Businesspeople who made the NBR Rich List last year, when asked what it took to create wealth, typically regarded the elimination of excessive regulation, easing constrictions and freeing up the entrepreneurial spirit as essential to enabling wealth creation. Jeweller Sir Michael Hill asked if the Government could give business people "a little freedom to be able to make commonsense decisions for ourselves". Construction company head Sir Patrick Higgins said the country "needs to address excessive regulation if it is to improve wealth creation".
But whether we are over-regulated is arguable. Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce earlier this year delighted in reporting to Parliament the findings of the latest Doing Business report, published by the World Bank. It measures regulations and the ease of doing business for small and medium sized enterprises across 185 countries and it showed New Zealand had again retained third place this year, ahead of the US (fourth), Britain (seventh) and - we always like beating them - Australia at 10th.
The American business magazine Forbes last week gave us a better ranking. It lifted us from second place last year to put us top of its 2012 list of the best countries in which to do business thanks to a "transparent and stable business climate". This time Denmark was ranked second and Hong Kong third. Forbes ranked us highly for personal freedom, investor protection, lack of corruption and the lack of red tape. The corporate tax rate cut last year and the NZX 50's 24 per cent rise in the past year also helped in our promotion.
But Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said despite the favourable ranking, we must to do more to help new arrivals get involved in commerce. Those coming from some Asian markets, particularly, were finding more regulation here than in their home countries and were not setting up businesses.
The Government will be tempted to oblige him and the immigrants. It regards better and less regulation as necessary to boost the country's productivity growth, international competitiveness and living standards. But events like the Pike River mine disaster show the emphasis should be on "better" rather than "less".
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