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  • rmacculloch

Meet PM Ardern's twin sister: Finland's PM Sanna Marin

In economics, we like to try to draw similarities and differences between countries and their policies to understand them better. So on that note, lets meet the leaders of NZ and Finland. The Kiwi PM, Jacinda Ardern, is 41 years old. The Finnish PM is 36. Both preside over two of the world's "happiest" countries, as measured by subjective surveys of well-being like the World Happiness Report. So here's a test:

(a) Which one of the two said her country 'was committed to preserving its generous welfare state in an “environmentally sustainable way” '.....

(b) Which one of the two said her country “wanted to do better when it comes to equality”

The answers are the Finnish PM, although with a few minor changes in wording the answers could be the Kiwi PM as well. And the British newspapers have described how both leaders "rode a wave of popularity during the pandemic for [their] assured management of the [Coronavirus] crisis". Both leaders have a single child, a daughter. By the way, NZ has a population of around 5 million and Finland 5.5 million.

Why is this important? Seems that both the Kiwi and Finnish PMs have identified a set of issues, including inequality and the environment, as well as globalization, as a basis for their political platforms. Those issues particularly resonate with the young, with whom both leaders are very popular. Moreover, both leaders have set a goal to be amongst the world's "happiest countries" and "wanting to keep it that way", as the UK Guardian puts it.

Which brings us to the single biggest challenge of the Kiwi opposition. To the extent the Nats and ACT focus on "GDP", "efficiency" and "productivity", Labour will keep returning to "we kept you safe from the virus", "we're protecting you against a climate catastrophe" and "we want equality and everyone with a job" themes, in the name of health-and-well-being. Which has been serving the Party extremely well, at least so far.

However, what may end up becoming Labour's undoing is the simple fact that the cost-of-living in cities like Auckland is off the charts and inflation is currently rising faster than wages. Yes, it may come down to the extent to which Finance Minister Grant Robertson's bungled assertion in his May budget that "Wage growth, at nearly 3 percent a year will outpace inflation, meaning more money in Kiwis' back pockets" becomes ever more deeply "out of the money" and ever more of an embarrassment to him and the Party.



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