Steven Joyce (Minister for Economic Development etc.) had an interesting piece in The Herald on Tuesday:
Steven Joyce: Each time we say ‘you can’t’ it carries a cost
Most of us agree that for New Zealand to be successful longer term, we need more and higher-paying jobs. Jobs provide the incomes that people use to help their families get ahead. Jobs give people the income to pay taxes for the health and education services we value, and well-paying jobs are what keep more of our people making their lives in this country – and that keeps families together.
The Nat’s record on all these fronts is much more “can’t” than “can” – see Zetetic’s post yesterday.
So we largely agree on the what and the why, but often the consensus unravels a bit when we get to the how. This is a little surprising because in fact the how is not that hard.
Not that hard? So why haven’t National managed it? Where is the “aggressive recovery”? Why aren’t we “roaring out of recession”?
…businesses depend on six key things: ideas and innovation to create the business (entrepreneurs and ideas people); money to build the business (capital); access to raw materials (resources); skilled people to work in the business; the public infrastructure which the business depends on (power, broadband, transport) and, most importantly, customers who want to buy the product.
Missing from the list is the environment. Without a healthy environment There Is No Economy. Also far too narrow in scope on this list is “skilled people”. People need to be more than “skilled”, they need to be members of a healthy and productive society.
We need an environment that is encouraging to entrepreneurs and ideas people. … That doesn’t mean handouts. It just means removing more of the roadblocks that stop people from doing things. And that’s when the problems start to arrive. The people who say “we want jobs” but then in the next breath say “but you can’t do that … you can’t build that there … you can’t expand that … you can’t explore for that there … you can’t live here … you can’t invest in property here – you just can’t do that!” And very quickly we start limiting our options.
Of course Joyce doesn’t actually doesn’t disagree with limiting options at all…
That doesn’t mean you don’t take care. Big developments need to have the right environmental protections and mitigations, industry needs good health and safety law, and foreign investment should be sought where it adds value
… So what he’s doing in this piece is trying to weaken such protections, to frame those who promote and enforce them as mindlessly negative, eternal nay-sayers who are holding the country back. It’s part of the Nats’ campaign to ram through privatisation, mining on conservation land, deep sea drilling and the like.
Through the 2000s, as a country, we progressively boxed ourselves in more and more to depend on fewer and fewer industries based on what the “can’ts” said. At the end of it the government of the day was pretty much down to talking only about two of the ingredients – skills training and subsidising entrepreneurs that don’t use resources (the so-called clean-tech sector) – as the bits the “can’ts” were most comfortable with. The rest was off the table.
Some things, such as mining in Section 4 conservation land, were indeed off the table (as the public recently reminded the Nats they should be!). That doesn’t mean that all other doors were closed, or that the government shouldn’t be focusing on the areas where its support could be the most effective. And if Joyce actually knew anything about what he calls the “so-called” clean-tech sector he would not be so dismissive. Let’s take a quick sidebar from Joyce’s ramblings to the real world:
A clean bill of wealth
The world economy may be creaking, but one sector – cleantech – is booming.
Should New Zealand somehow claim even a trifling 0.9 per cent of this green gold rush, we could see our average income climb by 82 per cent over the next decade or so – not only bridging the salary gap to Australia, but leaping beyond our West Island cousins.
In fact, only the pharmaceutical industry is bigger now than cleantech, worth $800b of new-spend in Europe this year alone. Whether you believe the earth is getting warmer matters not – cleantech (any product or service that’s more efficient and reduces the environmental impact, but often referring to energy and fuels) is big business.
And cleantech advocates say New Zealand has the natural advantages to become a world leader: we already do renewable energy (79 per cent of electricity), meaning we are less tied to increasingly scarce fossil fuels, we export, we have free trade with China, no lack of water, lots of wind, an innovative mindset. And they argue that if we don’t move quickly to exploit those advantages, the damage particularly to our lucrative clean, green brand will be ruinous.
Sounds like the last government was doing exactly the right thing eh? Joyce goes on a bit further, but it’s more of the same:
The reality is you don’t build an economy by lopping off an arm and both legs before you start. A small country like New Zealand has to make the best of all its natural advantages to lift incomes and give more people more chances to make it while staying right here.
All in all a transparent attempt to soften us up for mining and the like from a government without the imagination to see beyond slash-and-burn, and short term consumption.
So, note to Steven Joyce and the Nats. Your austerity programs are the real nay-saying that is holding back the economy. Your economic record is a shocker compared to that of your predecessors. You don’t create wealth by pushing an industry that destroys the environment with low return to NZ (mining) at the cost of a sustainable and highly profitable industry (tourism). And it isn’t “so-called” clean-tech, it’s clean-tech, and it’s the way forward.