Mood of the Boardroom: CEOs call for English to sort housing shortage

By Graham Skellern

Bill English's performance still rates highly with CEOs. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Bill English's performance still rates highly with CEOs. Photo / Jason Oxenham

In the Herald's 2016 Mood of the Boardroom survey, CEOs were asked what Bill English's priority should be as Minister of Finance. Generally, they backed the minister's approach, but they singled out the housing shortage, infrastructure development and maintaining real economic growth as priority areas.

Three energy bosses said: "Sort out housing and the over-attractiveness of tying funds up in property"; "ensure a soft landing for housing"; and "tackle the issues around housing and the financial risk this may present."

A manufacturer wanted continued financial management with the express purpose of addressing housing supply and infrastructure development.

A recruitment boss said English's priority must be to resolve housing pressures and to focus on real economic growth.

A property chief suggested English should get active on tax policy to deal with housing unaffordability.

Another approach was to dampen house price inflation, a media chief said. "This [inflation] is putting pressure on business and social outcomes, and banks are now required to hold increased capital due to the risk of housing market correction.

"This cost is being passed on to business."

Don Brash, chairman of ICBC (NZ), said English should push his Cabinet colleagues to take the measures needed to deal with the challenges: housing affordability and very slow growth in per capita incomes.

A travel boss said a priority was maintaining real economic growth for the country, ideally in a broader sense than just from the rural economy.

An airport boss said English should be driving some big thinking on New Zealand's future, "redefining how we measure success as a country and getting the economic policy settings in the right shape".

English should also drive local and central government harder to encourage investment in infrastructure to support economic growth.

Mark Cairns of the Port of Tauranga said government expenditure should be managed and focused on what would produce the best gross domestic product-enhancing outcomes.

An electricity boss said English should continue to manage the economy the way he's doing. "The merging challenge will potentially be the need to move from monetary policy solutions to fiscal policy measures if we approach negative interest rates/deflation."

Strahan Wallis of Porter Novelli wanted English to set out long-term, positive, financial plans and ensure the country's debt is under control.

An investment banker wants more quality businesses to operate here and to ensure the taxation system is fair. "Remembering it is as much about setting the right environment and encouraging the right behaviours; and ensuring well-directed, efficient spending of taxpayer funds.

"Also, ensure regulation is right-sized and Commerce Commission is appropriately mandated and resourced. The same with the Overseas Investment Office which is still badly off the pace in many respects."

Rick Ede of the Unitec Institute of Technology said taxation and investment incentives should be reset to favour productive investment instead of property investment.

[Bill English] is the most impressive thinker on big policy issues in government and he needs to lead the conversation on where New Zealand wants to be in 30 years' time.

A sharebroker favoured passing future surpluses on to taxpayers through gradual tax threshold increases and rate reductions, alongside the election year temptation to spend money.

Simon Moutter of Spark NZ wanted English to "sort out the sustainable model for the tax base that better positions us in a world where value is fast migrating toward global digital business."

A printing chief said the tax burden should be reduced and more evenly spread. "Get on with an online transaction for GST on all goods imported. Nearly 100 per cent will be transacted by credit card and easy for the banks to collect GST.

"Start investment back into NZ Super and deal with the retirement age," he said.

A clothing manufacturer said funding education was the biggest investment "we can make for the future of the country. It is good to hear the use of big data is leading to effective targeting of funds, however there is too much loss of future resource potential [our children]."

A real estate boss outlined his priorities as major infrastructure support for Auckland, improved education and revitalised cadetships in the trades such as plumbing, building, electrical, and better health services.

Oliver Hartwich of The New Zealand Initiative said English should develop a comprehensive policy agency for reform.

"He is the most impressive thinker on big policy issues in government and he needs to lead the conversation on where New Zealand wants to be in 30 years' time."

- Fran O'Sullivan.

- NZ Herald

What are your thoughts? Tweet us @nzherald using the hashtag: #Boardroom2016

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