Citation of Award made on 3 September, 2009 at the NZIER AGM
The NZIER Economic Award’s Operating Guidelines enjoin the Awarding Panel to “look for outstanding contributions to the advancement of economics and its applications in New Zealand”. To qualify for the Award, a contribution “must advance economic matters of direct relevance to New Zealand”, and must be “likely to be of long term lasting importance to New Zealand”.
The recipient of the 2009 Award has made outstanding contributions, amply meeting these requirements, in the fields of the economic history of New Zealand, the collection and evaluation of long-run economic statistics relating to New Zealand, and the stimulation and informing of debate about economic questions affecting New Zealand among the interested public.
Our knowledge of the economic history of New Zealand would have been considerably poorer without the recipient’s work on social policy and the welfare state in New Zealand, and on the impacts of world economic events on New Zealand’s economy, international trade and capital flows. His written works, under such attention-demanding titles as The Commercialisation of New Zealand, In Stormy Seas: The Post-war New Zealand Economy, The Whimpering of the State: Policy after MMP, The Nationbuilders, and Globalisation and the Wealth of Nations have kept the lessons of economic history for New Zealand in the minds of decision-makers and policy-crafters. His focus on those lessons has no doubt been of value in his work as a member of influential economic policy review panels, including the New Zealand Growth and Innovation Advisory Board.
Reliable conclusions cannot be drawn from history, at least in economics, without a deep and accurate understanding of the statistics available from the periods under study, and of the quirks and unpredictable figures which they sometimes contain. The Award’s recipient is a Chartered Statistician, and a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. His knowledge of significant economic statistics concerning the New Zealand economy is exceptional, and is widely admired by other researchers, not least because of his unfailing willingness to explore those statistics and discuss them.
The “advancement of economics and its applications in New Zealand” requires decisions to be made, often in a political context. If politics is indeed the art of the possible, then the boundaries of what is politically possible, let alone desirable, will be widened if the interested and influential public has an adequate understanding of the reasons why certain actions might be considered by policymakers, and of what the consequences of those actions might be, or might be hoped to be. The Award’s recipient has been an outstanding economic journalist, and a participant in public economic debates, bringing unusually broad perspectives to issues of lasting importance, for over 30 years. The public of New Zealand has benefited greatly from his tireless work, and from the exceptional clarity of his writing. He has indeed “advanced the study and understanding of economic matters directly or indirectly affecting New Zealand”, as the Award seeks to recognise and promote.
The NZIER Economics Award for 2009 is accordingly given to Dr Brian Easton