Slogan not reassuring
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] . . .’’
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.