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10/8/2018 — General
Emperor’s clothes in Government business stance?

A radio commentator believes the Government and business are playing a high stakes game of chicken - the ultimate confidence game.

Guyon Espiner, co-host of Morning Report on Radio New Zealand, said business was saying move over, you're on the wrong side of the road. The Government is refusing to budge.

“This has been rumbling along for a few months but has only just got serious. Until now ministers have been dismissing business confidence surveys as just the big end of town saying they prefer the blue team to the red one,” he said.

Espiner said there was some truth to their allegations of political bias in these surveys and the strategy was sustainable up to a point. “But when business confidence drops from third highest in the OECD two+ years ago to second to bottom now, the radar should start bleeping.”

He said when the ANZ survey shows a lack of business confidence comparable to the GFC of 2008, then, “Wellington - we have a problem.”

Radio NZ said former ANZ economist Cameron Bagrie said the survey shows an economy “dangerously close to stalling.”

The Government can wish that away by saying it's the view of an economist who has himself expressed doubts about the validity of such surveys. But Treasury’s reports show there must be “at least a slight shiver up the collective spine of the Beehive.”

Espiner said there was now a mixed scorecard - labour income grew strongly and employment remained solid. But wallets were closing, with retail spending falling in the June quarter.

He said the most worrying line directly addressed was the confidence game that the Government wants to ignore.

“Weaker confidence, in conjunction with other data, highlight the risk that growth over the coming fiscal year may be weaker than forecast in the Budget,” Treasury said.

He said NZ First Cabinet Minister Shane Jones suggested on TVNZ's Q+A programme that upcoming changes to industrial relations law were a factor in business anxiety. He went on to hint that his party may challenge aspects of Labour's policy.

Source: radionz.co.nz

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