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Leaders Call For Urgent Streamlining Of Economy

Leaders Join In Call For Urgent Streamlining Of Economy

Press Release from the Association of Crown Research Institutes (ACRI)

Farming, science, and information technology leaders have joined in a collective call to New Zealand to review policies and eliminate barriers to the development of a knowledge-based economy.

Their blunt warning was that unless New Zealand rapidly made the most of technological advances, people skills, and added higher value to products and services it was at risk of falling further behind developed economies.

The messages came as leaders from the three sectors issued a 14-page economic commentary called ‘Knowledge Underpins Quality of Life.’ Their hope was that the document would be a blueprint for change and a catalyst for improved dialogue and co-operation among the public and private sectors.

The commentary said the true state of the New Zealand economy was indicated by a poorly performing sharemarket and a “chronic” current account trade deficit that was among the worst in the OECD, and worsening.

It added that New Zealand’s failure to join the global knowledge-based economy – one focusing on knowledge intensive products and services – would lead to a permanent slide in living standards unless urgent action was taken.

Andrew West, President of the Association of Crown Research Institutes, said government needed to change the business and cultural environment through “cleverly designed, well-informed interventions” – and the education sector was a good place to start.

“Perhaps the crucial single action is to create two or three genuinely world-ranking universities by merging the eight we have now.”

Dr West said the government could also help by reducing business barriers and increasing research funding to stop scientists being attracted overseas. He added that New Zealand needed a tax system that encouraged innovation, private-sector research and development, investment in new enterprises, and improved savings.

Jim O’Neill, Executive Director of the Information Technology Association of New Zealand, said the government had to create the climate for a knowledge economy to blossom.

“ It particularly needs to do so in those areas where only government has the ability to affect change – education, research and development, immigration, tax, and regulations affecting business.”

Tony St Clair, Chief Executive of Federated Farmers, said the need for action was urgent. “ Many hundreds of farming families can’t even access the Internet and can’t use a fax machine because of the inadequacies of communications in rural New Zealand. Apart from the serious implications for farm businesses, this disadvantages rural children in comparison to their urban brothers and sisters.”

Mr St Clair said it was vital that Crown Research Institutes retained their applied agricultural and horticultural research capabilities. Farmers and growers relied on innovations from CRIs to remain competitive in export markets.

“ Many developing countries are embracing biotechnology and New Zealand is in real danger of being left behind. As in science and technology generally, we are likely to lose our most skilled biotechnologists to other countries unless we create a culture and an environment that encourages them to stay here.”

END

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