vehicles, and electric cars can come a lot faster than electric buses given ATs policies. Your arguments are completely nonsensical. Destroy the marine reserve to protect the environment? What environment it has been destroyed through development already!

#6 - I posted this yesterday on the Sino-Americam Conflkict thread but it is worth recycling here:

Required reading: James Fanell's submission to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Summarised: a 'Decade of Concern' looms for the West, and China plays the long game....2049 being the centenary of the Revolution.

If one has not read Xi Jingping's words and realized the supremacist nature of the "China Dream" and carefully watched the nature of China's "rise," then one might innocently ask the obvious question: "Why does it matter that the PRC seeks regional or even global hegemony?"
That is, why can't the world simply abide a "rising China," a seemingly benign term so often employed by Beijing's propaganda organs and PRC supporters worldwide. After all, fewer would be concerned if, say, a "rising Brazil" or a "rising India" sought regional hegemony and proclaimed a desire to "lead the world into the 21st century."

The answer goes to the heart of the nature of China's leadership, and what it does. Under the [Chinese Communist Party] the PRC is an expansionist, coercive, hyper-nationalistic, military and economically powerful, brutally repressive, totalitarian state.

The world has seen what happens when expansionist totalitarian regimes such as this are left unchallenged and unchecked.

Interesting times....

Great article. I had a good laugh. Thank you. I'll cry later.
It's becoming increasingly uncomfortable watching what's left of the Western democracies disintegrate before our very eyes, whilst at the same time seeing the beginning of the taking over of the planet by North Asians in particular, in a particularly brutal fashion - and they haven't even started the grim stuff yet. Our only hope is for the suppressed and oppressed one billion people working their butts off day and night (for very poor wages) to underwrite the other/top quarter of a billion peoples global ambitions, wake up and say "Enough." If we haven't worked that part out yet then more fool us.

"City governments can win support for new housing by convincing constituents that population growth fuels economic growth" *rolls eyes*

You know after the last 9 years I don't think they can win much support with that argument any more. Overpopulation is scientifically proven to make things worse. Resource demand, infrastructure demand, health issues, increased strife, increased low wage competition. It has kinda fallen flat and even poking it with a stick will not make it get up again. Much like the trickle down argument. You can always tell the die hard crowd anything, (they may not even remember you saying it later), but telling an educated crowd who can think critically, you need to be much, much more canny. Best to use flashy graphics & cheap slogans. It will not mean much and that is the best kind of promise to make, one you never need to deliver on or can fudge results in later.

After the plague wiped out a fair chunk of the European people everyone was a lot wealthier - fact!

#3 "" population growth fuels economic growth"". So Jordan with 5million Syrian refugees must be booming? And closer to home Auckland is boom city for population but way behind most similar cities elsewhere in the world with per capita income and productivity is only a little higher than smaller NZ towns (say Hamilton, Tauranga, Dunedin, etc).
There is no doubt economic growth fuels population growth; just think of all the gold rush towns. Auckland's population growth is primarily driven by the known fact that immigrants prefer big cities (its why I live in Auckland myself) and only secondly by economic opportunities.

So Ethiopians feeling superior to the rest of Africa is a good and positive thing? Is that what is meant by having "backbone"?

Reading the Wikipedea article on Ethiopia I see this:

English is the most widely spoken foreign language, and is the medium of instruction in secondary schools.

Could this also be a positive factor? I wonder if the Chinese and the Ethiopians communicate in English? Watching a video on Ethiopian industrialization I see all the factory signs are in English and Chinese.

And this:

In Ethiopia, marriage by abduction accounts for 69% of the nation's marriages, with around 80% in the largest region, Oromiya, and as high as 92% in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region.

No, not jellyfish those Ethiopian men. You need a strong backbone to get a wife there.

Well there are different concepts of marriage and rape all over the world. In many western countries they are still not far off either. Frankly if I was a woman in a country like that I would hope to have a life closer to this woman's in Tanzania because screw being treated as female. Had an engineering mate who was a woman and she had to marry for her job in the middle east (she could not travel to the head office or work unmarried), on top of that she could not work in the office with the rest of the team, (females needed to be segregated), and reports could not be spoken or handed directly to the manager, (needed a lower male to act as a go-between). I saw that more recently in a NZ software engineering office, exactly that, the female engineers having to be segregated (even though there were only 2 out of 30), and they were not allow to talk to their team leads or even in senior roles be allowed to be present in meetings to make their reports. Instead they had to report through a go-between and then hear what was said in the meeting with no chance for questions. I quit out of disgust when it got bad, one of the women went with me. A couple other team members lied to the women as well & tried to bring down the company projects out of spite, causing whole teams numerous headaches & build issues. Top that off the women were highly trained & experienced engineers but they were paid less than the junior interns fresh off a certificate course. Treatment of women & recognition of rape (for all sexes) are worldwide issues. Even in this country still.

Yes it is the same terrible situation everywhere.

I always find I get shot down when I express similar attitudes to the Ethiopians. Funny old world.

#11. how many people watched the video? how many non-millennials watched this?

Care to comment?

I watched about half of it. Thought it was stupid.Not my cup of tea.

Well, tastes in humour aside, what about the underlying points?...

1. that millennials as a generation will likely never be able to afford a home
2. that current tenancy legislation is unfit for this change in home ownership dynamic and needs updating
3. that radical densification is needed not to provide more affordable homes but more affordable rental properties

I disagree on all three points.

1. There are many places in NZ that are affordable. There are 3 bedroom homes in Auckland for under 500k

2. We don't need any more laws. Landlords shouldn't have to house tenants for life. Renting has pros and cons.

3. Densification mustn't be allowed to destroy the beauty of Auckland. People need to consider moving to other parts of NZ. It's not that bad beyond the Bombay Hills.

I thought that might be your opinion. I would guess it's quite representational of a large percentage of the older demographic.

It's interesting that there is such a huge divide between generations as to what the problems are.

Wow, you really are victor meldrew. “I’m all right jack”. Yuk

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