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Insights 4: 16 February 2024
Newsroom: Dr Eric Crampton on the consequences of the Fair Digital Use Bargaining Bill
Podcast: Dr Oliver Hartwich and Professor Francis Greene talk about entrepreneurship
NZ Herald: Roger Partridge on Supreme Court's decision to recognise climate change

An Atlantic task
Dr Oliver Hartwich | Executive Director |
Never lead the Titans to revolt against the Olympian gods. It can cause a bit of back pain. Just ask Atlas, that poor Greek fellow.

Atlas’s punishment, however, became his trademark. He developed into a hero for holding up the heavens, preventing them from falling onto the Earth. It is a thankless task, but someone must do it.

That brings us to today’s Atlases.

Many of you have probably heard about Atlas Network in recent weeks. It is a network of think tanks around the world, and the Initiative is proud to be a part of it.

Despite being a friend of Atlas, I was unaware of its influence. There is a conspiracy theory that Atlas controls government policy in many countries – at least in Australia and New Zealand.

If only that were true. Atlas promotes sound policies, noble ideas and inspiring projects.

Founded by the late Sir Anthony Fisher in 1981, the Atlas Network’s mission is “to drive change in ideas, culture, and policy; remove barriers to opportunities; and empower individuals to live a life of choice.”

To achieve this, Atlas provides support to local organisations. Although these policy shops are diverse, they share a commitment to individual liberty, property rights, limited government, and free markets.

Atlas’ affiliates make abstract ideas concrete. In the favelas of Brazil, they helped residents establish property rights, become entrepreneurs and escape poverty.

Against a bureaucracy that prevented independent Nepali e-rickshaw drivers from operating, Atlas helped them register.

In the US state of Georgia, Atlas partners with the ‘Georgia Center for Opportunity’. They embarked on a large project to rehabilitate former offenders. That was a decade ago. Since then, the prison population and recidivism have significantly decreased.

There are dozens of success stories like this from all around the world that were supported by the Atlas Network.

So, when the Initiative started in 2012 and Atlas asked if we wanted to be affiliated, we felt honoured to join this network. We still are.

Atlas does not fund our work. Well, they gave us a camera a decade ago (and thank you, it still works). That was it.

For us, it has always been about belonging to an organisation that helps people achieve amazing things, and being part of a network whose goals we share.
Just like holding up the heavens, promoting prosperity for everyone is often a thankless task.

But we like to know we are in good company. That is why we are part of the Atlas Network.

A new tool for infrastructure delivery
Christoph Vojc | Guest contributor |
New Zealand faces a significant challenge: building essential smaller scale infrastructure assets like schools, medical facilities and social housing. These initiatives may not be as grand as the likes of City Rail Link and other mega-projects, but they are equally (if not more) vital for our communities.

Our current approach to infrastructure development, however, is not cutting it for our “small infrastructure” needs. This is where a Community-Based Public Private Partnership (CBP3) approach can play a transformative role.

The last New Zealand Government relied on a centralised, overly bureaucratic procurement process where very little got done. In a nutshell, Government lacked the necessary delivery capability while much of the private sector’s capacity remained unutilised.

At the same time, the traditional Public Private Partnerships (PPP) model, while effective for large-scale projects, posed challenges for New Zealand’s smaller construction firms which struggled with the financial risk exposure and commercial complexities of PPP contracts.

Enter CBP3, a fresh framework offering a balanced solution. It involves private companies in building and maintaining small-scale infrastructure under simplified risk allocation frameworks that are less onerous than PPP risk structures - for example, by limiting the contractors’ exposure to penalties from construction delays that are outside their control, or insulating them from ground risk.

This reduces the burden of risk on these companies compared to what they would shoulder under traditional PPPs, making it more feasible for smaller firms to participate in public tenders. In addition, CBP3 projects work with more generic technical specifications than traditional PPP projects. This makes it more feasible for smaller construction companies that are generally less prepared to engage in complex projects to participate in these types of tenders.

Both factors translate into an increased level of competition while smaller projects get off the ground more easily and more fully utilise private sector delivery capacity - good for taxpayers and good for the end users of infrastructure.

Under CBP3, roles are clearly defined. The Government orchestrates and oversees, ensuring that projects align with national priorities. The private entities take on programme sponsorship and management, design, construction, and maintenance. This division of labour taps into the private sector’s efficiency, broad resources and innovation while maintaining governmental oversight and land ownership as the ultimate taxpayers’ custodian.

The UK’s Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT) initiative is a shining example of what CBP3 can achieve. As evidenced in at least two independent studies, it successfully rolled out numerous healthcare facilities across the UK, demonstrating the efficacy of this model in realising community-centric infrastructure.

A similar Australian model, the Housing Investment Fund (HIF) is currently delivering new social and affordable housing via partnerships with private sector developers, investors and construction companies based on essentially the same commercial framework as LIFT.

In a landscape in which small projects are as impactful as large ones, CBP3 offers a nuanced approach. It is about building a network of critical, community-based infrastructure in a cost-effective, timely manner.

It is time for New Zealand to embrace CBP3, ensuring our small-scale infrastructure needs are met, benefiting communities nationwide and ensuring essential services reach every corner of the country.

Christoph has 20 years of experience in infrastructure investment & financing, capital and policy advisory and worked globally on infrastructure initiatives in New Zealand, Australia, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.

The Tucker Carlson show: screening on a network near you
Roger Partridge | Chairman |
Television audiences were granted a rare privilege last week: an extended interview with warmongering President Vladimir Putin to “set the record straight” on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
And who better to provide the pulpit of truth for this enlightening exchange? Why, Tucker Carlson, of course – now operating his own TV channel following his abrupt exit from Fox News last year.
Carlson is hardly a paragon of journalistic integrity and geopolitical expertise. He is both a stalwart Trump ally and defender of those who laid siege to the U.S. Capital. His Fox News comments fuelled the 2020 presidential election fraud claims. And he is a longstanding Russian apologist.
Perfect, then, for Mr Putin!
What followed was a masterful performance from the Russian President. Indeed, it was Trumpesque.
The West has Russia all wrong.
With a straight face, Putin regaled the uncritical Carlson with tales of Russia's historical grievances, starting in the 9th century, and its divine right to reclaim lost territories. Ukrainians, it seems, were always Russian. (With their early medieval Anglo-Saxon heritage, maybe someone should try telling the British they’re really German?)
According to Putin, Russia's invasion of Ukraine was but a noble quest to rid the world of Nazism – conveniently ignoring the fact that Ukraine's President is Jewish. An on-to-it interviewer might have challenged the Russian President on the Nazi stuff but not the intrepid Tucker.
But Tucker did ask if Russia also plans to invade Poland. Putin quipped he would only do that if Poland attacked Russia first. The irony that that is exactly what Hitler claimed at the start of WWII was lost on both of them.
And then came the Russian President’s bizarre claim that the West's crisis of confidence was to blame for his country’s tyrannical delusions. Apparently, it's the West's fault for not believing in Russia's divine mission to spread peace and prosperity across the globe. Silly West!
No Putin interview would be complete without a healthy dose of paranoia and conspiracy theories. Putin painted a picture of Western encirclement and aggression, conveniently ignoring Russia's history of annexations and military interventions.
It was a masterclass in deflection and projection – provided convincing the unconverted wasn’t a goal. Putin cast himself as the misunderstood hero standing up to the bullying tactics of the West, with Carlson egging him on.
Speaking truth to power? Forget it.
If only we had journalists of Tucker Carlson’s quality in New Zealand.

On The Record

Initiative Activities:
  • Podcast: Entrepreneurship, Dr Oliver Hartwich talks to Professor Francis Greene about entrepreneurship as an idea, function, and as part of economics, 15 February 2024

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