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Insights 21: 10 June 2016
Research Fellow Dr Randall Bess: Fix fishing from the top
 
Wellington's 'Deadly Heritage'
 
Thursday 14 July - Dinner Lecture with Stephen Jennings - Auckland

The African opportunity
Stephen Jennings
Globally, growth in productivity and GDP has stalled. Much of the West and Japan suffer from rapidly deteriorating demographics and crippling levels of debt. The sustainability of China’s economic model is questionable and no progress has been made towards political pluralism. 

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the very few large regions in the world with any real likelihood of sustained high growth. Perhaps surprisingly, this simply requires a continuation of current trends.

For the last 15 years Africa has been one of the fastest growing regions in the world. Excluding China, it is currently outpacing its emerging market peers notwithstanding the hit from lower commodity prices. The economic improvement has been matched by a range of social indicators. This progress has been driven by greater democracy and improved governance, reduced conflict, greater macroeconomic discipline and a dramatically improved business environment.

The really exciting part of the story is Africa’s massive scale and its scope for further major improvement. By 2035 Africa is expected to have the largest working-age population in the world - creating 450 million new workers between 2010 and 2035 alone.

Africa is also currently undergoing the largest urbanisation in history. Despite the improvements of the last 15 years, Africa’s potential for improving governance, infrastructure, health and education is vastly higher than anywhere else. Improvements in political accountability and a more assertive electorate mean further major changes are highly likely.

For Kiwi businesses, Africa represents a vast untapped new market with a largely common English language and shared Commonwealth heritage. A number of Kiwi businesses are successfully exploiting this opportunity while barriers to entry remain low. Africa also represents an important diversification opportunity away from the low growth of New Zealand’s traditional markets and from the increasing structural risks in Asia. 

However, the rise of Africa and India will also mean that the labour market and income distribution pressure in the West arising from globalisation will likely continue for many decades. 

Will New Zealand seize the trade and employment opportunity arising from this dynamic new multi-polar world or will isolationist and protectionist policies prevail? 

Stephen Jennings is the Founder and CEO of Rendeavour. On Thursday 14 July, he will deliver The New Zealand Initiative’s dinner lecture. Tickets are available here.


Un-tether the students
Martine Udahemuka | Research Fellow | martine.udahemuka@nzinitiative.org.nz
I have just returned from a journey of discovery in the UK and the US looking at how they navigate the notion of school choice.

As a concept, it remains highly contentious. Those against argue that choice is an illusion for those families that the policies claim to benefit.

In New Zealand attending a school perceived to be of good quality comes with a hefty mortgage. This directly limits access for poorer families whose children, on average, need a greater boost academically but do not have the cheque to go with the choice. 

Of course, advocacy for choice policies should go beyond choice for its own sake. The focus should rather be on the benefits. And on my journey I found some clear wins.

What the US has over New Zealand is the number of schooling pathways available and how access to these options is made possible. 

In 2005 only seven states had publicly funded private school choice programmes. Today, there are almost 50 such programmes in 25 states and the District of Columbia with almost 400,000 participating students. The funding targets low-income earners and students who would otherwise be stuck in failing schools.

However in a world of limited resources not everyone who applies for the funding gets it. But this provides a valuable platform to assess the benefits of these programmes. In this way, student achievement outcomes for those who applied and were successful can be compared with outcomes for those who were not successful and therefore remained in a traditional public school.

If it is assumed that the types of students who applied for the programmes were similar and motivated by the same schooling values, differences in student achievement can then be partly attributed to the school attended.

Evaluations have demonstrated that though choice has not necessarily increased test scores for all, the policies have contributed to higher rates of high school completion, particularly among black male youths.

The practice in New Zealand where school choice is restricted by one’s postcode or bank account does not serve students well. In this regard, some US states are ahead when it comes to providing real choice as they do not tether students to the school nearest to them. 


Classic cartoons are dangerous
Dr Eric Crampton | Head of Research | eric.crampton@nzinitiative.org.nz
University of Otago Associate Professor Nick Wilson argued that Disney’s classic 101 Dalmations should carry an R rating. Why? Because Cruella de Vil smokes. Wilson argued that children need protecting, and ex-smokers might appreciate the trigger warnings where films induce cravings.

You might find it amazing that in a world with Zika and Ebola, researchers concerned about public health have time and funding to watch and categorise 73.5 hours of broadcast television. They conclude that legislation could require R-ratings for programming with tobacco imagery. But their policy suggestion misunderstands how ratings work in New Zealand and points to a disconnection from the real world.

TV show ratings come from the Broadcast Standards Authority; they are not set by legislation. And the BSA has no R-rating. But Restricted ratings are set in legislation for content screened in cinemas, streamed online, or sold in DVD sets where the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) has jurisdiction.

An OFLC R-rating means it is illegal to let a child under the required age view the programme. Watching South Park with your 13 year old on broadcast television is legal regardless of whether it has the strictest broadcast rating: AO 9:30. The same episode streamed online or watched on DVD could carry a fine of up to $10,000 or up to three months in prison, if the episode were rated R14 by OFLC.

So calling for something to be restricted with an R rating is a pretty big deal: it means the state should be able to fine parents or put them in jail for letting the kids watch it.

Normally we might simply point to the absurdity of potentially jailing parents for letting their kids watch Pinocchio turn green from a cigar, but Wilson bit that bullet already in endorsing R-ratings.

Reductio ad absurdum stops working when the public health brigade embraces the absurdity. And it can even be dangerous. It is not hard to imagine a future where wearable computing lets everyone see the world through computer-augmented lenses (hooray!) but where the University of Otago had convinced government to require those lenses censor unhealthy behaviours. Dangerous hamburgers, cigarettes, doughnuts, sodas or beer would then be pixilated.

When my dystopia is others’ utopia, warnings risk being guidebooks. Projecting bans on kids watching Pinocchio would have been dismissed as slippery slope reasoning 20 years ago. And yet here we are.
 
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