05 Apr 2022
We need to remove the letter ‘t’ from can’t and won’t to get New Zealand off the bottom of OECD productivity standings says National Road Carriers Chief Operating Officer James Smith.
Smith says Productivity Commission figures show New Zealand’s productivity has been falling since 1985 and is now among the lowest in the OECD, ranking alongside Turkey, Greece and Chile and well behind Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, the United States and Australia.
“Instead of telling people what they can do, we tell them what they can’t do – especially around the COVID pandemic. The rest of the world has switched to ‘can’, and New Zealand is losing ground fast.
“If you remove ‘t’ from won’t you get ‘won’. The difference between the New Zealand and Australian national psyche is that the Aussies focus on how good they are. You are in real trouble when you are constrained by fear.”
Smith says there are pockets of companies and industries in New Zealand that are doing very well because they refuse to be told what can’t be done.
“Mainfreight is an example of a company demonstrating what can be done. The video gaming development industry is another where we punch way above our weight.
“The Government needs to be sending a very clear signal that there should be a greater emphasis on productivity – Gross Domestic Product per capita.
“To use the words of Sir Peter Blake, we need to look at any national decision in terms of ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ If the answer is ‘No’, don’t do it. If the answer is ‘Yes’, then what is stopping us from doing it?”
Smith says one of the key missing enablers “to make the boat go faster” is migrant workers. Productivity Commission figures show migrant workers grew from under five per cent of the workforce in 2012 to nearly eight per cent in 2019, “but then the tap was turned off in 2020, when the COVID pandemic struck.
“The economy is going to stall if we don’t get more people. We need to make New Zealand more attractive for people to work here. We need the same amount of effort applied to the immigration pathway to enable people to come to New Zealand to work and gain citizenship as we do to promoting tourism.
“We live in a highly competitive global economy and New Zealand should be attractive to people who want to get further away from the world’s trouble spots.”
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