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Bright Future In Theory, But What About In Practic

18 August 1999


Today's "Bright Future" package sounds good in theory, but questions remain as to how well it will work in practice, says United New Zealand leader, Hon Peter Dunne.

Mr Dunne says the backdrop against which the package was developed is of a small, exposed trading nation, a long way from its markets, beset by modest economic growth rates and chronic balance of payments problem; slowing population growth; and, a lack of social cohesion and political certainty.

"It is debatable whether any of today's individually worthy announcements will make any profound difference to that overall scenario."

"What is certain, however, is that whatever its shortcomings, the Bright Future package is considerably more achievable and realistic than the 'return to Gdansk' policy announced earlier this week by the Alliance and endorsed by its coalition partner, Labour," he says.

Mr Dunne says that given our current account problems, we need an annual growth rate of around 4% just to stand still, let alone go forwards.

"Yet there is still no firm timetable for reducing business tax rates to aid investment; the signals about improved research and development deductibility are no more than another review being undertaken; and there is no bold strategy to boost our population through an effective and well-targetted immigration policy."

"The initiatives to support high-achieving students are welcome, but there is no accompanying strategy to reduce debt levels for other students, to retain their skills in the country."

"The review of tertiary education still seems to focus more on governance than promoting centres of excellence and the fact that our universities are already slipping in comparison with other universities in the Asia/Pacific region."

"There also seems to be an implicit assumption in this package that a knowledge-based economy really only applies to the 'gee-whiz' aspect of technology, and not to the innovative capacity of our traditional primary and manufacturing industries," he says.

Mr Dunne says that the timing of the announcement, just before a General Election will raise inevitable questions about its sustainability, which will not assist perceptions of certainty.

"Therefore, despite our specific criticisms, rather than argue tediously about what should or should not have been in the package, the one practical things all political parties could do now, in the interests of certainty and progress is commit themselves to working together on the things they broadly agree on in the package, rather than embarking on another unproductive round of sniping, while the average New Zealanders yawns," he says.


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