Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is determined to change business’ perception of the Government and is paying close attention to confidence surveys.
By the two main measures – ANZ’s Business Confidence survey and NZIER’s Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion – firms’ optimism has fallen and stayed low since last year’s election.
Speaking to BusinessNZ’s pre-Budget lunch on Thursday, Ardern said she has been known to speak openly about these surveys.
“It’s the elephant in the room and I’m quite happy to point that out.”
In February, speaking at a Westpac breakfast, she used the same phrase.
“I haven’t quite got rid of the elephant in the room yet – so that’s still what it is,” she told media after her speech when asked about the analogy.
In her pre-Budget speech, she suggested the low figures stem from assumptions that Labour-led Government’s aren’t good at managing the books.
“The perceptions you have determine your actions – whether you invest, whether you export, whether you take risks. It can also determine how you feel about all those things.
“Whether or not our perceptions are accurate is another question. Our perceptions are often influenced by our beliefs in general, or our assumptions.”
She says the Helen Clark-led Government faced the exact same issue when it was first elected, “despite producing good economic results.”
And it’s the strength of the economy that Ardern is looking to promote to businesses in an effort to change perceptions, she says.
“I know the perceptions we face, but I will always focus on improving New Zealand’s reality with the goal that perception will then reflect that.”
She cited the IMF’s recent visit to New Zealand, where it gave the economy and the Government top marks, as well as Moody’s and S&P’s positive outlook for the country as examples that New Zealand is on the right path.
She also referenced the Budget Responsibility rules and the forecast surplus as reasons businesses can “be confident in this Government.”
But National’s Economic and Regional Development Spokesman Paul Goldsmith says the Government’s policies are still the issues for many businesses.
“Business confidence is low because businesses are worried about all the uncertainty around what the Government is doing, particularly around industrial relations and the way they’re spending their money and the poor quality of that spending.”