Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Professor Robert MacCulloch: How National Can Neutralize Serious Allegations of Corruption

How National Can Neutralize Serious Allegations of Corruption Should the "Fast Track" Bill Become Law

Pundits from the left and the right are arguing that National's Fast Track Bill that is designed to speed up infrastructure decisions could end up becoming mired in a cesspool of corruption. Political commentator Bryce Edwards has summarized them - noting that even National Party pollster and analyst David Farrar has written about his concerns, saying that a “legitimate concern is the potential for corruption” flowing from the new rules.

Rather than getting bogged down in a mire of dark allegations, the Fast Track Bill has the potential to show the New Coalition at its very best. The mistake in the proposed structure of the Fast Track consenting process is its "advisory group". There should not be one. There will forever be accusations against those folks of favoring particular projects. Applications for fast-tracking should simply be assessed by an independent office in the NZ Treasury and each one subjected to an objective cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Part of the reason for CBA is to take the politics & potential for corruption out of consenting processes. The projects with the highest Treasury-assessed benefit-to-cost ratios should be the ones fast tracked. CBA's would take into account all benefits, as well as all costs, including environment ones.

What is clear is that delays in the consenting progress have ground NZ to a halt. Arguments by the likes of Dame Anne Salmond that the Bill must not be passed because it is "anti-democratic" and we need endless "checks & balances" is an argument to slow NZ down to the extent nothing gets done. That being said, folks like Dame Anne make a strong point about the dubious nature of the "advisory group". Take a quick look at it on the Beehive link below. Who are these people? I mean, who are they? One is called Rosie Mercer, who says she is an "experienced executive leader". Is this the same Rosie Mercer who says on her LinkedIn profile that, "I am extremely privileged to have been part of the Provincial Growth Fund". Is that the same Provincial Growth Fund that was run by NZ First's Shane Jones which the Minister in charge of the Fast Track Bill, Chris Bishop called "a slush fund that lacks transparency", a "giant waste of money" and of "spending cash without making sure business cases stack up". If so, how is her position tenable?

Unless the Advisory Panel is scrapped in favor of an objective & independent Treasury CBA analysis whereby the projects are ranked in terms of the greatest to least net benefits & the top ones chosen on that ranking, this will end in disaster. By the way, Mr Bishop, business folks do "business cases" - Governments do not assess infrastructure projects using that method - they use a different one - it's called Cost Benefit Analysis. Maybe you should brush up on it, since you swore by it in your own Coalition Agreement.


Professor Robert MacCulloch holds the Matthew S. Abel Chair of Macroeconomics at Auckland University. He has previously worked at the Reserve Bank, Oxford University, and the London School of Economics. He runs the blog Down to Earth Kiwi from where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

Governments are crime syndicates, therefore have no interest in neutralizing corruption. Remember, it's a big club, and you aren't in it.

Peter said...

You are absolutely correct Professor. The whole purpose of the Bill is to get things moving on projects that are of regional or national benefit. So why is there an automatic Maori/Iwi appointment to the Expert Panel? Doesn't that just smack of self-interest, potential corruption, and the power of veto etc? Any appointment should be on merit and subject matter expertise to determine whether those regional and national benefits outweigh the costs - be they financial, environmental etc.

Undefined Treaty principles, and ONE minority's cultural beliefs and stone-age knowledge systems are unlikely to be of overriding concern, so why are they alone accorded recognition in the Bill? We deserve an explanation, and unlike the unsubstantiated claims of Mahuta and McAnulty in relation to Maori co-governance of Three Waters, let's have it out in the open as to what justifies one minority's predominance in this proposed legislation?

Basil Walker said...

Anonymous @11.24. I suggest that is too harsh for a comment under Anonymous . Profesor MacCulloch has consistently provided an analysis light years ahead of Parliament , former PM,s and dignatories . Legitimate concern and educated essays are what our Parliament has lacked for decades .

Anonymous said...

Our politicians are the best 'money can buy'.