Len Bayliss, then an economist at the Reserve Bank, played an important role in the creation of the New Zealand Association of Economists. Supported strongly by Alan Low, then the Bank’s Economic Adviser, Len promoted this objective at the 1957 annual meeting of the Bank and university economists. His amplified proposal was well supported at the 1958 meeting, and Len became the Secretary of a promotion committee, chaired by Professor Horace Belshaw, The committee prepared a draft constitution which was sent to every known economist in New Zealand. This was further debated at an inaugural meeting at Victoria University College on 4th December 1958 which resolved unanimously to establish the Association.
Shortly after this, Len was seconded for a tour of duty with the Bank of England. In 1961, after a brief secondment to the Treasury, he joined the staff of the newly formed independent ‘watchdog’, the Monetary and Economic Council, for 5 years. He then became the Chief Economist of the Bank of New Zealand until 1982. He was selected to be a member of the Targets Advisory Committee of the National Development Conference in the late 1960s. In 1976, he was seconded for 20 months to the newly-formed Prime Minister’s Advisory Group. After leaving the Bank in1982, Len became an independent consultant. He was a director of the Hugo Group and of Integrated Economic Services. From 1983 onwards, he also became a director of a number of public companies, including the BNZ, Tower and BNZ Finance.
Len’s resignation from the BNZ was a much publicised event as he had developed a high profile as a prolific and respected commentator on policy issues. His early magazine articles in the 1950s were often written under a nom-de-plume. However from 1963/64, when he first appeared on television, he was regularly engaged in public commentary and debate.
Monetary policy has always been Len’s major interest. He was the major author of a Monetary Council report on the NZ financial system in 1966 which severely criticised existing policies and recommended orthodox alternatives. In the next decade, he campaigned vigorously against direct controls. His appointment to the Prime Minister’s Advisory Group, led by Bernard Galvin, in 1975, gave him the opportunity to play a major role in effecting a major liberalisation of the financial system.
From 1978, Len vigorously promoted the case for wider economic liberalisation and was a strong critic of the “Think Big” programme. At a time when public criticism was muted, he made a significant contribution to preparing the ground for public acceptance of the need for reform. He has also been particularly active in public debate on issues of superannuation policy, pressing for public acceptance here of the OECD’s approach to providing for retirement.
International recognition of his contributions was reflected in the award of a Senior Anzac Fellowship by Australia in 1985 and by other study awards from the governments of the USA, Japan and West Germany.