As we head ever closer to Alert Level 2, officials will be starting to think more about the economy and how to rebuild it rather than simply where COVID is at and its continuing risk to our health.
As the Prime Minister reminded us yesterday, she believes the key to a strong economy is a healthy society although she also knows the recovery we’re after will require a level of leadership unseen in this country in living memory.
The reason for this is because unlike a religious state, we’re a secular society meaning the Government’s ability to influence our psyche in the right way is limited; albeit they can institute policies that encourage certain behaviours.
The advantage religious based nations have over us is they can appeal to their people’s ‘reason for being’ whereas in a nation like New Zealand, we’ve got differing views as to what life’s about and therefore what success looks like.
For example, in nations like ours, the poor tend to blame their misfortune on the wealthy whereas those who are better off tend to believe in hard work and taking personal responsibility. As a result, those in need tend to be critical of wealth rather than seeing it as the mechanism that pays for their country’s services. Conversely, the wealthy often feel resentful of carrying people whom they see as a drag on the economy rather than essential workers who keep our factories and infrastructure running.
This being the case, I’m of the view that to work through this process, we need our political leaders to work together to create a vision for the country which we as citizens can rally behind.
If we believe we have the ability to create a nation that not only provides equal opportunity for all but a culture or mindset that recognises the best in everyone, the price we’ve paid during the lockdown will be worth it.
However, if we see our differences as an impediment to our future, we will squander the opportunity to create one that's better.
For this reason, I believe it's critical we accept that the national rebuild won’t be driven by politicians - not because they lack the capability - but because they lack the reach and influence to achieve it. Instead, it will only come about through coordinated leadership that spans across every level and sector of society.
This includes the leaders of our institutions, corporations, privately owned businesses, community groups, education providers and parents.
As those in business know, the Government doesn’t employ the nation. They do. Further to this, private enterprises don’t exist for that purpose meaning they can’t be made to retain people as that’s what will eventually cripple them. Instead, business owners need the Government to back their aspirations in principle and by doing so, make it easy for them to operate rather than penalising them for making decisions to keep themselves afloat.
At the end of the day, despite our political leanings, we need to find a way to work together otherwise we will compete with each other for ever decreasing margins in what would be fruitless race to the bottom.
For this reason, we have to take ownership of the things we partake in whilst endeavouring to give those we influence the confidence to know that it’s through their efforts that we will prosper again in the future.
If people understand they are relevant to the rebuild, we will garner a level of interest and commitment typically only seen during wartime.
In a practical sense, this means we need to look beyond the political rhetoric in order to work as one to create a better nation rather than simply trying to improve the predicament we find ourselves in.
If we do this, I’m confident we will come out the other end in decent shape. However, if we don’t, we will spend the next decade not only swinging between policies but negating our efforts to become a country that values all that is precious and admirable about human life.
In the meantime, here are a few things the nation needs us to do as individuals:
- Take personal responsibility for ourselves and our family
- Contribute to the causes we love and believe in
- Believe in ourselves and those we care for
- Work with our colleagues to make things better
- Back our employers and their efforts to grow or recover
- Support local businesses to help them flourish
- Help our neighbours or others in need and, most importantly;
- Make our corner of the world better for everyone
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