The New Zealand economy is in a much better shape than it was in November 2008, when National formed the government, Prime Minister John Key said.
“But we have a number of challenges, the most serious among which are getting those on benefit to work, development of skills and lifting education standards,” he said, speaking to the members of the National Party in New Lynn at a luncheon meeting held at the Titirangi Golf Club on February 14.
Mr Key said that the performance of New Zealand also depended on the US and European economies.
“The US has a whopping US$ 16.5 trillion debt, which is running at a very high percentage of the country’s GDP. Although its corporate sector is strong, companies are not rushing to employ people. Unemployment remains high, he said.
Mr Key said that Europe posed another major challenge to the world economy.
Most countries in the Euro Zone, except Germany, are in trouble, he added.
Future is Asia
“But Asia is emerging stronger, driven by China. The world’s most populated country is addressing poverty and there are millions of people moving to the middle class,” Mr Key said and described the progress achieved by China as ‘unbelievable.’
Hailing the growing economic ties with China, he said that two-way trade had reached $15 billion and is expected to rise to $20 billion by 2020.
He said that Indonesia is another growing market for New Zealand.
“With about 250 million people, this is also an important economy, expected to grow to US$ 9 trillion by 2030,” he said.
Mr Key cited New Zealand’s remote location as a limiting factor to growth.
“We are the last bus stop on the planet, our population is small and we are a minor player in the world market. But we produce what the world wants,” he said.
According to Mr Key, the country’s progress depended on a number of internal factors, including achieving national standards in education and increasing employability of ordinary New Zealanders.
“Our worry is to ensure that growing children become productive citizens. We are spending billions of dollars on their education and wellbeing. The government is working hard to improve the standard of living of our people,” he said.
Mr Key said that welfare reform was central to any progress towards the lifting of living standards and increasing employment opportunities.
“When we say that New Zealand has 240,000 people living under poverty, we do not mean that they are like poor people in other countries. But this situation is unacceptable. We must help our poor people by getting them to the workforce. We must ensure that they have proper education and appropriate skills,” he said.
He hoped that the Single Apprenticeship programme that he announced in his address to the North Harbour Club in Auckland on January 25 (Indian Newslink, February 15, 2013) would encourage people (especially Maori) in the 18-24 age group on a benefit to acquire appropriate skills and expertise to work.
Advocating the concept of Charter Schools, he said that New Zealanders would benefit from well-managed institutions.
He paid tributes to Mr Groser (who was away in the South Pacific attending meetings), stating that he was ‘a great minister.’
Speaking about his nomination to the post of Secretary General of the Geneva based World Trade Oraganisation (WTO), Mr Key said that he wished his colleague well.
“There are many contenders to the post. It is a tough race and political factors will influence the selection process,” he said.
He said the general election in 2014 would be tough but National was confident of returning for the third term.
More than 150 guests including the New Lynn and Rose Bank business community attended the event, which coincided with Valentine Day.
New Lynn Electoral Chair Craig Shearer and Northern Region Deputy Chair Mark Bridges were among those who attended the luncheon.
The picture here shows John Key with (from left) Pacific Coordinator Eric Wichman-Ngau, Executive Member of the New Lynn Local Electoral Committee, Events Coordinator Anthony Hope-Cross, Executive Committee Member Clive Littin and Membership Coordinator Raja Venkatesh.