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Distinguished economist honoured at Vic

Distinguished economist honoured

An economist who played a significant role in shaping New Zealand's economic and social policy and opening its eyes to the challenges of the wider world is to be honoured by Victoria University.

Sir Frank Holmes will receive an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree at the University's graduation ceremonies in May. During a long and distinguished career, he has been a public servant, university lecturer, chairman and director of several major New Zealand companies, and chairman of a number of committees advising the New Zealand Government on social, economic and educational policies and international affairs.

Born in Oamaru in 1924, he served as pilot in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and was mentioned in dispatches. After World War II, he completed a Bachelor of Arts at Auckland University College in 1948 and a Master of Arts at Victoria University College the following year.

His degree from Victoria was the beginning of a long relationship with the University. He was appointed as a lecturer in 1952 and served as Macarthy Professor of Economics (1959-67), Professor of Money and Finance (1970-77), Visiting Professor of Public Policy (1982-84) and Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies (1988-91).

His intellectual prowess and influence on economic and social policy was noted early in his career as an adviser to the Royal Commission on Money, Banking and Credit (1954-56) and as joint secretary to the Committee on New Zealand Universities (1959). He then served as Chairman of the Monetary and Economic Council (1961-64 and 1970-72), the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (1970-74), the Educational Development Conference (1972-74) and the New Zealand Planning Council (1977-82). A recent study by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) highlighted the Monetary and Economic Council's report, New Zealand and an Enlarged EEC, in which Sir Frank played a major role, as "the most influential document" in New Zealand's campaign for recognition as a special case by the EEC.

He was an early advocate of free trade with Australia and has continually alerted New Zealanders and the government to the challenges and opportunities of trade and economic relations with Europe, North America and Asia. He promoted trade with Japan in the immediate post-war period and developed links with Japanese economists in efforts to develop trade, investment and co-operation among all countries of the Asia-Pacific Region. He was founding chairman of the Asia 2000 Foundation and president of the New Zealand Institute for International Affairs.

Appointed an Emeritus Professor of the University on his retirement, he has played a leading role in the work of the Institute of Policy Studies as author, co-author or editor of several of its publications on relations with Australia, North America, Asia and Europe. He has just completed the third volume of a history of the National Bank of New Zealand and is collaborating with other Victoria economists in writing a history of the Reserve Bank, building on his previous experience and research on New Zealand's financial system.

He has also served as chairman and director of several major companies, including State Insurance, Norwich Union Life Insurance and the National Bank of New Zealand.

He was knighted for his services to economics and education in 1975 and received NZIER-QANTAS Award for excellence in economics in 1995, the premier award for New Zealand economists. He was elected a Distinguished Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Directors in 1999 and is a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Management.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said Sir Frank had challenged politicians, business people and academics to examine the implications of their decisions.

"For more than 50 years he has been a leading thinker on New Zealand's social and economic development and its relationship to the wider world, working across the whole range from fundamental research to policy development and implementation. He has devoted his career to showing the contribution that academic values and knowledge can make to business practice and policy development. It is with great pleasure that the University, with Sir Frank's 80th birthday looming, awards him an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree."

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