14 Aug 2018

Government has never lost focus on the economy - Ardern

8:56 am on 14 August 2018

The government has never lost focus on the economy and is listening to businesses to raise confidence levels, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the RNZ Auckland studio for Morning Report. 30 October 2017.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Business confidence has fallen since the Labour-led government came into office last year.

It has slumped to a 10-year low with a net 45 percent of firms expecting the economy will deteriorate over the next year.

The New Zealand dollar has also tumbled to the lowest point in more than two years, falling nearly 2 percent to US$0.6613 its lowest level since March 2016.

The Treasury has warned a slump in business confidence and a cooling housing market could hurt government finances.

Ms Ardern said there is no doubt she needs to address low confidence and will do so by listening to the business sector and the concerns they have.

"I am absolutely happy to be held to account, as we should as politicians."

Ms Ardern said she meets regularly with Business New Zealand, and is focused on encouraging investment in innovation and working towards an export-led recovery as well as a skilled workforce.

She also met with EU representatives on trade negotiations last week. "Those are the ways that we make sure we strengthen that economy, we've never lost our focus on that," she said.

Ms Ardern's approach to the economy has been criticised by both National leader Simon Bridges and ACT leader David Seymour.

Mr Bridges told Morning Report yesterday that Jacinda Ardern had done nothing to boost falling business confidence.

"I could not be more critical of her last week. She had a number of issues that she put forward ... but were distractions from what as leader of New Zealand she should have had sole focus on ..., that was business confidence plummeting and an economy that is going downwards."

National Party leader Simon Bridges fields media questions before heading into the House.

National Party leader Simon Bridges fields media questions before heading into the House. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Mr Seymour told Morning Report yesterday that any other country leader would have been closely scrutinised for their approach to policy.

"Ardern on the other hand says things like 'I designed this policy on my friend's living room floor' and you think 'isn't that lovely' and then you think, wait a minute, she's the Prime Minister.

"If someone like Donald Trump or George Bush for instance was to say that they were sitting on the floor designing policy, they'd be roundly panned."

But Ms Ardern said a change in government means business is operating in a different environment.

"We have different goals from the last government, we are not content to continue to have an economy built on housing speculation and on migration, it's not enough, we need a resilient economy, one that actually means that people, working people, are also benefiting, and I make no apologies for moving towards that," she said.

"I do hear from business that they want to hear more about that agenda and I accept that challenge."

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