Economic development is set around a series of actions, it’s not around any one change and no single industry can “save” the country, economic development minister Steven Joyce says.
“You can’t overnight make an economy way more competitive than it was before, just because you say that it should happen that way. We need to stop the endless debate about which industry will save us and focus on all the industries where we have a competitive or natural advantage,” he told the Wellington-based trans-Tasman business circle.
Mr Joyce outlined six key areas government is set to focus on over the next three years, aimed at helping companies grow to build a more productive and competitive economy.
These areas include capital markets, innovation and ideas, skilled and safe workplaces, natural resources, infrastructure and export markets.
“Government is very serious about business and we want to do everything we can to ensure we are well placed in the country to grasp our opportunities and frankly withstand the global challenges, which is why we set out a pretty clear economic plan for this term,” Mr Joyce says, adding that over the last three years New Zealand has had to withstand a number of challenges, including the aftermath of the collapse of some of the country’s largest financial companies.
“This doesn’t often make it onto the list, but I think it is substantial from an economic perspective,” he says.
He says in order for there to be more and better jobs for New Zealanders, government would need to encourage more businesses to be based in the country.
“To do that, the government is focused on making it easier for businesses to access the six key areas, including capital, raw materials and skills they need in order to grow. Nothing creates sustainable jobs and boosts our standard of living better than business confidence and growth,” he said.
Mr Joyce is expected to travel around the country visiting all regional businesses, councils, tertiary institutions and economic development agencies. His meeting with the trans-Tasman business circle was the first of these visits.
“I am doing that for a very important reason, because I think there are some very good opportunities to work across all sectors and lift our economic performance. I will be going there to hear what their challenges and opportunities for growth are,” he says, adding that it was government’s responsibility to “remove” blockages that may hinder business growth.
He added that it was important to leverage connections between the business, science and tertiary sectors.
Commenting on the international arena, Mr Joyce highlighted the importance of trade with China and Australia for the New Zealand economy. Currently 13 percent of New Zealand’s exports go to China and these exports grew by $1 billion last year. He said that looking at current growth, by 2020, China would be New Zealand’s biggest export market.
He said Australia was still New Zealand’s biggest export market, with a quarter of the country’s exports going there.
“Australia has challenges too, but good challenges, they are one of the fastest growing economies in the world right now in terms of the developed OECD economies,” Mr Joyce said.
Finance minister Bill English and Mr Joyce are expected to co-ordinate informal groups of ministers in each of the policy areas to drive the growth plan forward and to deliver on the Government’s 120-point action plan announced before the election.
New polices are expected to be added to each of these areas over the next three years and starting from June and the Government will be producing progress reports on each of the six areas to give “greater visibility” to the Government’s actions and progress.
The economic development ministry is also expected to produce a report this year on the GDP contribution of each major industry.