Mike Hosking: Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr wants us to borrow while making it harder for us to get the money

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Our old mate Adrian Orr is back this week with another crack at the interest rates. Wednesday is OCR day.

I think it’s fair to suggest we are still trying to work out whether the Govenor of the Reserve Bank’s headline-grabbing 50 point call some months ago has paid dividends or not.

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Australia is having a similar debate. They didn’t go 50 points but they’ve cut three times this year, and the consensus appears to be that people are not borrowing. In other words the whole idea that you make money attractive isn’t working. We need to make money attractive to drive investment.

In fact, if you remember, both Orr and his deputy post the 50 point cut were out there, virtually like Briscoes salesmen, sprooking like their life depended on it.

But here is Orr’s biggest problem: On one hand, he’s telling us it’s a great time to borrow and spend, or borrow and invest. But at the same time, he’s ringing alarm bells over debt, especially in the rural sector.

And then, of course, he has his pet project of forcing the banks to put a massive mountain of money aside, just in case. With that last part has come the warning over the weekend from the head of the BNZ. She says capital is going to get scarcer.

Now given this is a scrap between the retail banks and the Reserve Bank you have to allow for a bit of hyperbole. But fundamentally, she is right. She’s also not the first to issue the warning, none of the banks think what Orr wants to do is necessary. They argue, quite rightly, that our banks are as sound as the day is long. We have seen the GFC come and go and our banks were rock solid.

So what is it that Orr sees, in terms of disruption, no one else does? And for every dollar he forces a bank to put aside, it’s a dollar that isn’t out in the economy. The banks, of course, have to raise this money, and where in this low interest environment are they getting it from?

And the tighter money gets, the harder it is to access. What’s the bet there will be certain sectors that find it particularly difficult, like the rural community, the life blood of the economy?

So in simple terms none of it makes sense. Orr wants us to borrow to stimulate, while at the same time making it harder to get the very money he wants us to spend.


What’s the point of 3 per cent mortgages if you can’t get your hands on it? Or the overdraft on the farm is curtailed because banks start getting edgy about rural lending.
Remembering, of course, this economy is already slowing badly, which is why he’s cutting in the first place.

Next year’s growth figure will most likely will have one in it, so banks will have rainy day money sitting stagnant, borrowing will be down, spending will be down, investment will have slowed.

And all of this helps, how?