INDEPENDENT NEWS

Labour sets terms for economic debate

Published: Wed 21 Jul 1999 01:14 PM
"Labour has defined the basic terms of the election debate about the economy," Labour finance spokesperson Michael Cullen said today.
Dr Cullen made the comment in a speech to a business luncheon hosted by Beattie and Rickman in Hamilton. He was referring to the National Party's death bed conversion to a more hands-on approach for the government in economic management.
"The leadership role is crucial. The small economies that have recently been most successful in the transformation to a knowledge-based economy - Singapore, Finland and Ireland - are all characterised by a structured and active leadership role by government.
"Ask them if they believe in picking winners and they would answer: What else would you do - pick losers?
"Labour has consistently argued that the economic restructuring begun in the 1980s was at best a partial answer to New Zealand's structural deficiencies and that there was a need to switch to a different agenda: one which is about adding value.
"National kept denying this but has now suddenly switched to accepting it. However it seems unable to recognise the kind of policies that are implied by the need to engage in a knowledge economy project. It also fails to recognise the nature of the on-going structural problems which are either causes and/or effects of our failure to engage in that project in a sufficiently focused, organised and committed fashion.
"Instead we are supposed to be convinced that prattling on about winners and offering a tax cut of less than $5 a week to nearly 80 percent of taxpayers will somehow substitute for the sense of urgency and purpose we need about ensuring that New Zealand rejoins the leading bunch of economies in the world
"New Zealand is not going to improve its economic performance by more hamfisted, incompetently implemented, ideologically driven restructuring. The 1990s are littered with the debris of such efforts from health restructuring to roading reform.
"What is needed now is a partnership approach based on the achievement of excellence, dynamic and well-focused skills development, the promotion of technological change, infrastructure development and support for the leading sectors of the new economy," Dr Cullen said.

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