As I See It: Max Harris

What are New Zealand’s major challenges for 2012?
I’m no economist and as 23-year-old I still have much to learn. But my tentative view is that in 2012 we mustn’t allow scepticism about economic trends in Europe and America, or other distractions, to take our eyes off the imperative to address some deep economic weaknesses: our neglect of entrepreneurship, our failure to focus on strengthening management skills, our low rates of internationalisation amongst businesses and our need to improve our export profile. We need to front up to these weaknesses, in an inclusive and socially minded way – with four million pairs of hands.

How well prepared are Kiwi business leaders to face these challenges?
Speaking cautiously (since I know only few business leaders), my perception is that our leaders in the business sphere are alert to challenges of productivity, international growth, and leadership – but perhaps could sometimes do more to engage with Government on these challenges, and to speak out publicly about this country’s overall direction. Some of the challenges may require business leaders to view the Government as more of partner than threat, and to be willing to voice their views on larger questions of identity or national purpose. The late Lloyd Morrison provides model for others to follow.

What more could we do as country to thrive in the current global economic climate?
Dr Rhema Vaithianathan, senior economist with The University of Auckland Business School, has written well on how we need to build better management skills to improve our productivity. His point is supported by recent research by the NZ Institute of Economic Research. That seems good start. Secondly, we need strategy to attract smart, innovative people to this country and to create, in Sir Paul Callaghan’s words, “a place where talent wants to live”. Thirdly, relatedly, I think we need to harness the power of young people (and reverse the waste that comes from youth unemployment), as noted recently by the NZ Institute. We have the ideas. We need to act on them.

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