Why Have Kiwis Not Become Tigers? Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Economic Performance in New Zealand (NZ version)

New Zealand Business Roundtable, 2006

32 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2008

See all articles by Frederic Sautet

Frederic Sautet

The Catholic University of America (CUA) - Busch School of Business

Date Written: May 2006


The New Zealand economy is noteworthy in policy circles for its turnaround during the 1980s and early 1990s. Starting from a state of semi-autarky in the early 1980s, the country now has a much more flexible and efficient economic structure. In the 15 years to 1999, successive governments reformed its institutional environment by injecting high doses of deregulation and opening the economy to the world.

Following these changes, New Zealand climbed up various indexes of economic freedom: its score increased from 5.9 in 1985 to 8.2 in 2003 on the Fraser Institute measure (Gwartney and Lawson 2005). Strong employment growth from the early 1990s and productivity gains increased economic growth. Yet its average growth rate in the past decade does not compare with that of the Asian tigers, Singapore and Hong Kong, or that of Ireland, Estonia and Luxembourg, countries that share some of the highest ranks in the index.

Recent performance and the modest growth prospects for the years ahead have fuelled the debate about the success of the New Zealand reforms. Some economists think that the less than stellar economic performance results from the failure to complete the reform process. Others believe that the current situation is the result of too much reform: New Zealand has been a 'laboratory' for free-market policies, and they went too far. Some maintain that it is now time to go back to more middle-of-the-road policies, taking into account not only economic efficiency but also income distribution, the environment and other issues said to have been left out in the reform process. In this view, better 'management' of the economy should help to improve growth prospects. The Labour-led government espoused this opinion when it was elected in 1999. Still others think that owing to New Zealand's cultural heritage, its inhabitants are relatively uninterested in high levels of economic growth. New Zealanders, it is said, do not need much money to be happy because they hold dear some egalitarian ideas that go back to the nineteenth century, reflected today in the romantic search for a peaceful and green New Zealand and perhaps also in the revival of Maori tikanga.

The paper describes the context in which New Zealand's reforms took place and then considers the five main reforms that did most to improve economic performance. Finally it examines the reasons why New Zealand is not performing like an Asian tiger and discuss some policy implications.

Keywords: New Zealand Reforms, Economic Growth

JEL Classification: H00

Suggested Citation

Sautet, Frederic E., Why Have Kiwis Not Become Tigers? Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Economic Performance in New Zealand (NZ version) (May 2006). New Zealand Business Roundtable, 2006, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1262996

Frederic E. Sautet (Contact Author)

The Catholic University of America (CUA) - Busch School of Business ( email )

Maloney Hall
620 Michigan Ave, NE
Washington, DC 20064
United States

HOME PAGE: http://business.cua.edu/faculty/sautet.cfm

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