INDEPENDENT NEWS

Muriel Newman: Languishing Behind Our Neighbours

Published: Wed 1 Oct 2003 04:47 PM
Languishing Behind Our Asian Neighbours
By Muriel Newman MP
Although Finance Minster Dr Michael Cullen may crow about New Zealand’s four percent annual growth rate, the sad fact is that low single-digit growth – from a small economic base – is dismal. In other words, the New Zealand economy can be expected to double in size every 18 years. In comparison, China expects its gross domestic product to quadruple within 10 years, with most Asian economies doubling every seven
As a result of our low growth rate, we are becoming relatively less well off each day. Yet, while we stand still, other countries are moving forward, propelled by governments driven by a growth agenda. Sadly, within 20 years, we will become a backwater nation unless a progressive growth strategy is implemented. This is rapidly becoming an urgent priority.
New Zealand is a very special country in more ways than one – we are innovative and industrious, with many Kiwi businesses front-footing it on the global stage and competing successfully with the world’s best. We also have a unique and beautiful environment, which we need to preserve and protect – but we must not lose sight of the essential need to move forward and lift our living standards at a faster rate.
While Dr Cullen may be busy boasting about New Zealand’s growth prospects to international audiences, the reality is that the Labour Government has done little to develop the partnership relationships needed for progress. Rather than genuinely advancing the programme of compliance cost reductions, which the business sector has been urgently crying out for, Labour has instead imposed upon business the added burden of its socialist agenda. In fact, latest estimates of that burden run into a cost of tens of thousands of dollars on small business.
If we truly cared about the future of our country, it is now long past time for the commitment to economic growth to be given a prominent place on the political agenda. Economic strategies that imprint the benefits for growth on the public psyche need to be developed.
Of course, business growth must be balanced against social and environmental issues – growth should not come at the expense of environmental and social needs, but nor should environmental and social needs come at the expense of growth.
Unfortunately, some of those needs are now out of kilter: the Resource Management Act is clearly a barrier to growth – and unless the problems associated with frivolous, vexatious and pecuniary objections are addressed, New Zealand will continue to languish behind our Asian neighbours.
Similarly, the demands of social welfare – for people who could work, but choose to remain on benefits in the long-term – are creating an unsustainable tax burden on our economy. This is handicapping our ability to keep pace with our Asian neighbours, who have a far more pragmatic approach to helping the unemployed.
Regrettably, the Labour Government – with its green agenda in the wings – is committed to implementing its socialist experiment, and is looking no further than the three-year election cycle. This is totally at odds with Asian nations, who have in place long-term strategies to raise the standard of living within their countries. As a result, New Zealand risks becoming a pauper in the South Pacific.
In taking stock of New Zealand’s situation, we are more than aware of the brain drain’s negative effects on our economy. We do, however, take comfort in the fact that many of those who leave eventually return. Rather than returning because we offer first-class opportunities, the reality is that many come home to be with family and friends, to raise children, and to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle.
But we can surely aspire to more: let’s not lose sight of the fact that, as a small nation with a great deal going for it, we can truly become a world beater. We need to learn from those countries, which are creating double-digit growth, and adopt their ideas. This will put us on a path to deliver to all New Zealanders – not least our children – a way of life that matches the world’s best.
ENDS

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