New Zealand has a proud heritage of export-led growth. For over 100 years, the world has beaten a path to our door to buy our protein and fibre. Superficially, this has been great for the nation. Export sales from our large companies grew by 40% in the four years to 2011. Yet in the last 50 years, New Zealand's OECD ranking has plummeted—from the top-5 to well into the bottom third of the list. The trouble is that our large exporters sell low margin commodities. They contribute little to the economy in real terms. And export growth in the rest of the market is languishing at less than 2%. Clearly, our smaller, aspirational companies aren’t getting the traction they need to grow.
How should we respond to this? Do we accept our place in the world? Or should we make the changes necessary to punch above our weight as we have done so well in the past? The late Sir Paul Callaghan was right when he argued that diversification into high-value, high-margin businesses is crucial to our economic future.
The question in my mind, having read the 2012 Budget summary and subsequent comments from MEA, interest.co.nz and others is this: “What role should the government play (if any), to kick start this reinvention of New Zealand’s economy?”
Thoughts on corporate purpose, strategy and governance; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.