Chair in Public Finance

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Upcoming Roundtable: Measuring public sector productivity

There are many reasons for wanting to increase the rate of growth of public sector productivity. Trends such as an ageing workforce mean that a strategy of delivering output growth through increasing inputs will become less feasible. By allowing “more bang for each buck” higher rates of productivity growth can also bend down fiscal cost curves and help satisfy increasing expectations of quality by clients. Productivity growth is a key dimension of better public services.

Yet while more productivity may be a good thing it is not immediately clear how to best develop and use productivity measures. Over the last two decades national statisticians and others have made significant progress towards developing techniques for measuring public sector productivity. But – at least compared to the measured sector – this is still a developing field and there is a lack of an international consensus on key questions.

At this roundtable Norman and Patrick will discuss recent New Zealand and international work on measuring public sector productivity. A range of approaches – and their strengths and weaknesses – will be discussed with illustrative examples. Time will be set aside for interactive discussion with attendees.

Date: 10.30 – 12.00 noon, Friday, 24 March 2017

Venue: New Zealand Productivity Commission, Level 15, Fujitsu Tower, 141 The Terrace


Please note that places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Attendance will be confirmed by e-mail. The event will be held under the Chatham House rule.

The myth of the shrinking state? What does the data show about the size of the state in New Zealand?

Norman Gemmell and Derek Gill

The paper explores the urban myth that the economic reforms of the late 1980 and 1990s reduced the size of the state. It uses a variety of lenses – the state as taxer, spender, producer, employer, investor, and steward – to assess how the size and shape of the state has changed.

It finds despite the rhetoric, there is little sign in the data of the hollowing out or shrinking of the state, though some changes following the 1980s reforms such as the reduction in the state role in the production of market goods and services have persisted. Instead, we find some changes in the shape of the state. View the article.

Tax reform in developing countries

A recent publication which combines three decades of research on tax reform in developing countries. Edited by James Alm and Jorge Martinez-Vazquez, the collection includes works from Michael Keen, Thomas Piketty, Joseph Stiglitz and our own Norman Gemmell.


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