Finance Minister Grant Robertson and National’s finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis will go head-to-head this morning at 8.30am in a special debate centred around the small business sector, moderated by NZME Business Editor at Large Liam Dann. But just 18 days out from the election, what concerns are front of mind for businesses, what do they want to see from our next Government, and who’s got their vote?
Blindsided by the Covid-19 pandemic now more than three years ago, many of New Zealand’s businesses are still struggling with the fallout.
And while lockdowns and immigration restrictions may be in the rear-view mirror, rising costs and sticky inflation have taken grip while new challenges like a crime wave on retailers have emerged.
MYOB’s Election Snapshot 2023, a nationwide survey of just over 550 small- and medium-sized business owners and decision-makers, found rising inflation and the cost of living is the biggest business concern for the next 12 months, according to 64 per cent of participants.
This was followed by rising interest rates (35 per cent) and the risk of recession (31 per cent).
Asked how the profitability of their business has changed over the last three months, 38 per cent said they were less profitable, compared with 26 per cent who were more profitable and 36 per cent who said it was about the same.
Meanwhile, crime, costs and compliance are the key election priorities for local SMEs.
Asked what SMEs would like the elected government to prioritise over the next three years, 43 per cent said harsher penalties for criminals.
In a tick for Labour’s tax policy promise to remove GST from fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, 33 per cent said they wanted to see GST removed from fresh food items.
This was followed by tax law simplification and streamlined compliance (28 per cent); increased investment in crime prevention and protection for business owners (24 per cent); targeted support for increased availability of skilled migrant workers (20 per cent); and reduction of the company tax rate (20 per cent).
National has promised $14.6 in tax cuts for workers funded through $8.4b in cost savings and $6.2b in revenue garnered from a foreign buyer tax on property worth over $2m, taking online gambling and raising charges on some visas.
Sixty-three per cent of those surveyed by MYOB said policies most influence their Party vote, followed by leader (14 per cent) and track record (11 per cent).
The new poll found nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents believe it is time for a change in government.
Just 21 per cent said the current Labour government deserved to be re-elected, while 10 per cent said it made no difference to them which party or coalition is in power.
Almost half (47 per cent) said National has a greater understanding of their business needs, followed by Labour and Act tied on 15 per cent.
The Greens and Te Paati Māori both polled at 3 per cent.
When it comes to voting intentions, National is leading the SME vote with 42 per cent, followed by Labour and Act on 15 per cent, according to the survey.
It’s a stark decline for Labour from the 38 per cent they got in MYOB’s August 2020 Snapshot. Both National and Act have seen big gains since that survey when they sat on 35 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.
However, National’s slice of the vote is smaller than the highs it has previously received from SME owners and decision makers of 63 per cent in 2014 and 60 per cent in 2011.
It’s worth noting that the SME sector has been a reliable voting bloc for the National Party since MYOB first began polling voting preferences in 2011.
Meanwhile, more than a third (36 per cent) said they were unsatisfied about the current level of support from the Government for their small business. Thirty-two per cent reported being satisfied, while 31 per cent answered “neither”.
It comes at a time when business defaults and liquidations continued to climb higher over the past year.
Business credit defaults were up 38 per cent year-on-year, according to Centrix’s latest credit report for July, while there were 1020 company liquidations as of the end of July – up from the 785 liquidations for the same seven months of 2022.
ANZ’s Business Outlook survey in August found business confidence is up and inflation expectations down. Business confidence lifted another nine points in August to -4, the highest read since mid-2021.
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