Businesses have echoed Labour's criticism that the Government lacks a blueprint to develop the economy.

Party leaders and their finance spokesmen yesterday fronted up to lobby group Business NZ's election conference to outline their economic vision.

Business NZ also released the results of its election survey of more than 1300 small to large businesses. While almost all believed it was important for the government to have a co-ordinated plan of action that raised economic performance, little more than a third thought John Key's Government had one.

Deloitte chief executive Murray Jack said the finding was "disturbing" and the plan Mr Key had earlier in the day confidently spoken to the conference about "was obviously news to most people in this room".


For months Labour has attacked what it says is National's lack of a coherent economic plan and addressing the conference yesterday, Labour finance spokesman David Cunliffe said voters and businesses had the choice of two prescriptions.

"One is to muddle through the current morass of recession and growing long term debt ... the other is the courage to put together a programme that will actually make the books balance over the long term and address the fundamental drivers of the problem that are clear for all to see - a low savings rate, an under-diversified export sector and a long term fiscal crunch that's driven by escalating health and superannuation costs."

Mr Cunliffe said Labour's plan for a capital gains tax, to make KiwiSaver compulsory, and to lift the NZ Super entitlement age to 67 were "the bones of a real economic plan".

Finance Minister Bill English dismissed those policies as "just an effort by the Labour party to show that they can somehow in the future, in 15 years' time claw back the cost of many billions of promises and extra debt they'll run up in the next three or four years".

Mr English said that since coming to power the National Government had moved to rebalance the directing of resources and capital from the domestically focused economy into the export sector. It had built a platform for higher growth in the future with investment in infrastructure, by working to get the Government's books back into surplus sooner and by "getting tax and welfare incentives right".

"I know it sounds a bit boring and some people in business don't call it a plan but that's what we have to do."

Business NZ's survey also showed strong support - 80 per cent of respondents - for the Government to "be clearly signalling options and timeframes for changing eligibility for NZ Superannuation".

Earlier, Mr Key told the conference that he believed keeping the eligibility age for NZ Super at 65 was sustainable if the Government stuck to its economic plan. But following his address to the conference, Labour leader Phil Goff said that New Zealanders understood there was a looming problem.


By choosing not to deal with the issue while he was prime minister, Mr Key was allowing the problem to get much worse, "and leaving it for someone else to fix".