Oz for Dummies: Week 38, 2021

(September 20–26) Gladys forcing the way / Dan losing his / Stacia and Marky Mark out of it / What’s the endgame in New Zealand? / Evergrande, neither grand nor forever / Germany in for a new leader …

As predicted, , with Victoria struggling mightily to keep up at least appearances. Cases numbers in VIC are going up and up and hit a new high on Friday (847, 779 on Saturday, on ). More troubling, however, is the fact that . It’s a run-away train, likely to end in a train wreck. It will take a 5–6 weeks for the O-multiplier to go under 1. And then .

The Melbourne protests that erupted last Monday and have been ongoing for almost a week now — with (a couple of) hundreds of people being arrested on a daily basis throughout the week — won’t help the case numbers. And there is no end in sight. There is , with that some of the frustrations have to do with the workings and configuration of the CFMEU. Be that as it may, it seems unquestionable that Andrews has lost control of the narrative and that the various anti-lockdown fractions are making inroads. helped. It makes for a volatile situation and I doubt that at the end Andrews’s ratings will be as supportive as they have been until recently. It’s a long way — about 6 weeks in my estimate — before the will be implementable. Already now Melbourne has the dubious honor of having beaten Buenos Aires in the longest-lockdown sweepstakes; once the number of deaths will climb — and climb they will, as — some fans of Andrews will surely reconsider. I doubt very much that by late October, Andrews will still be. Testable hypothesis right there. Mark it.

Meanwhile, in NSW things are looking better with the day.

and having navigated that fine line between urgency on the vaccination front and giving hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, Berejiklian (Glayds) is forcing the way and the numbers are going her way: The peak was reached — as is now becoming clear — a couple of weeks ago already, — and vaccination rates are stellar; later today more than 60% of those above 15 will be fully vaccinated and more than 85% already have had their first jab. At the pace NSW has been going for the last week (more than 1% per day of those over 15 getting their second jab and about half a percent getting their first jab), NSW one week on will have 70% of those above 15 fully vaxxed and be close to 90% having had their first jab. Stellar numbers, given where NSW started and not even taking into account that among those aged 12–15 the vaccination rates are also going up mightily, currently sitting at almost 40% of those eligible. Yes, please do tell me again .

“Freedom day” in NSW seems at best a couple of weeks away and that unfailing leading indicator — — sees it exactly that way. (Berejiklian has made clear that and fortunately restaurants and cafes and gyms and hairdressers opening in covid-safe ways will be among the beneficiaries.) Stop the press: Two friendlies of ! Go the Matildas!

All said, Berejiklian (Gladys) and her health team have demonstrated how to live with covid without shutting down the joint over and over and over again, and without having the health system completely overwhelmed. Well, . It is probably no coincidence that the kind of protests that Melbourne has seen last week have not materialized in Sydney.

Which brings us to Stacia (in Queensland) and Marky Mark (in West Australia). The former, at the beginning of the week, seemed rather smug about Queensland having reached 60 percent first jabs. Which, given that (about 20% in first jabs and about 15% in second jabs) comes across as posturing of the kind that both Labor premiers seem to have specialized in for weeks. While , the key driver of the vaccination hesitancy in these two states seems to be a lack of urgency which seems in turn the inevitable result zero-covid policies bring about. At this point it seems clear that both states won’t have reached the kind of vaccination rates it requires to live with covid before the end of the year, i.e., almost three months later than NSW. It remains unclear what vaccination rates both premiers would accept to open up the internal borders, nevermind the external borders.

/ What’s the endgame in New Zealand?

Similar questions can be asked for New Zealand where the Ardern government has, remains (although slightly ahead of Queensland and Western Australia), and where increasingly . At the pace of vaccination the country is going right now, is months off and won’t be reached this year for all I can see. Meanwhile, an economist colleague in Auckland has warned that Ardern has dismantled democratic processes while using “the bully pulpit of her press conferences to engage in blatant political propaganda”; he argues that. It’s not a pretty picture he paints of St Jacinda and for that matter of the state of democracy in NZ.

/ Evergrande, neither grand nor forever

Late last week Evergrande, the Chinese property developer, and is now in a 30-day grace period. It is unclear what the outcome will be and whether , as at least one author has claimed. Others have argued that this is business as usual, that it is simply the fallout of one of, and that in the grand scheme of things the travails of Evergrande matter only so much. (It has about $300 billion debt which is less than Australia, with 1/50th the population, has spent so far on its pandemic response. Thus, Evergrande is not too big to fail although a default surely would have considerable ramifications.)

Talking about China, Paul Frijters has in which he assesses . He sees it as “the narrative for ‘a new Cultural Revolution’.”

/ Germany in for a new leader …

Germany is voting this Sunday and the results will be out in the wee hours of Oz Monday morning. I have previewed this federal election in late June . Since then the polls have reflected some interesting trends, the most remarkable of which saw, about a month out from the election, the Social Democrats and their chancellor candidate Scholz overtake the Union of CDU and CSU and its candidate Laschet. Over the last ten days or so the polls have hardly moved and the average poll sees Scholz leading Laschet by three percentage points. About half a dozen coalitions are currently possible and at this point Laschet and Scholz are the only serious contenders for chancellor. The Germs are a risk-averse bunch. No experiments! (Keine Experimente!)

And that’s the wrap for week 38 of 2021. All facts, no spin. Oz for Dummies.

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Andreas Ortmann

EconProf: I post occasionally on whatever tickles my fancy: Science, evidence production, the Econ tribe, Oz politics, etc. Y’all r entitled to my opinions …