Politically motivated surveys betray Business Confidence

Politically motivated surveys betray Business Confidence

Thakur Ranjit Singh
We have seen some famous scandals, red-herrings and gossips during our lifetime.
I will enumerate three such here.

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a media commentator and runs his blog, Fiji Pundit

The Millennium Bug
The first and perhaps the most notorious scandal and scare the world has seen was the ‘Y2K Bug’ or ‘Millennium Bug.’ We were told that the world would come to a standstill or it will go haywire at midnight on December 31, 1999.
The clock ticked into January 1, 2000, and there were no major problems.
What a load of scare-mongering!
Rock Star Economy
The second such nonsense and claptrap (promoted by Mike Hosking and his friends) has been John Key’s ‘Rock Star Economy.’
After he jumped ship prematurely, and National lost power, only then that we noted the garbage, trash and rottenness under those rocks with no sight of any stars.
The Labour government has been busy cleaning up years of neglect, under-funding in essential services, under-paying key (pun intended) people and lack of proper investment in infrastructure.
While this made National’s books look good with a showpiece of surplus, such carelessness and lack of judgement nevertheless left a country with a veneer of good economic management but underneath, rotten to the core.
Misunderstood concept
And this brings us to the third scandal, and that is business confidence, or lack of it.
This questionable measure has been given much oxygen by certain right-wing journalists in some mainstream media.
They still cannot fathom the concept of MMP and the fact that National Party is no longer in power now. Hence, they need to stop being cheerleaders of a Party in Opposition now.
As with the lack of acceptance of reality from sections of media about change in government, there appears to be a similar lack of approval from businesses.
Banker knows better
David McLean, Chief Executive of Westpac Bank seems to have a better appreciation of this fact than most other businesses which appear traumatised with departure of a government which fed them handsomely.
Mr McLean observed that this debate generated more heat than light, as irrespective of who is in government, there would be many challenges.
This is because economic growth has its peaks and troughs in cycles.
He advised the business community to get over the election result and get on with business.
Election result surprises
I believe that the headline business confidence number more accurately reflects business leaders’ surprise at the election result, than their underlying faith in New Zealand as a place to do business.
Many business leaders are optimistic about performance of their own business in future, hence this talk about imagery business confidence needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
This grain of salt tastes saltier once you decipher the link between this business confidence survey and those undertaking it.

ANZ Survey says business confidence is low (RNZ Picture)
ANZ Bank? Yes, ANZ Bank which is chaired Sir John Key.
He appears to be helping a hapless leader of National Party, Simon Bridges who is too engrossed in stopping a leak that has given Streisand effect a new meaning.
Jacinda Ardern explains

https://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018656944#

https://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018656944#

https://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018656944#

At a recent meeting with business leaders, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that she did not discount the credibility of those questionable results.

However, she argued that business expectations as projected by such surveys did not correlate with economic indicators and GDP performance.
Others in the community have raised alarm about the serious disconnect between negativity of such surveys and daily optimistic comments on the economy. These have been backed by strong company results reflected in Stock Exchange.
Political Prejudice
Many business commentators have supported this line of thinking. They say that such a sentiment is not based on anything concrete but is rather a reflection of the disappointment felt by business leaders at having to deal with a Labour-led government. This appears to be a matter of political prejudice rather than economic fact.
Letter-writer Russell Armitage of Hamilton summed up his worry and scepticism on Herald on Sunday (September 2, 2018):
“These surveys, undertaken by ANZ Bank, cover about 600 businesses of which 50% have less than 20 employees-thus small owner-operated enterprises whose owners would have deeply entrenched support for National Party. So, their views on a Labour Government are going to be biased from the outset. Business surveys reflect value judgments and government has been warned not be distracted by it lest those who voted it for change will be short-changed.”
Academic’s advice
Bryan Gould, former British Parliamentarian, former Vice Chancellor of Waikato University and now a newspaper columnist, has told the new government not to fear upsetting business. Otherwise we would continue to make mistakes we thought we got rid of by getting rid of the National Government. He reiterated:
“We now need a government willing to fund a safe environment, better and healthier housing, more effective schools, an end to child poverty, and a health system that looks after the most vulnerable.  Business can support or oppose such goals, but – like the rest of us – business will benefit when they are achieved and suffer if they are not.”
Rough weather
Singer Bob Dylan said, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.’” No weather can be tamed or accurately reported by computers. Best sunshine is judged by looking out the window when the weatherman predicts a cloudy day.
Similarly, the politicised views of selected CEOs will not determine economic outlook or performance which look a great deal more confident than those painted by the questionable surveys.
All you need to do is to look out the window.

Traffic gridlock in Auckland discourages people to travel (File Picture)

Motorways are congested, trucks leaving the wharf clog motorways, building industry is booming, concrete trucks crowd the roads, more and more flights are coming, we need to curb the number of visitors which are bursting tourism industry and infrastructure at seams, spending is greatest, stock exchange is  doing better, reduced dollar is good news for exporters, shopping malls are crowded at all hours of the day, takeaway shops, eateries and hospitality industry are overflowing, we are running short of hotels, and so much more is happening.
Reality differs
And there are so many realities you see out the window that reveals that ANZ business survey in reality is a forty-foot container load of hogwash and bull, tracking on a gridlocked Southern Motorway.
Consumer confidence and spending is up, house prices still going up. We still have low inflation and low unemployment. We have strong export prices, including in agriculture and forestry, with government spending on the increase, with growth of public sector.
As you do not need a weatherman to tell you the wind direction, similarly you do not need a survey to tell you how we are progressing – all you need to do is look out the window.
And that forty-footer contained with ANZ Survey scandal still chugs forward on a congested motorway.
In fact the view out of window of that clogged motorway is a better barometer of the country’s business confidence than some politically tainted subjective survey.

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