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A row has blown up today about how Mike King, a former comedian now best known for his work in mental health, had asked for funding for his 'Gumboot Friday' initiative but got nothing. He called it a "truly sad day". National MP Simon Bridges says King is right to think he's not getting multimillion-dollar contracts to run mental health services because he's too outspoken. "It absolutely is personal, they want to get rid of me, they really do", King told The AM Show.

Bridges added "there's a vindictiveness there in the Government. If you're the guy speaking out, you don't get the funds. I personally believe there is something in that, because you see it. You see it in all the other outlets". His comments were rebuffed by Attorney General David Parker who dismissed claims officials reject applications from organisations and individuals who criticize the ministry. "For that to be true, you'd have to effectively be saying that's the motivation of the officials that make those decisions within the Ministry of Health… I think that's a pretty rough accusation. I think just about everyone goes to work well-motivated to make a difference, just like Mike King does".

Hang on, David. My economist colleagues who have criticized the government or don't have the preferred (partisan) political profile are regularly excluded from offers of prestigious positions in the public sector. Many of these positions are not well paid, but have high status. As a result, the person who ends up getting the position can easily translate that status into bucks. So a whole lot of money is effectively at stake. I know of specific examples where folks were chosen for prestigious positions over and above way-better-qualified-with-way-better-work-experience alternatives. Why? Since political factors completely unrelated to competency were heavily weighed. Yes, David, its a rough accusation, but its one which strikes a chord with many of my fellow economists. Since its the truth.

  • Robert MacCulloch

The Kiwi government appears to be obscuring what went wrong with their Pfizer vaccine orders. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) reports:

"Israel ... this month acknowledged paying $ 23.50 per dose on average to Pfizer and Moderna to obtain early shipments. Even at this high price, vaccinating the entire population of Israel costs the economy only as much as two days of lockdown".


The BMJ reports that the US offered $19.50 and the EU $14.70, so I suspect NZ offered in this price range. In other words, had we simply offered $4.00 more per dose than the US then it appears that we could have secured a hugely increased schedule of deliveries, enough to have vaccinated most of our population by now, like Israel.

The cost-benefit arithmetic goes like this: for our population of just 5 million, paying $40 million more (for two doses) could have avoided billions upon billions of additional economic and well-being costs.

So my question to Hipkins is: did the Department of Health do the above kind of cost-benefit analysis, or not, when it was placing orders?



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Robert MacCulloch