EDITOR’S LETTER A Matter of State

When is growth not good news? When it relates to the size of the nation’s state sector and it’s election year. Back at the start of this year, Treasury revealed in report to Cabinet that the state sector wage and salary bill had been expanding by eight percent year. Totted up all together, state sector staff now number around 190,000. That’s around 13 percent of all the nation’s employees and is 14 percent more than six years ago.
Or put it into perspective another way. If you added up all the people working for Fonterra, Telecom, Fletcher Building, Carter Holt Harvey, Air New Zealand, The Warehouse, NZ Post, Spotless Services (around 9000 employees at last count), Restaurant Brands and McDonald’s, you’d still only be talking about some 94,000 employees.
No surprise then, that the management, effectiveness and function of the state sector is sharpening up as an election issue. As writer Colin James notes in this month’s cover story, “the National side sees the state as at best necessary evil and unproductive. The Labour side sees it as an instrument for improving society and revving the economy.” National “reckons there is fat to be trimmed and rendered down into tax cuts”. Labour argues National’s trimming will “cut flesh and so hurt middle New Zealand”.
Whichever way the election falls, as James points out in his article starting on page 26 of this issue, the role and management of the state sector will remain vital issue for government. So too will issues surrounding the growing sustainability debate. Last year, research by the Growth and Innovation Advisory Board found that New Zealanders not only value quality of life and quality of the environment ahead of economic growth but they don’t see link between the goals.
The point is close to the heart of Peter Neilson who in new column on page 21 of this issue presents his pre-election environmental wishlist. Neilson, chief executive of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, is the first of series of writers scheduled to share their viewpoints in our new bimonthly column on sustainability. We expect some lively debate.
Finally, for another dollop of diversity turn to this month’s issue of Management Woman where editor Vicki Jayne is celebrating difference in the workplace through fascinating series of interviews with high-achieving business women from diverse backgrounds. Just flip the pages and get reading.

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