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New Zealand 74, USA 6

July 30, 2020

That was the score the last time the United States national rugby team played the New Zealand "All-Blacks."

The "All-Blacks" set the standard on the rugby pitch. New Zealand's government does the same thing on the financial field.

New Zealand is about 6,700 miles southwest of San Diego, and about 4,600 miles southwest of Hawaii. This far-away place deserves a close look because it provides a good benchmark for government financial performance, and positive lessons about public sector accounting practices.

One way to score how the United States fares compared to New Zealand, financially, is through the “Citizens Wealth” framework developed by the Kazarian Foundation for measuring and tracking government finances. Their “CW1” summary statistic nets country GDP against total government net worth (assets less liabilities, with the net amount either positive or negative) on a per-capita basis.

From 2011 to 2019, New Zealand’s “Citizens Wealth” grew from a positive $52,000 to $60,000. Over the same time frame, the average the Foundation computed for a composite of “AAA” rated governments (including Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States) fell from a positive $51,000 (in 2011) to $43,000.  This $8,000 per-person decline -- amidst favorable economic growth -- was a mirror image of the $8,000 increase in New Zealand.

How does the United States perform? In a chart presented at a recent debate hosted by the Columbia Business School, Paul B. Kazarian showed what they calculated for Citizens Wealth in the United States. Their measure for the United States fell $25,000 (per person) from 2000 to 2019, a period when it rose by $45,000 (per person) in New Zealand.

You can see a summary of their calculations here.

We will be hosting Paul B. Kazarian in a live webinar next Tuesday at 11:30am CT. Our discussion will include understanding how New Zealand can serve as a role model, including how their leaders developed accounting principles supporting responsible financial management. You can register for the event here.

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