Duncan Garner has written one of the silliest and most patronising articles of all time. At a time when the OCR has reached an all-time low, and everyone knows it cannot mean happy times ahead, Garner has bought into the myth that, as business hates Labour governments, all that we need to fix the economy is for business leaders to smile more and decide they really like the new government after all. And then everything will be fine and dandy.

Obviously, a fair bit of Jacinda’s fairy dust is still floating around in the atmosphere, and most of it has settled on Duncan Garner this weekend.

It’s a plea to those who hold the company chequebook, who make the investment decisions and who hire the next staff member; stop sulking, get over it and pick your bottom lip up off the ground. We need you back.

Yes, I’m talking about your reaction to the Labour Party being in power. You’ve overstayed your welcome in the club for moaners and groaners. Get out, spend, smile, be positive, winter will be over soon and the green shoots of this economy will be back. Hopefully. Sentiment matters. A poor one will kill the golden goose. 

Are you to blame for this lack of investment and spending because of your lack of confidence in this Government. Is it really necessary to have and then publish these negative surveys about confidence levels?

STUFF


Okay, you get the picture. Feel free to read the rest of the sycophantic rant, as yet another member of our esteemed fourth estate goes in to bat for our failing government.

It is not the role of business to bolster confidence in the government. While it is true that business may not like Labour governments in general, Helen Clark’s government managed to foster a healthy relationship with business, as she understood the importance of having the business community onside.

It has clearly never occurred to Duncan, or to any of the Labour ministers, that a government proposing anti-business policies, such as the Zero Carbon Bill and the destruction of the oil and gas industry, might not get an uptick from the business community. Just a thought there, Duncan.

I used to be in business, as many of you will know. Right now, we would be hunkering down, cancelling any plans for new equipment or new staff, and would just be hoping to get through the next few years by managing to pay the bills on time. It is never about ‘chin up’. What determines how well your business will do is how your clients are faring; if they are doing fine, then so long as you are smart and prudent, then you will get through it. If not, then you may struggle, even if you are doing nothing wrong. Certainly, a ‘chin up’ approach is something you need every day in business, but you need much more than that. You need a plan if things turn down badly, and to reduce expenditure, over-exposure and risk at this point in the economic cycle (which will mean reducing debt, Mr Orr) is the only way to survive.

In April 2009, we had just completed our best ever financial year, from a turnover perspective. We also had the highest ever level of receivables, and we had also just entered the GFC. But even though the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae affair had already happened, everything felt good, and we were happy and optimistic about the next 12 months.

The worst, of course, was literally just around the corner.

We soon noticed that people weren’t paying quite so quickly. It was not that bad at first, but slowly, it started to become a problem. Then, about 6 months in, we realised that a client that had owed us about $50,000 in March was not going to pay. And they never did.

$50,000 was never going to be ruinous, but along with other slow payers, the lack of cash flow caused enormous problems. What did we do? We defaulted on our taxes.

We made arrangements with IRD, but they are always conditional on all other taxes being paid on time. We couldn’t always meet that condition, and so the arrangements all defaulted, leaving us with crippling interest and penalties from a tax department that simply does not give a stuff about how tough it can be in business sometimes.

We got through it. It took several years and thousands of dollars in penalties and interest that we could hardly afford. I am proud of the fact that we did it, in the end, but it was very stressful. Character building stuff, I suppose, but sometimes, you feel as if you don’t need to have your character built any further by sneering IRD staff who seem to think you are using your GST money to run a super yacht when in fact it just went to pay the office rent for another month.

During this time, I watched a number of decent, hardworking people go to the wall, usually over tax debt, when they had worked hard and done everything right, but they just didn’t get paid… because that is what happens when the economy turns rancid.

But Duncan knows best. He knows all those decent, hardworking people just need to have a positive attitude towards this hopeless government and the world will be unicorns and rainbows all over again. After all, with Jacinda in charge, what else can it be?

Save it, Duncan. You have no idea what it is like to run a business. So get off your patronising high horse and talk to some real business people… you know, the ones that know what it is like to stay alive in dreadful economic conditions caused primarily by a government that doesn’t understand basic concepts like GDP or CPI. There is no hope for business with a government as inept as that.

We know that, Duncan. It is time you did.