Finance Minister: Small business is on Government’s radar

Kimono R Pablo

Lee Kenny/Stuff Grant Robertson says the Government is aware start-ups and small businesses struggle to access capital as easily as big businesses. The Government is considering doing more to help small to medium businesses and start-ups post-Covid, particularly with access to capital. Finance Minister Grant Robertson told a webinar run […]

Grant Robertson says the Government is aware start-ups and small businesses struggle to access capital as easily as big businesses.

Lee Kenny/Stuff

Grant Robertson says the Government is aware start-ups and small businesses struggle to access capital as easily as big businesses.

The Government is considering doing more to help small to medium businesses and start-ups post-Covid, particularly with access to capital.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson told a webinar run by BDO on Wednesday that he was doing work with Small Business Minister Stuart Nash on additional support above what had already offered in terms of business loan guarantees.

The world might be awash with capital but not always for businesses and start-ups at the smaller end of the spectrum, he said.

“We want our trading banks to primarily be the place where people are doing their borrowing and getting their lending from.

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“But we also recognise the Government has a role here, and we want it to be an enabling role to support, particularly, start-up businesses but also those who are looking to grow.

“So what we’re looking at is whether that support is provided directly, if it’s provided through an intermediary, it will inevitably be a mix of both.”

Stuff

Grant Robertson says the Government is keen on other travel bubbles.

The Business Finance Guarantee Scheme, which ended in June, pledged support to banks and lenders which might not have otherwise supported Covid-hit businesses.

The scheme was not initially well used, and Robertson said it had “worked eventually” but it had “highlighted issues” around SME support.

He hinted some of that support could be related to innovation and research. Policies like the R&D tax credit were “really good but mainly at the larger end of the spectrum”.

Robertson reminded small businesses about the flexi-wage, a temporary contribution towards wages for job seekers which was brought in during the pandemic.

“It is available for people to start businesses, and there are grants to set up and move and grow.”

In general, he felt the Government had laid “a good base” for SMEs through the pandemic “but I recognise those specific issues around access to finance and access to skills will remain issues we’ve got to work on together”.

Robertson said a big focus on the economy recovery would be around productivity, trade, skills, infrastructure and capital.

While the Government had put aside $57b over the next five years for infrastructure spending, it was still keen to find partners, particularly in private capital.

The Government took most of the lending risk of many small business loans at the height of the pandemic but Robertson says there is still a sense more could be done.

Gene Gallin

The Government took most of the lending risk of many small business loans at the height of the pandemic but Robertson says there is still a sense more could be done.

The post-Treaty settlement iwi economy was one area where “we haven’t realised the potential,” with real opportunities not only in housing but across the board, he said.

Robertson was also asked why exporters who needed to travel were not getting priority to vaccinations and MIQ spots.

“I absolutely get the frustration,” he said, and pointed to a big boost in funding for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise “to be able to be a market presence for exporters” where businesses could not get to a particular country.

“I encourage anyone who is struggling in that regard to talk to NZTE and try and use their good offices to try and advance [matters].”

But there were also New Zealanders who a year down the track were still trying to come home, and the Government had certain obligations to them under New Zealand’s Bill of Rights, which not every country had.

Robertson said that there would be more details coming on how the Government intended to address border restrictions, and on Tuesday he indicated there could be other travel bubbles on the horizon.

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