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Global issue 20

Arena Economics Flying the flag for New Zealand Christchurch is still recovering from its 2011 earthquake, with town planners now saying that reconstruction is a 50- to 100-year project. But that hasn’t stopped the country’s economy forging ahead, thanks to its ‘can do’ attitude Chris Pritchard Two referenda will decide the new design of New Zealand’s flag, with the Union Jack likely to be discarded An unfamiliar flag may soon flutter outside international gatherings. New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key wants to hold two referenda – the first to choose from competing designs and the second to decide between the country’s current flag and the most popular new design. They’ll be held in November this year and April next year. Critics condemn these votes as a waste of money, sparking a pithy reaction from Key: “What price do you put on democracy?” As he sees it: “We’ve had this debate… for the better part of the past 25 years and we need to put it to bed one way or the other.” Nevertheless, discussion about the flag is commonly described as a welcome diversion from a more sombre topic: rebuilding after one of the country’s worst natural disasters. Key, 53, heads a centre-right National Party government with 60 seats in Wellington’s 121-member unicameral parliament, where seven parties are represented. The Nationals, by far the most popular party, gained only 47 per cent of last year’s vote. Opinion polls say nearly 70 per cent of New Zealanders think Key is his country’s best option for Prime Minister. Analysts maintain he is helped by a poor-boy-made-good image and the fact that, after becoming Prime Minister in 2008, he didn’t slash welfare. Mind you, he didn’t cut taxes either, hiking goods-and-services taxes from 12.5 to 15 per cent in a first term that began in 2008. His oft-cited definition of any government’s most important role: balancing a country’s books. He sums up his personal philosophy as: “You get out of life what you put in.” 48 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global © Michael Button Creative Commons by 2.0


Global issue 20
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