No business voice on economic think tank

Friday May 15, 2020 Written by Published in Economy
Garth Henderson. Garth Henderson.

The private sector is disappointed at being left out of government’s Virtual Think Tank developing a Covid-19 economic response plan.


The group is made up of local and international economic and policy experts. Government officials say they already have an “effective working relationship” with local businesses in reviving the local economy.

However Fletcher Melvin, chairman of the Private Sector Taskforce, said they would have liked to be part of the think tank.

“But that is not our choice, that’s up to government to decide,” he said. “It would have been beneficial for both parties to be part of the think tank.

“We have the right people within our sector who qualify to be part of the Virtual Think Tank.”

Financial secretary Garth Henderson said there were a lot of people who wanted to be in the group, but they had limited time to develop the second phase of the economic response plan.

They have been working with the Chamber of Commerce regularly and that relationship was more effective.

“With the Virtual Think Tank, the focus is very constrained at this point in time,” he said. “We are focusing on the second phase of the economic response plan and conversations around diversification and other broader areas aren’t taking place yet. This work is not a sprint, but a marathon.”

Fletcher Melvin said they were meeting once a week with the team from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management on the way forward.

They were putting together a substantial piece of work that would represent the views of the private sector and would be discussing this with the government in the near future.

Tina Browne, the leader of the Democratic Party Opposition, said the think tank should include people with local business experience, knowledge and deep understanding of how things work here.

“It just makes sense to also use our people here who have enormous local business experience and have been instrumental in building our country’s economy,” she said.

“To me, they have a wealth of knowledge and experience that would be very valuable in shaping a future plan for our country as the world enters a ‘new normal’.”

Henderson said the Virtual Think Tank would provide both a sounding board and expert second opinion to ensure that the economic response plan will meet its objectives effectively and efficiently.

The think tank comprises a technical team, local review team and international review team.

The technical team include government workers led by the director of economic planning Natalie Cook, Ian Hayes, Tristan Metcalf and Lafala Turepu.

They will review of performance of existing response plan measures, research, design, costing and financing of new measures, in consultation with government line ministries and the private sector as required.

The local review team will include local budget and financial technical specialists, such as the chair of the Budget Support Group Karla Eggelton, Cheryl McCarthy from the Financial Supervisory Commission and Karo Ngatoko from Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

The international review team include the likes of Professor Matthew Harding, an experienced economist with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Caren Rangi, Cook Islands Investment Corporation board member.

The other members are Dr Oleksiy Ivaschenko, previously from the World Bank in Washington DC; Alex Shahryar-Davies, unit manager of New Zealand’s governance and economics team; and France-based Peter Tierney.

The local and international review team will provide specialist advice, both on the application of the plan in the local context, and using broader international economic and policy expertise to guide the structure and content.

The team will act as a sense check and feedback on the measures and costs being considered by the technical team.

Henderson said additional members may be included from time to time. There would be no payments made to the international experts for their service, he said.

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