Moving beyond the pandemic

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights newsletter
17 December, 2021

New Year’s and Christmas are traditional occasions to reminisce about the past twelve months and wonder what the next will bring.

Looking in the back mirror is easier.

Another year. Another lockdown. Another alert system. 2021 felt a lot like Groundhog Day.

The touted ‘Year of the Vaccine’ became another delayed delivery. Thankfully, New Zealanders responded well, and the rollout picked up pace. Eligible New Zealanders are now 90% double-vaxxed. To get to this point has been a huge collective effort.

Covid dominated the headlines in 2021., other policy areas received less attention than deserved. That said, the Climate Change Commission’s reports provided a glimpse into our energy future. The now abandoned $800m cycling bridge left us equally amused and angry. And we noticed the first signs of rising living costs.

So, what will 2022 bring?

In some ways, more of the same. Though the name of the disease is Covid-19, it seems to be ever-evolving, so Covid-22 will keep us busy, no doubt.

But thankfully, there will be more things to talk about next year. Our political debates will broaden from the near-singular focus on the virus towards housing, education, monetary policy, and productivity.

The Prime Minister, in an interview with The Spinoff, agreed. “It cannot always be Covid,” she said. Next year would bring about a focus on inequality and climate change, Ardern added.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Chris Luxon has declared reforms on our education system to be one of his priorities.

“We need to move from child-centred learning to teacher-instructed learning,” the new leader of the opposition declared. Luxon called for a “world-class curriculum” and “structured literacy programmes” as the way to improve literacy.

At the Initiative, we could not agree more. These are the very ideas developed in the publications of our education researchers Briar Lipson and Steen Videbeck.

Likewise, we hope that 2022 will bring a renewed focus on housing, local government reform, and infrastructure delivery. The Initiative has developed proposals for all of them. They are waiting for ambitious reformers to take them forward.

While the new year will undoubtedly bring new political and economic challenges, let’s hope that it will indeed reinvigorate policy debates beyond Covid. So we can eventually leave the pandemic in the past – and create a better future.

We are grateful for the continued support of our members and donors. It enables us to do our research and advocacy.

And thank you to you, dear Insights readers, for following our work and giving us feedback. Whether it is encouraging praise or constructive criticism, it is always appreciated.

To all of you and your families, and from all of us at the Initiative, have a Merry Christmas, a relaxing summer break and a prosperous New Year.

Insights will take a break over the summer. We will be back on Friday, 28 January 2022.

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