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Rushed export education levy may be too taxing

Rushed export education levy may be too taxing for international students

The government's proposed export education levy has not been tested against industry needs and priorities, has not been consulted on with the industry and is being rushed through with little planning, Education Forum adviser Norman LaRocque says.

On Thursday, the government released a consultation document looking at options to estabish an export education levy for an industry development fund, worth $3.9 million annually by 2005. It proposes setting the levy at 0.5% of gross foreign fee-paying student tuition fee income. Feedback is sought by 15 November.

"It is unfortunate that there has been no external input into the document because there are many good ideas there that should be tested against industry needs and priorities," Mr LaRocque said.

"The levy may well have positive effects but without input from the experts on the industry being levied — the education providers themselves — outcomes are uncertain.

"The level of detail in the budgets is minimal and no performance objectives are suggested — not even for the tripling of the generic promotion budget.

"The increased costs that international students will have to pay to come to New Zealand when the levy is introduced could see them choosing other countries for their education," he said.

In 1998 and 1999, New Zealand was the third-fastest growing destination in the OECD for tertiary international students, behind only the UK and Australia. Since 1999, growth in student numbers has further accelerated.

In 1999, the education sector was New Zealand's 4th largest service export earner and 15th largest foreign exchange earner overall, according to estimates from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"The industry is too valuable to New Zealand to put at risk through hasty and untested policies," Mr LaRocque said.

"There are good reasons why industry levies have been reduced or stopped in other industries."

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