Thursday, 26 September 2013

The good news from the America's Cup

Paul Lewis writing in the New Zealand Herald points, without intending to I'm sure, to the big positive that comes from Oracle winning the next race. It could save the New Zealand taxpayer millions.
Team chief executive and fundraising power source, Grant Dalton, has already hinted that he will not do another America's Cup challenge if this one fails, though such decisions are always open to review. If he goes, there are doubts that multi-millionaire benefactor Matteo de Nora will continue either.
Lose, and Government money becomes harder to prise out of the public coffers. This year's nail-biting Cup match has been tremendous theatre but it will make the private fundraising job that much harder. One America's Cup lost campaign allows hope to burn. Two lost campaigns raises the issues in sponsors' minds of throwing good money after bad.
If the private money goes, the taxpayer money is, hopefully, sure to follow. Lewis also notes that,
Losing after leading 8-1 in the first-to-nine series would be bad enough. But the bigger picture is even worse. Lose, and the syndicate may fall apart.
There may be no syndicate left to waste taxpayer money on.

Sam Richardson comments at the Fair Play and Forward Passes blog,
Think about this from New Zealand's perspective. We've had the theatre, and the drama, and the world's eyes are now firmly fixed on San Francisco as Oracle seeks to finish what would be nothing short of a miracle, being virtually dead and buried a week ago. Think of the advertising this is giving this country - granted, it would be nicer if we were not on the wrong end of the comeback, but it is publicity all the same, and publicity that likely would not have occurred if we had won the Cup earlier in the regatta. Now the US have something to talk about with this regatta - and it is synonymous with New Zealand. So we get this advertising benefit (which is difficult to quantify but is nonetheless part of the package). How much has this cost the taxpayer? The Government committed about NZ$40m to the TNZ challenge - and are now reaping the rewards of that investment.
But you have to ask, What exactly are these "rewards"? Are the world's eyes really fixed on San Francisco? What coverage is the cup getting overseas? Do we really have any idea of what publicity New Zealand is getting, and if it is getting some, is backing Team New Zealand really the cheapest way to get that amount of publicity? Why on just run a (cheaper) standard advertising campaign?

Sam continues,
What happens if we win it? Several things, possibly; one of which is that there are fair questions to be asked as to whether hosting an event such as the America's Cup is the goldmine people say it could be (I blogged about this earlier in the week). We also know that the Government has in the past expressed an interest in throwing more cash at a Cup defence - for what might be considered fairly obvious reasons - and New Zealand taxpayers are not averse to more dollars being committed to a future defence. The question must be asked as to whether the return on the investment in a defence is as great as the return on the investment for a challenge? If there's one thing to be said for a challenge, it is that the Government writes a cheque for a fixed amount - end of story. A defence is more likely to be accompanied by a blank cheque - much like we had for the Rugby World Cup, where the loss was expected right from the start, on top of government spending towards stadiums, infrastructure, security and the like. Right now, we're getting great intangible mileage out of a $40m taxpayer investment - would we get such mileage if we hosted the event? Is that $40m better spent elsewhere? Important questions that need answers.
I agree that a challenge, should one occur, would be cheaper than a defense given that as Sam says a defence would be, most likely, a blank cheque job. But I'm not sure what to make of the idea that
Right now, we're getting great intangible mileage out of a $40m taxpayer investment".
For $40m I think we need more than just some supposed "intangibles". This amount of money should be buying something very tangible. Also, you could justify any amount of spending on anything if you allow the benefits to be some "intangibles" .You can always come up with a huge amount of "intangible". Policy based on "intangibles" is policy based on nothing. And what does this say about evidence based policy. What evidence can you have for intangibles?

And what else could be done with any money spent on a defence/challenge? How many hip operations could be done with that money? How many child cancer patients would receive quicker treatment if that money went to them? How many schools could be kept open with that money? Opportunity costs are real costs.

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