Friday 14 June 2019

What else could he say?

Well, turns out I was at Makhlouf's farewell party, in a way.

I'd been initially invited to the thing via a Treasury 'Save the Date', then uninvited for obvious reasons after I pointed out, again, the depth of deterioration at Treasury under Makhlouf's watch. The quality of policy advice has dropped substantially, as reported in Treasury's annual reports; the stakeholder surveys show declining confidence, and I think it's due to Secretary Makhlouf's administration having focused on faddishness over rigour and the deterioration of economic competence in the organisation.

When RNZ's Madison Reidy ran a whip-round of economists, she couldn't find anyone who disagreed with me on the deterioration at Treasury.

Here's Finance Minister Robertson, reported in Politik at last night's farewell event. 
Robertson also praised Makhlouf for making Treasury a more diverse place and addressed recent criticism from the NZ Initiative economist, Eric Crampton, that Treasury was putting too much emphasis on diversity and was not hiring enough highly qualified economists.

“ My message to Eric Crampton, the NZ Initiative and the Taxpayers' Union Is that the Treasury should have economists.but it should also have people from other walks of life who aspire to be part of an organisation that delivers to New Zealanders better-living standards," he said.
Peter Hughes was also reported to be fulsome in praise of Makhlouf. Of course he would be. The State Services Commission completely screwed up in having Gabs reappointed in 2016.

If Robertson and Hughes want to ignore the failures at Treasury, well, it's their administration that will suffer - and the rest of us. A Finance Minister needs quality advice, and he will not get it.

I hope that this is just a "well, what else could he say at the man's funeral" thing. But he didn't need to endorse Treasury's awful hiring practices.

Update: I'm more annoyed about this the more I dwell on it. The next CE has to know he has the Minister's backing in fixing the problems at Treasury. I thought Robertson understood the task ahead. At every point, I've been critical of Treasury but optimistic about Robertson's having some desire to fix things. I am updating substantially on this. Will he even be able to get the kind of candidate he needs if he's signalling that he thinks Treasury's composition is a-ok?

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