Slo­gan not re­as­sur­ing

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Gov­ern­ment is on their side – and is not go­ing prey on them, or steal their wal­lets.

On Bud­get Day last month, much was made of the le­gions of mum and dad in­vestors who would ap­par­ently en­joy pride of place when it came to op­tions on newly pri­va­tised state as­sets.

Leave aside that those same mums and dads al­ready own the en­ergy com­pany as­sets be­ing read­ied for the auc­tion block.

As for Air New Zealand, tax­pay­ers have al­ready bought our na­tional air­line twice.

Re­gard­less, the pri­vati­sa­tions have been pack­aged as a rare in­vest­ment op­por­tu­nity.

That par­tic­u­lar vi­sion seems to be un­rav­el­ling in al­most record time.

Last week, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill English was warn­ing the same mums and dads that if they didn’t in­vest as planned, there were plenty of Asian in­vestors likely to be more than will­ing.

He told a Waikato busi­ness au­di­ence:

‘‘We are say­ing that New Zealan­ders are at the front of the queue, but if not enough of them show up, it won’t be 49 per cent [ be­ing held by for­eign­ers] . . .’’

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously,

Trea­sury acting sec­re­tary Gabriel Makhlouf called for New Zealand to be more open to for­eign cash, and to ei­ther scrap its cur­rent reg­u­la­tory screen­ing of for­eign in­vest­ment en­tirely, or keep it at a min­i­mum.

In­ter­est­ingly, the Bud­get small print ( page 23 of the in­vest­ment state­ment sup­ple­ment) set out sev­eral ways the Gov­ern­ment could en­sure New Zealan­ders would be kept at the front of the queue – up to and in­clud­ing hard own­er­ship re­stric­tions and quo­tas on for­eign own­er­ship.

How­ever, the Bud­get doc­u­ment noted:

‘‘No fi­nal de­ci­sions will be taken on the pre­cise ar­range­ments that will ap­ply un­til the re­sults of de­tailed scop­ing stud­ies have been con­sid­ered.’’

Ev­i­dently, a key plank in this year’s elec­tion cam­paign – and a source of the $5 bil­lion to $7b bounty on which one third of so­cial spend­ing un­til 2016 will be based – is re­ly­ing on op­tions for which the scop­ing stud­ies haven’t even been com­pleted.

Clearly, the role of the muchcel­e­brated ‘‘ mum and dad in­vestors’’ is still a work in progress.

As with most po­lit­i­cal slo­gans, the term seems to con­ceal as much as it con­veys.

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