Wednesday 14 July 2021

Morning roundup

The morning's browser tabs:

  • Newsroom picks up on BusinessDesk's prior reporting on MIQ ghost rooms. Much credit goes to Cameron Conradie's constant reporting on the numbers. BusinessDesk pointed out that the MIQ system is constantly overwriting its own data so that it is impossible to get, from them, the prior track. I wonder what the Archivist would make of this because it sounds like deliberate destruction of Official Information which may have to have been backed up by a Disposal Authority. Anyway we're losing skilled migrants who rightly view there as being no chance that the government will fix the system, because the government starts by hating migrants and viewing allowing any of their families in as actually being a bad thing. While it is still good to live in NZ as a permanent resident, I could not recommend that anyone try moving here, unless their utility enters negatively into my utility function - and I don't have that kind of utility function. 
  • The government is going to run into real problems in maintaining nursing staffing. If I've understood the state of play correctly, nursing salaries in NZ are similar to salaries in the UK but Australia has some of the highest pay rates going for nurses. Training nurses here in a common labour market with Australia can result in outflow. NZ has made up the gap by importing nurses - some from the Philippines, some from the UK. But while there's provision for entry through MIQ for nursing staff, it's still a big constraint. Australia is far richer than NZ and can afford to pay more. It's entirely plausible that the government here is behaving as monopsonist in keeping nursing wages down, but even if that weren't the case there would still be a problem. 
  • NZ is importing and burning a lot of coal currently. In one sense, this is not a problem at all: the Emissions Trading Scheme sets a binding cap, the current ETS price roughly doubles the cost of using coal, so any coal that's used is very likely in spots where it would be real expensive to substitute away from. But there are still two more substantial problems. First, some of the coal burning is because Megan Woods banned gas exploration in Taranaki, reducing capacity in those fields. So we're being forced to use a worse alternative because the government set very bad policy. Second, optics. While all that coal is accounted in the ETS, nobody understands the ETS, and seeing coal imports makes people think the ETS isn't working. And that builds pressure for even worse interventions. I wish that National would aim for less political point scoring here and instead be looking to underlying causes. 
  • The government is going to be having an inquiry into crypto. I kinda knew what was going on in crypto 3 years ago; that tech is moving crazy fast and keeping up with it would be a full time job. I hope Auckland's Alex Sims helps them out a bit, and I also hope they seek some of the expertise over RMIT. Parliament's Select Committee couldn't figure out how the Uber app works a few years ago. This won't end well unless they get some serious help. 
  • NovaVax also looks pretty good. Seems futile to hope it will get evaluated and considered for roll-out here, where dose availability is a binding constraint. We are sitting ducks here if Delta gets out. 
  • Environment Minister Parker is holding off on nitrate limits on waterways - for now. I still think cap and trade solutions can get that job done. Report on that will be out soon. 
  • The government's reluctance to have effective vaccine mandates for border workers - it's just incomprehensible. There can be practical difficulties that need to be overcome; sending nurses out to worksites over a few shifts could make a lot more sense than trying to get all those workers separately to make long commutes out to places where they can be vaccinated. If compulsion is warranted anywhere in public health, it's in vaccination. There are very real and substantial negative externalities from not being vaccinated - and especially among workers who are at risk of contact. We wind up with a health system happy to ban soda in the hospital cafeteria but that can't manage to get workers vaccinated. It's nuts. 
  • Another for the "is government actually evil?" file: The Ministry of Ed refuses to fund a teacher's aide for a special needs student (limited budgets; understandable) but also refuses to allow the parents to privately fund the aide
  • Industrial policy as casino economics. Do you feel lucky?
  • Cuba's health policy successes are wildly exaggerated and based on bad data. Here's hoping that the new revolution brings down the communist dictatorship. 
  • Remote work won't work for everything. Face-to-face still matters. Planet Money interviews Enrico Moretti
  • Not crazy to worry about inflation. But if you have strong opinions about it and you think you're right, well, here's the data series on nominal bonds and here's the series for inflation-protected bonds. If you think inflation is going to go through the roof, make the appropriate play. If you think that everyone else is just way too worried about inflation, take the opposite appropriate play. 

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