In the wake of the ’quake, a time to be bold

The Christchurch earthquake is certainly not over, not while the city rebuilds. And the bill, at a meeting I had with some other luminaries last Thursday, is estimated to be in excess of the NZ$20,000 million that the New Zealand Government predicts.
   So, other than juggling the funds, what does the Government intend to do?
   Because for the last decade or so, I cannot see anything from either major party that has fundamentally encouraged the New Zealand entrepreneur to build an international enterprise, nor can I see anything that shows me that the government of the day understands that we face an ever widening gap between rich and poor as foreign-owned companies’ profits go offshore.
   Yet if both major parties are so intent on the idea of global trade and this so-called level playing field, then why has New Zealand always buried under it? It’s not level when our best firms become subsidiaries of foreign corporations, and our innovation makes our innovators very little money.
   A truly level playing field would have seen more Kiwi companies acquire overseas ones—and I don’t mean solely in the dairy sector. Only then can the free-trade pundits claim success in raising real GDP and standard of living for New Zealanders.
   If the bill runs into the NZ$60,000 million region that we bandied about, then those funds have got to come from somewhere. Selling more of the family silver or shifting money around a limited pool aren’t going to cut it. We know this from the post-1984 experience.
   While the world has a demand for intellectual capital, and products and services that are based around the sort of innovation that New Zealanders are well poised to deliver, it’s still astonishing that this sector contributes under 10 per cent to our GDP. It should be doing twice that.
   It should have been grown a long time ago, certainly since the late 1990s when I had begun banging on about it.
   I certainly wasn’t the first, not by a long shot.
   Any effort like this must be coordinated, as any venture: both private and public sectors need to be geared to this reality. But the Government acts as though it doesn’t matter if we keep slipping behind, or if we get locked in to industries as a result of TPPA.
   Singapore might not be perfect politically—as Mr Brown’s blog details—but there is much to admire about its willingness to embrace intellectual capital as a means of economic growth.
   The negative growth we have had over the last few years—and Labour’s complacency during the good years before that—is going to lead to a credit crisis in the future, no matter what the credit-rating agencies say. The earthquake as only hastened this date.
   It’s not unbridled growth I’m talking about here. I am referring to us getting our fair share of the pie rather than ‘make the pie higher’, with the independent thinking I have seen New Zealanders being capable of, time and time again.
   When I was asked on Thursday what I expected to see, I answered: (a) strong New Zealand-owned businesses that are globally oriented; (b) cooperation between public and private sectors on innovation; (c) a real understanding of a level playing field—which does not mean furthering the technocratic agenda, which, ultimately, decreases the potential tax take any government could have to fund social services.
   It’s a long-term plan, and for me, Wellington could have served as a microcosm of what is possible.
   Under Mayor Wade-Brown, it still can, and she has certainly stated on a few occasions that she has a desire to see the tech sector grow in this city. It’s a start.
   And now is not a bad time to start on this course, because Christchurch is going to take us years to rebuild and to pay for.
   If only we had vision on the national stage. Now is, Prime Minister, the right time to be bold, and work for the interests of New Zealand once more.

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2 thoughts on “In the wake of the ’quake, a time to be bold

  1. maybe, cause i had a through while reading your blogg, maybe people are somewhat unclear with some of this weird terminology that is bandied about in the press and by the government actually means. those terms are intellectual and technology.. that’s computers and stuff right?

    lets take technology, and its variations, this word is, as a general rule interpreted to mean IT computery programming stuff that the average kiwi knows next to nothing about. this is not to say that they don’t have computers and know how to use those, it is rather to point out that the average kiwi doesn’t know how to programme their computer or even how the inside of their computer works or looks. the word to notice here is computer… because i am quite sure that technology and high tec and other similar phrases actually has a much broader meaning than just computers and stuff

    now on to intellectual and intellectual capital, this for me brings up images of universities and dudes with huge beards and the odd child genius who have huge brains and are ‘intelletual’ thus much have huge amounts of intellectual capital, which is beyond the average plumber to comprehend cause the average plumber didn’t go to university…

    now i draw you attention to the plumber word, this is a dude or dudette, who is in the trades, these trades are important, but so often are not associated with either of the words intellectual or technology, because the average kiwi equates those words with the afore mentioned computery and computer programming thus out of their reach.. but alas i suspect that they are wrong.

    you see while plumbing or building or electrical work is seen as, to put it bluntly, the dumber end of the intelligence scale’s, choice of work, which is quite frankly wrong, this idea becomes insidious and thus those who are trades people also do not believe that they have anything to offer the intellectual capital pool. Still with me?

    But again that general consensus is wrong, oh so wrong. You see given the way the world is currently going in a physical kinda living way, with the global warming, there is less water, more pollution, less diversity, bad weather and the devastating natural disasters, etc etc. these trades people need to know that those weird ways of saving water, power and building houses that they have been thinking about in their spear time are actually the intellectual capital and the intellectually technology that New Zealand actually wants.. and that these thoughts could not only benifit a New Zealand market but also an international one to.

    kiwi’s are famed for their innovation, their No8 fencing wire inventions and their advancement of “normal” everyday things such as building, plumbing etc etc, so because the terminology used by the government has created a bias towards Intellectual, and Technology meaning “computers” and because the general consensus is that people only become trades people because they were not intelligent enough to go to university, there is in essence, a whole group of people out there who have the nouse and the knowledge, not to mention the intellectual technology to add to this intellectual capital that new Zealand needs, unfortunately the wrong words are being used, thus it is not happening.

    err.. sorry that got a bit long.. *sheepish grin*..

  2. Polly, what you say makes a lot of sense.
       When I use the words intellectual capital, I don’t mean solely computers. I mean anything that’s worth considering, whether it’s a new idea to flush a toilet (to borrow your plumbing example) or a design for a tank to save water.
       New Zealand had advantages in so many things, whether it was in hybrid cars (remember the dual fuel vehicles of the 1970s and 1980s that were commonplace here?) on the bigger end, or some of the biological stuff that goes on with kiwifruit growing. These things are ideas that can be protected.
       What we lack is the nous to scale them on a global level. We do all right with the primary products (agriculture) but on the other things—things which you expect a modern, western country to have and compete in, such as technology—we don’t.
       But if we consider the trades, I believe New Zealand still has the ideas, if only we had a system that was geared to promote them on a worldwide level.
       A lot of this has to start at home, to get our nation up to a level of excellence together, rather than having these great things pop up in isolated fashion. I had hoped that as mayor, I could have coordinated at least some of these at a civic level. I’m sure this is not lost on Mayor Wade-Brown.
       Our next advantage is the fierce loyalty we Kiwis have, and with the networks we have built around the world with our diaspora, we may find that the talent is in place to take a lot of these ideas global. Again, it needs vision and leadership, to send a signal that this is our national direction.
       It’s not impossible. Singapore is hardly a big country in terms of numbers, yet they show (using policies not unlike the ones we used to have) that it can be done. We need to combine where we are with what we do best, and we need the right lever.

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