New Zealand has a lot going for it. The world wants our goods and our terms of trade, the prices that we are getting for our exports, are still at very high levels.
Our economy had gathered enormous momentum since the Global Financial Crisis and (Prime Minister) Jacinda Ardern’s government inherited huge surpluses at a time of very low-interest rates. We should be doing well.
Instead, we have got growth per person slumped to near zero and business confidence has collapsed.
Tight labour market
The labour market currently remains tight, but the worrying signal is that the country’s jobs creation machine is sputtering.
We are generating barely a third of the new jobs that we had been creating in 2016-2017.
Rapidly slowing job creation figures point to a lack of investment.
Sooner or later it will mean fewer opportunities for Kiwis to get ahead.
This is exactly what we expect when confidence has evaporated.
Jacinda Ardern, (Finance Minister) Grant Robertson and (Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister) Winston Peters will keep blaming President (Donald) Trump, Brexit, China and the other ‘global headwinds’ for the slow down, but they need to look in the mirror.
This government has been irredeemably complacent about the sources of growth and is undermining several of them.
We know all the industries this government doesn’t like – oil & gas, mining, dairy, international education, banking – but what do they like?
The current Government have been slack, confused, and lazy in their spending choices.
The hundreds of millions on free tertiary fees, for fewer students, is the classic example; as is the Provincial Growth Fund, at a cost of nearly half a million dollars for every full-time job created.
They have driven down business confidence by adding costs, creating massive uncertainty and by demonstrating incompetence, most famously with KiwiBuild.
In the so-called ‘Year of Delivery’ nothing has been delivered. On transport in Auckland, where congestion blights our lives, they’ve cancelled several major projects that were ready to go and replaced them with projects, such as the slow tram down Dominion Road, that make little sense and are still years away from starting.
Their only policy on transport seems to be to slow us down.
And while the Prime Minister is known for her empathy, she has zero empathy for the 500,000 small business owners, who struggle each week against rising costs and regulations.
A National government would restore confidence and revive our economy, by making it easier for businesses, large and small, to get on with it and by being disciplined and effective in government.
We will spend carefully and demand specific results from that spending.
We will have a clearly articulated plan for growth.
We will concentrate on reducing costs by being more disciplined about regulation – recognising that we were not perfect in Government in that area – by taxing people less and by tackling the cost of new housing head on.
We will provide more certainty and predictability in the way we govern so that investors feel confident to take their hands out of their pockets and start putting their money to work, to start new businesses, take on more staff and take a chance.
What’s the goal? To deliver a strong economy and world-class public services that enable Kiwis to look after themselves and their families, to find satisfying work, and to lead full lives.
New Zealand should still being doing well.
We should still be creating 10,000 new jobs a month.
We have got a lot going us – we just need a government that can get the settings right and inspire some confidence.
Paul Goldsmith is Member of Parliament on National List based in Epsom, Auckland and the Party’s Finance Spokesperson.