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Business confidence fragility show need for change

5 June 2000 Media Statement

Business confidence fragility shows need for change

"The fragility of business confidence in the last month shows that the policy framework of the last fifteen years has failed and the Government's new approach is needed."

That message today from Alliance leader and Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton, who says that for the last fifteen years the entire policy framework has been designed to support the needs, almost exclusively, of the business community.

"After all that time, business confidence is apparently so fragile that it can't sustain a couple of minor changes to the policy framework.

"The dollar is back where it was in 1985. Our overseas debt is staggering. We have had a world record sequence of current account deficits. We still have two hundred thousand jobless. And per capita GNP is falling relative to other developed countries. We have far too many poor New Zealanders.

"In other words, New Zealand is getting poorer and deeper in debt compared to other developed countries under the economic policy framework of the past fifteen years.

"It can't possibly be extremism to try to address the problems of inequality that have been sheeted into New Zealand's social and economic fabric for the last twenty-five years.

"The need for a change of direction could hardly be more obvious. If business confidence is so fragile after fifteen years of business having most policies it wanted, then the economy clearly needs a much broader base.

"The lower dollar is a huge boost to exporting businesses. The fact that business lobby groups haven't welcomed it shows that far too few kiwi businesses are exporting. Only 4% of our companies are exporting: That's only 8500 businesses in the whole of New Zealand.

"Only thirty companies earn half of our foreign exchange. 82% of merchandise exporters sell less than half a million dollars of merchandise products a year overseas. 95% of our exporters sell less than $5 million a year worth of goods and services overseas. Just 127 companies account for 73% of our total merchandise exports.

"What this adds up to is a very narrow, and shallow, export base.

"If it hasn't been working well for twenty-five years, then it's time for change.

"New Zealand has to face the challenges of the current account deficit, the overseas debt mountain, permanent high levels of jobless and the falling relative incomes of New Zealanders. The Government is committed to partnership with innovative new industries, regional development and higher skills for New Zealand to turn that performance around," Jim Anderton said.

ENDS

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