COMMENT:

In the simplest of terms New Zealand needs a growing economy because that means more jobs, higher incomes and more revenue to pay for the things we need.

The Government has a key role to play in delivering sensible, consistent economic policies that give businesses the confidence to invest, to take on more workers and expand. It should deliver new infrastructure, support investment, encourage exports and help grow skills - because that's how opportunities are created.

Responsible oversight of the economy requires acknowledgment that all its parts are interconnected. Successful businesses aren't a means in themselves – they lead to successful, vibrant communities.

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Uncertainty has the opposite effect. It stifles investment and adds to risk - whether you're buying the family home or hiring workers for your business. But business confidence surveys suggest this coalition Government is now one of the biggest sources of uncertainty.

Grant Robertson defended the Government's policies last week with the lofty claim that the coalition is "helping business modernise our economy to be fit for purpose for the 21st century." So far, the only policies to emerge will have the opposite effect and be bad for business.

Robertson's column in this publication was full of empty words devoid of any real plan. It is a stark contrast to National's proven track record of showing it knows how to support a growing economy.

The Government have dismissed plunging business confidence with a wave of the hand, while increasing taxes and allocating billions of dollars to low-quality spending. They have sent a message to global capital markets that New Zealand is closed for business and headed down a road to 1970s style wage bargaining.

Instead of high-quality decision-making, this Government has kicked many issues for touch, with a record number of new reviews and committees. Much of the core Government agenda has been farmed out to working groups.

And it has become commonplace to hear stakeholders as diverse as Iwi leaders and the minerals industry saying "We weren't consulted." Business leaders are finding it hard to get an appointment in the Beehive these days.

The result? Economic growth is faltering, jobs growth has plummeted, the cost of living is rising and business owners are being forced to make decisions in a climate of uncertainty about Government policies that pose far-reaching risks for them, their workers and the wider community.

Measures of actual business activity have weakened, including employment and manufacturing production.

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We've heard a lot of talk about a transition to a new economy, a journey Robertson says will include "bumps in the road." That's a euphemism for loss of value, loss of jobs and loss of investment. It's code for increased costs and constraints on economic growth.

The Government says we've had the wrong sort of growth - a growing population putting pressure on housing. It is worth remembering that many of our smaller business owners must pledge their own home for a business loan. They literally put it all on the line and they're a hidden casualty when house prices fall.

This week Robertson added a third 'bad' driver of growth – the export of raw materials. The naivety of that statement suggests a government out of touch. Of course we want to add value and innovate but let's not dismiss New Zealand's biggest exports out of hand.

Effective government means more than a conveyor belt of feel-good messaging. The Government seems to assume growth just happens on its own but the reality is growth is driven by hardworking New Zealanders who choose to take a risk and invest their time and money.

National wants New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn. Higher taxes and a rising cost of living do nothing to help families.

We need to be pro-growth as that is the only way we can improve our standard of living.

Gains are hard won and easily lost. Under National, New Zealand closed the wage gap with Australia by $50 per week after tax and saw net migration swing from a 30,000-a-year outflow to a net inflow.

But so far in 2018, we've reverted to a net outflow to Australia. Business confidence is at its lowest levels since the Global Financial Crisis.

National's economic policies are aimed at ensuring everyone has the opportunity to get ahead. The alternative will see us sliding backwards.

- Amy Adams is National's finance spokesperson.
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