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Business Leaders’ Confidence Tanks As Top Kiwi CEOs Vent Their Frustrations

The New Zealand Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom 2020 Election Survey has been released with top business leaders saying New Zealand’s Covid-19 recovery is in peril – and they want a decisive role with Government in the country’s future.

The annual boardroom barometer of 165 CEOs and high-profile directors has business confidence at the lowest it’s ever been in the survey’s 19-year history.

When asked to rate their level of optimism in the New Zealand economy the CEOs surveyed collectively scored it a 1.36 out of 5.

Westpac CEO David McLean says the future has never been so uncertain, but that means that the need for crisp and clear policies and plans has never been greater.

“We need to see pathways mapped, not just for how to escape from the current Covid-19 crisis, but to take us toward a better future by addressing some of the big challenges we face beyond Covid-19, such as increasing our productivity and tackling climate change,” said McLean.

Many, like Mainfreight’s Don Braid, question Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s heavy reliance on Government bureaucrats for advice and execution and her apparent unwillingness to listen to the private sector for ideas.

“There are many willing to devote time, energy and ideas in areas that allow New Zealand to find the right environment to operate in a post-lockdown economy,” said Braid.

The New Zealand Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom 2020 Election Year survey, taken in association with BusinessNZ, provides an in-depth assessment of CEO opinion at what is the most concerning time in the survey’s long history.

“It’s heartening that a record number of CEOs took part in the 2020 survey against a background of the Covid-19 pandemic. Optimism may be at the lowest levels seen in the survey's history, but the CEOs’ responses demonstrated their own commitment to turning the economy around,” said says Mood of the Boardroom executive editor and NZ Herald’s Head of Business Content, Fran O’Sullivan.

The 2020 New Zealand Herald Mood of the Boardroom report will be launched at a business breakfast held at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland this morning with both Finance Minister Grant Robertson and National’s Finance Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith discussing policies with a number of business leaders.

With the General Election just weeks away business leaders are looking for more from both Labour and National.

Deloitte CEO Thomas Pippos points to tax policy being a key issue.

“Though Labour’s proposal to increase the highest personal tax rate doesn’t impact on the majority, National has upped the ante by helicoptering in temporary tax relief across the board to stimulate economic growth. Tax therefore promises to be a very complicated and emotive topic, that will either be centre stage this election or not far from it,’’ says Pippos.

BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope said Labour’s economic policy response to Covid has underpinned the economy in a challenging time.

“However, the long-term plans are less well understood. They will need to do a hard sell. National’s plans are slightly more pro-business. But both parties need to talk about how quantitative easing enables them to maximise a reduction in borrowing costs to help grow the economy.”

Today’s Mood of the Boardroom launch will be hosted by New Zealand Media and Entertainment’s Managing Editor, Shayne Currie, who’s expecting some lively debate.

“Fran’s Mood of the Boardroom shows that with the election so close, CEOs are expecting much bigger and better things from both Labour and National. Don Braid for instance says this is the ‘perfect environment to be bold and adventurous’ but describes both Labour and National policies as ‘weak and uninspiring’. Mr Robertson and Mr Goldsmith will need to bring their ‘A’ games to this event, said Currie.

Full coverage of the Mood of the Boardroom’s wide-ranging survey can be found in today’s New Zealand Herald and at nzherald.co.nz with the breakfast launch and debate available via video livestream also on nzherald.co.nz.

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