Government Support needed for Growth and Innovation for Small Business

Government Support needed for Growth and Innovation for Small Business


A call for the new government to establish an Institute for Small Business is resonating in New Zealand and farther afield.

High profile businessman and social entrepreneur, Tenby Powell, who chaired the government appointed Small Business Development Group for five years, serving under four Ministers, is calling for a step-up from government in support of small business.

Today, Powell represents New Zealand on the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and says New Zealand needs to do much more to support our small business ecosystem.

And he’s putting his money where his mouth is – literally. Early next year, and coinciding with the first ABAC meeting for 2018 to be held in Auckland, he is gathering our top 100 SME business owners and thinkers together to plan a road-map to future value creation.

The key note speakers are high profile, bringing deep-seated knowledge from within other APEC nations – and are mostly women.

“SMEs are the engines of growth and innovation in the APEC region”, says Powell. They account for 97 percent of all enterprises and employ over half the workforce across APEC economies. SMEs contribute significantly to economic growth, with GDP contributions ranging from 20 to 50 percent in the majority of APEC economies; New Zealand is circa 28 percent. However, they account for less than 35 percent of the direct exports and New Zealand SMEs are particularly affected by this”.

Citing examples from other APEC economies, Powell believes New Zealand is perfectly positioned to lift our SME performance and capture the value that will come from the recently signed Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership; the agreement signed by eleven APEC leaders, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in Da Nang last month.

“New Zealand’s physical Internet infrastructure is world class, following the rollout of the Ultra-Fast Broadband network and the continuation of the Rural Broadband Initiative, and positions us amongst the best network infrastructures in the developed world. This is an enabler for small business to compete in overseas markets under the CP-TPP”, says Powell.

Powell, who co-chairs the ABAC SME & Entrepreneurial Working Group, says this work stream has a big optic within APEC and is more socioeconomic than just economic per se. “It acts as a superset for the subsets of cross-border liberalization, market access and the removal of non-tariff barriers for SMEs, financing for business expansion and capability development, integrating green SMEs into the global value chain, leveraging the digital economy, and greater support for women-in-business”, says Powell.

Powell has already met twice with the man who yet may be his fifth boss, new Minister for Small Business, Hon Stuart Nash. “Given his other larger Ministerial portfolios comprising Police, Fisheries and Revenue, Minister Nash has been wholly engaged in his quest to better understand how government can support small business owners”.

“And I’ve suggested he ‘Thinks Big’ – establishing a Government Institute that is charged to deliver value to small business by enhancing the environment through well researched policy advice, facilitating education for owner-managers, making access to the digital platforms more accessible, and working with banks to develop ways to fund SMEs without mortgaging the family home”.

Support for this idea has come from far and wide and include business leaders from the Maori, Asian, Indian and New Zealand European economies.

Billy Te Kahika, Cultural Ambassador for Kingitanga says, “this is exactly what Maori small business owners have needed for some time. While larger Maori business can develop relationships with big overseas players, like Chinese funding partners, it’s the SME business owner who needs greater support and recognition.  A well led government Institute has the ability to empower this support”.

Oceania Silk Road Network’s, William Zhao and Jerry He, agrees. Mr He who served with Powell on the Small Business Development Group says, “Chinese business owners who have made New Zealand their home are committed to the country’s development and see many opportunities under the new multi-lateral free trade agreement, the CP-TPP, signed in Da Nang”.

An example of this support is demonstrated by high profile Chinese business women, Diane Wang, founder and CEO of DHgate, agreeing to speak at Powell’s SME summit.  Wang, who represents ABAC China will travel to Auckland ahead of ABAC 1 and deliver a key note address that Powell says will “resonate with any small business owner and particularly with women who are disadvantaged in terms of access to finance and global supply networks”.

Other speakers include incoming ABAC Chair, David Toua, who will coordinate the 21 nation ABAC agenda for 2018, and leading Malaysian business women, Dato Rohana Mahmoud, Chair and Founder of RM Capital Partners.

“Malaysia is an example of targeted resources in action to support small business through a government entity called the SME Corporation.  The SME Corp is a central coordinating agency under the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry that formulates policies and strategies, and coordinates the implementation of SME development programmes across all related Ministries and Agencies”

“A similar entity, in the form of a government Institution, would work in New Zealand”, says Powell.