NZ 2019 Budget aims at digital advancement

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In endeavouring to ensure all New Zealanders have the chance to share in the opportunities provided by the digital age, the NZ Government is increasing the availability of technology and programs for people to acquire the skills required to use it.

It also wants to foster innovation and encourage smaller start-ups to expand, which will in turn help improve New Zealand’s productivity, wages and drive export growth.

There is evidence of a gap in domestic capital markets, which may be slowing growth of NZ firms, so the Government has asked the managers of one of NZ’s sovereign wealth funds to support its goal to strengthen and deepen this market. A new NZ$300 million fund will be set up, to help fill this ‘capital gap’ for NZ firms that expand beyond the early start-up phase.

Economic Development Minister, David Parker said the fund will help keep more start-ups in NZ for longer and support the proportion of NZ ownership, adding: “New start-ups are well served but mid-sized ones, between about $2 million and $15 million in size, are not well supported.

“The world is in the middle of a technological revolution and we need to chase down as many of these commercial opportunities as possible. We also want to increase the amount of technology that gets commercialised and to lift the level of innovation in NZ.”

The $300 million fund will utilise $240 million of contributions earmarked for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund between 2018 and 2022 and $60 million from the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund’s existing assets.

Contributions to the Superfund will continue with an additional $9.6 billion forecast to be contributed over the next five years. After 15 years, all funds will be returned to the Crown to fund superannuation.

Budget 2019 also allocates $157 million over four years into innovation, with initiatives to support businesses to become more productive and develop high value low-emissions products. This includes $26 million to help support, incubate and grow start-ups.

The Research, Science and Innovation Minister, Megan Woods: “Start-ups are the way New Zealand will continue to develop world-first and ground-breaking ideas. Having sustained support will mean that innovators can more effectively commercialise science and research and turn ideas into products and services that can then be successfully brought to market.”

The Budget also provides $3.5 million to better equip young people for life after school. All secondary schools students will have access to programs on civics knowledge and skills, financial literacy and key workplace competencies. These include key skills like how to enrol to vote, apply for and save for a mortgage, and write a CV.

The Budget will also invest $49.9 million into Mana in Mahi, extending the places available from 150 participants up to 2,000, on the way to the goal of 4,000 places.

Employers receive a wage subsidy equivalent to the annual Jobseeker Support rate and support for work-readiness or pre-employment costs, if needed. Participants receive in-work support and incentives to encourage them to stay in work and enter industry training.

Employment Minister, Willie Jackson said: “Mana in Mahi creates real opportunities for young people who don’t have the recognised qualifications that lead to long-term dignified work.”

The Government is also committed to lifting the status, quality and access to vocational education and training. Underspending on the Fees Free program will go towards implementing the Reform of Vocational Education. The Government initially budgeted for Fees Free at the upper end of potential demand and is now re-allocating $197 million of the funding to another part of tertiary education.

This critical reform is needed to increase the number of people in vocational training and the number of apprentices. There is a national shortage of skilled tradespeople across many industry sectors and the vocational education system is not keeping up.