John Key and Alan Bollard proved this week they are excellent at what they do. They are the short-term masters of our puny universe of an economy.

Key is a master tactician. He is planning for one result (a second election win) on one date (November 26) and he knows which levers to pull.

He knows consumers and voters, particularly those stressed urbanites with big mortgages and small petrol tanks, love low interest rates and a strong New Zealand dollar. It means they might be able to pay the bills, fill the petrol tank and still go on an overseas holiday.

So Key is happy to see the currency rise. He said as much again this week when challenged on the Government's "over-borrowing" and how that was driving up the currency.

He said the New Zealand Debt Management Office had pulled forward its borrowing to take advantage of keen foreign lenders. Key answered a question about a long-term problem by giving a short-term answer.

As a former currency trader his focus had to be on the next few minutes and days. Tactics are more important than strategy when trying to pick currency movement.

Unfortunately for New Zealand's future, we need some long-term strategy to build high-paid and interesting jobs that earn foreign exchange revenues so we can grow our wealth as a country.

This requires a five or 10-year plan to encourage a higher national savings rate, more investment in high value-added export industries and a strategy to favour producers over consumers and savers over borrowers.

China and Singapore's leaders plan to build industries and jobs over decades.

They control exchange rates and savings rates, albeit through undemocratic means, but it works. It is a Confucian approach. Here, our currency is not controlled by officials. We have a laissez-faire approach.

The other master of our universe is Alan Bollard, who this week stuck to his line he was carrying out his orders specified in the Reserve Bank Act and his Policy Targets Agreement.

That means he uses the Official Cash Rate to target inflation at between 1 and 3 per cent over the next two to three years and ignores the exchange rate and employment.

Meanwhile, we keep borrowing and selling assets to support a lifestyle we can't afford and allow our currency to rise to a level that makes it impossible for any manufacturing exporter to invest for the long term.

We are choosing to live in the now instead of planning for the future. We are choosing consumerism over Confucianism.

bernard.hickey@interest.co.nz