Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Coos, Culls, and the effect on NZ Inc

Michael Reddell has a good point to make, although the phrase 'gifting' could also be applied to beneficiaries, pensioners, Waiheke ferry off-peak users and other non-productive attachments to the ever-generous Gubmint Munny Teat.

Despite announcing yesterday a plan that aims to eradicate mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand, there was no sign of the pro-active release of any background papers or analysis. We don’t have copies of the relevant Cabinet papers, or the relevant advice from The Treasury or MPI. Not that long ago, the incoming government talked of its commitment to open government, and now it plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money – without, it appears, any additional legislation – without giving us, up front, any of the relevant papers.

One of the more obvious consequences of the cull is that real, productive units - 400KgMS per unit per season - are being turned into burgers and pet food with a much lower unit price. This is like replacing factories with coffee shacks, although, come to think about it, That's already happened: the foundry and machine shop I worked at in Invergiggle as holiday employment for a mechanical engineering degree (unfinished, y'all are quite safe) is now a bowling alley.

Another consequence is that, while entire farm herds are being culled and earnings fall, the debt load does not. Cue Boomer's Story.

We worked through Spring and Winter,
through Summer and through Fall
But the mortgage worked the hardest and the steadiest of us all
It worked on nights and Sundays,
it worked each holiday
It settled down among us and it never went away

So lenders will be anxiousiy poring through their dairy client's contracts, and trying to estimate what effect the cull will have on everything from provisions for defaults, to downstream effects on contractors, equipment sales and repair outfits (dependent on financing for sales) and the wider rural communities. For a marked-to-market loan on (say) a typical dairy farm in MPI's cross-hairs, this has gotta be a substantial write-down. Enough of these on the loans ledger, and the banks themselves are vulnerable to a credit downgrade. And we can guess what that will do to both the cost and availability of credit for - well, almost anything, as DC notes in the article.

The final (and there are more, as common taters may care to append) aspect is that there will be reduced economic activity as between farms: transport, sales, calf-rearing, the casual neighbourly offer of excess milk to next-door's calves, the annual Calf Day at rural schools, breeding herds, and the list can be extended far and wide. Reduced activity means less transactions, less tax, more calls on benefits and other support schemes, and everyone entering hunker-down-and-sit-it-out mode. This could easily last 3-5 years.

So Michael R's question about the basis upon which this whole scheme has been entered into, by the Good Intentions Paving Company (2017) limited, is a very valid one. Transparency is sorely needed, not hand-waving.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Government cluelessness about the Time Value of Money

The issue with Gubmint large-scale anything which has to be built physically (as opposed to redistributed with a hefty ticket-clip) is that the entire public service has not Clue One about the Time Value of Munny.
Propose a project for $100m in Year 1, with an initial cost outlay (say, for Land) of $30m, Years 2-4 at $20m each nominal, and Year 5 at $10m, a WACC of 6%, a construction cost inflation rate of 9%, and a five-year schedule. The Guibmint wallahs then gape in wonderment as the thing (without contract variations) ends up costing $143.7m. Cumulative interest carry is $20.4m, construction inflated by CCI (which to be kind is limited to years 2-5 only) is $23.3m. So 100+ 20.4 + 23.3 = 143.7. The time value of munny....
This sort of non-thinking is absolutely rife through all levels of government. They never have to sell enough on Friday to make payroll on Wednesday following, never have to chase debts, never have to juggle cash flows to make the 20th of the month payments to creditors. Their world is literally cossetted: salaries arrive with the regularity of a sunrise, revenue falls into their ledgers like Sky Food off the edge of the bench for a dog, cash-flow is non-existent, and the only exception to this happy existence is IRD, who certainly know the Time Value on unpaid taxes....
Imagine, (strike up the John Lennon chorus about now) that Local Gubmint had to pay consent applicants the IRD UOMI rate on project value for every day they dragged the chain on the consent. Imagine... but enough already. T'will nevah happen.