On the "Brain Drain" and the "doom and gloom" parade.

  • Simon Upton

We've heard a lot in recent times about the recently reinvigorated activities of the "Brain Drain". Opposition parties particularly have seen fit to play on latent insecurities in the New Zealand psyche by pointing to large numbers of our best and brightest leaving these shores.

Nothing, aside from death and taxes, is more certain than that some bright New Zealanders (and some not so bright, no doubt) will seek their fortunes overseas. Why wouldn't they? New Zealanders are well trained and can foot it in the world's great capitals.

The rate of migration will ebb and flow, as you would expect. When our currency is low, as it is now, the lure of British pounds or the American dollar is greater.

After a while, most come back. Some stay on and some excel, and that's no bad thing.

Let me make two observations:

The first is about keeping our nerve as a country. The "doom and gloom" brigade in the opposition ranks, sections of the media and amongst the collection of vicars and academics who seem to pop up everywhere, offer little but negativity.

As it is with an individual, so it is with a country. If you always see the worst in things, more often than not, you're doomed to mediocrity and gradual decline. If you accentuate the positive, and believe in yourself, the opportunities are endless.

The 1990s have been a good decade for New Zealand, and there is no reason why we shouldn't continue to prosper.

It's alarming that our self-esteem as a nation rests so heavily on the success or failure of the All Blacks.

Obviously, it's in New Zealand's interest to retain and attract a vibrant population of skilled people. This leads to my second point, (and it's been made many times, but it needs restating), nothing will make that more difficult than Labour and the Alliance's proposed tax hikes and changes to our industrial laws.

There are some prim people about saying they'd be very happy to pay a little more tax in order to fund this, that and the other thing. Well there's nothing stopping them writing a cheque to Work and Income New Zealand if they like.

But, do we want to end up as a country whose only inhabitants are those committed to self-flagellation through ever higher taxes, while those of a less puritanical nature have fled?

Because that's the risk we run. Those New Zealanders who are world citizens and for whom the brighter lights, higher salaries, and (in many cases) lower taxes overseas beckon, will vote with their feet.

Which might also have something to do with the equivocal state of business confidence since the middle of the year. Our economic fundamentals are improving. The world economy is improving. So why would business be in an uncertain frame of mind?

I'd suggest it has not a little to do with the fact that for the first time in 15 years, a major party is promoting tax hikes and industrial mayhem. No wonder they're awaiting the outcome of the election to decide whether to invest or emigrate.