Business Slams NZ Government

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
8 September, 2023

Some surveys require interpretation. Others speak for themselves.

This year’s Deloitte and Chapman Tripp Election Survey of businesses is in the latter camp.

After years of polite grumbling, the Government’s performance was slammed by New Zealand’s business leaders.

Only six percent of respondents thought the Government had a coordinated plan to increase economic performance. In contrast, 85 percent of respondents answered ‘no.’

Business leaders overwhelmingly agree that government changes have ramped up operational costs in recent years.

A solid majority feel burdened by higher tax compliance costs and are sceptical of the government’s use of taxes for broader social goals.
Most doubt the projected economic benefits of policies like the Three Waters initiative.

There is also widespread concern over inadequate support for foreign investment and economic growth. Many are uneasy about rising energy costs and see government infrastructure policy as lopsided.

A significant portion believe that today’s education system falls short in equipping the next generation with the necessary skills, and trust in the current immigration system is low.

If these findings were school marks, the Government would receive an ‘F’.

Many business leaders believe the Government has failed to deliver on any key policy.

There is no denying that satisfying the business community is a challenge for any government.

Business leaders are used to making agile decisions, setting performance targets, and striving for efficiency. Government is not known for these things.

However, in most previous surveys, business leaders acknowledge when a government at least tries to do the right thing.

Seeing such a complete disconnect between Government and business is almost without precedent.

Whatever the outcome of this year’s election, there will be a lot of repair work to be done. Government and business are not on the same page and have not been for a long time.

One of the main problems over the past years was the lack of consultation. Significant policy changes have often happened without any warning. And the government did not consult stakeholders, it has made avoidable and costly mistakes.

Another problem has been Government’s erratic decision-making. It seems to have been guided by what makes good politics (i.e. headlines), not what makes good policy (i.e. outcomes).

Underlying all this has been a lack of coherent evidence-based thinking.

The next Government must be different: Guided by clear principles. Informed by consultation. Open to evidence.

Only then will the next survey of businesses show a more constructive working relationship between Government and business.

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