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Wake up call for Finance Minister

Media release: 15 December 2012

Wake up call for Finance Minister

Finance Minister Bill English met with a select group of 27 young people this week to exchange views on New Zealand’s long-term financial outlook, and to hear about a publication released by the McGuinness Institute today containing a ‘fiscal tool’ for categorising alternative solutions and choices.

Amongst a wide array of possible choices contained in the group’s statement summarising a week of intense debate, assisted by Treasury officials, were levers such as raising the age of eligibility for superannuation, introducing a capital gains tax or making KiwiSaver compulsory.

“It’s great to see young people, many of them tertiary students, being called on to participate in debates about the looming fiscal crunch that will accompany an ageing population,” said Pete Hodkinson, President of the NZ Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA), and regular speaker, on similar issues at the release of the youth statement.

“As a 22 year-old myself I share the concern of the participants in the McGuinness Institute’s LongTermNZ project (http://longtermnz.org/) that our current economic thinking is not structurally resilient to the challenges ahead – be that climate change, housing affordability or child poverty. I would also join with the view held by 89% of the group that a universal pension isn’t likely to be an option in its current form when I retire in 40 to 50 years’ time.

Jason Armishaw, a project participant who is studying law and economics at the University of Auckland, said arriving at a consensus for what the statement would contain had been a “five day mission”.

“We’re more aware now that there is going to be an increasingly hard future ahead of us, and that we need to band together, with the many ages involved, to find creative solutions … rather than brushing things under the rug”.

Amongst key messages contained in the youth statement on New Zealand’s financial outlook was a call for better engagement with young New Zealanders of all backgrounds, via online platforms and new technologies rather than just traditional media.

The statement signalled young peoples’ willingness to make trade-offs associated with hard economic decisions. It also pointed to the fast disappearing “window of opportunity” within which New Zealand has to respond pre-emptively to demographic changes and rising health costs.

It was agreed that although spending may be more fiscally constrained in the future, young people are seeking active investment in smart, more visionary long-term options – including lowering unemployment, supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, and provision of affordable tertiary education that balances learning and critical thinking with relevant skills for a changing job market.

In 2013 the NZ Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) will be promoting this debate more widely amongst its members and students at tertiary education campuses around the country. In addition, NZUSA is working with the Commission for Financial Literacy to facilitate learner/ student input towards a review of retirement income policies, focusing on key topics such as equal cost sharing across different generations.

ENDS ______________________

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