Business confidence tanks

29/09/2020

Business confidence has plummeted:

The New Zealand Herald’s  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.

These are bigger businesses and predominantly urban.

I doubt if farmers are any more confident given the fear and uncertainty around added costs and complexities that are being imposed on primary production.

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.

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.” . . 

You can read more about the Mood From the Boardroom at the NZ Herald here.

Confidence isn’t helped by the fact that Labour hasn’t released its fiscal plan:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Labour Party to immediately release their fiscal plan, so it can be subjected to the same scrutiny as the National Party’s fiscal plan.

Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke said: “The National plan was found to have a few holes after analysis by Labour and independent economists. The Nats admitted to one $4 billion mistake but denied another. It is healthy that major spending plans are put under intense investigation before an election.”

“That is why the Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to immediately release Labour’s own fiscal plan. She has told the nation that her numbers ‘stack up’. That clearly means their plan is finished, fact checked, and ready to go. There is no need to wait for a September Treasury data release to unveil the plan – the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU) was reported a little over a week ago. All the fiscal data is there.”

“Let people like Paul Goldsmith, David Seymour, Cameron Bagrie, and your humble Taxpayers’ Union check that Labour’s numbers really do stack up. Then, taxpayers can make an informed choice about who should manage our economy in a post-COVID recession.”

It’s not just a fiscal plan that hasn’t been released, Labour keeps telling us it has a plan for recovery but has given scant details.

Uncertainty is one of the bigger drags on business confidence.

That matters because businesses that lack confidence at best don’t invest and don’t hire more staff, at worst they retrench and make staff redundant.

That so much about Covid-19 and how it will impact the country and the world is uncertain, and to a large degree uncontrollable, makes it even more important that politicians are upfront about their plans and what they can control.


It’s up to business

29/07/2012

Anyone who has taken a modicum of interest in politics in the last four years should be in no doubt about the government’s economic plans.

They might not like it but they should understand it.

But a majority of respondents to the Herald’s mood of the boardroom survey say the government has failed to articulate its plan.

Just how much does a political party have to do to get its message across?

Almost every speech from Prime Minister John Key, Finance Minister Bill English, and any other minister who mentions the economy spell out the plan quite clearly.

Perhaps those who haven’t got the message should follow this advice:

Can’t understand why the Business leaders aren’t aware of the present National Governments long term PLANS. I have certainly had no trouble finding and understanding where National wishes to position NZ, such that the sons and daughters of not only Business Leaders, but all NZ’ers will have a future in NZ.This is a vastly different future to that which Parker is planning for when he rolls Shearer next year, a possibility, regardless of the recent labour conference change of rules.
The information is out there, if one looks; BUT you are unlikely to find it headlined in the written, or voice media. They are too Socialist.
Perhaps the Business Leaders should step out of the Cocktail circuit, and visit their local National Party office for a briefing; or if they wish have both, hold the Chardonnay glass in the left hand, and lookup the National website using the Right hand.

However, in spite of what respondents to the Herald survey said, a BusinessNZ survey show its members do understand, and support, what the government is doing:

BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly said the “standard response” that might otherwise be expected from business was that the Government should cut spending. But the results from his organisation’s survey were consistent with what members were telling him.

“They are supportive of this kind of track the Government’s taking. You don’t want to get so much austerity that you push the economy into recession – at the same time you don’t want them to just blast money everywhere in the hope of getting the economy moving faster because a lot of it will be low-quality spend.” . . .

O’Reilly said the SME Snapshot results largely reflected what business people told him every day. That included the widely held view among members that they generally supported the direction of the Government’s “relatively conservative economic reform programme”.

Building business competitiveness, reducing Government spending as a proportion of GDP, improving New Zealand’s international situation, and building innovation and skills were all regarded as important.

“There will be some in the business community that will have concerns about the pace and execution of government policy, but they broadly support it.

Regardless of what businesses know and understand about government’s plans, the good ones treat governments like the weather, enjoy it when it’s good and do all they can in spite of it when it’s not.

The businesses that get on with their businesses, concentrating on what they can control, are the ones with the best chance of success which will be good not just for them but for the wider economy.

This point is made by Liam Dann:

. . . In reality business knows that there is little point in looking to Government for any major new spending in the next few years.

So what next? Where does all this leave business in 2012? Where will the circuit breakers for this economic cycle come from?

We are going to need strong and innovative leadership from the business community to turn the tide. And we are going to have to see some of that dogged optimism translate into business spending.

Teasing the public out of its recessionary mindset will be a slow process but it is a chicken and egg scenario. Business can lead the way by being proactive and trying new things. It is never easy because there are many reasons why we can’t afford to do something. But if the alternative is slowing sinking in the mire of a stagnant economy – can we afford not to?

Governments come and governments go, so do recessions.

The global financial crisis one isn’t going anywhere fast and it will have an impact here.

But where there is crisis there is also opportunity and businesses which realise it’s up to them and do what they can about it will help turn the tide.


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