- North Korea. These people have just lost their beloved Leader, one of only about three people north of the 38th Parallel with a weight problem. These people are crazed with hunger and now with a weird collective grief. Sort of like the Princess Diana thing, only instead of Elton John they have nukes.
- Europe. These people are crazed with debt problems and with, in the jargon of the financial markets, ‘kicking the can down the road’. They’ve now got the fiscal equivalent of stubbed toes and they’re running out of road. The thing about debt and deficits is that at some point you have to start the long slow paying back. New Zealand learned this 25years ago – slowly and painfully, and our political discourse is still scarred by the decisions made at that time. The EU can only get worse, and it will be worse for a long time. And they also have the baby boomers tipping over into retirement – at least NZ didn’t have that imminent problem in the 1984-92 period.
- Ditto the US. They’re now going into presidential election year which means the chances of anyone saying or doing anything sensible for the next 12 months is pretty minimal.
I’m not convinced 2012 is going to be all that great. But the combination of diversification of markets, with New Zealand now being geared to the part of the world that is just beginning to grow; New Zealanders’ newfound interest in savings – for the first time in a very long time; a political system which is not gridlocked and which is, however imperfectly, dealing with the country’s problems instead of ignoring them and/or just blaming them on ‘the 1990s’; and a very transparent set of government finances, means the medium term outlook for New Zealand is quite positive.
We’re not going to boom – and it would not be a good thing if we were – and a country of 4.5 million people, spread over a comparatively large and difficult land mass, will always be vulnerable.
But for the first time in my lifetime – and I’m 47 – I’m looking a decade ahead and seeing solid reasons for optimism.