Mood of the Boardroom: Labour’s stars take a tumble

Finance Grant Robertson is again the top Cabinet performer in the eyes of CEOs, but his 3.65/5 rating is down on last year’s 4.18/5 result.

Chief executives — and key directors — who responded to the 2021 Mood of the Boardroom survey rated the Ministers’ performances on a scale of 1-5 where 1 equals not impressive and 5 equals very impressive.

Robertson, who was also elevated to Deputy Prime Minister after the post-2020 election, is the go-to Minister that Auckland business reaches out to when they have problems “dealing with Wellington” — aka Covid announcements imposed without any reference to business first to test whether they are practical.

CEOs admire the plucky fight that newbie Cabinet Minister Kiri Allan (3.15/5) has put up against cervical cancer. But there is also recognition that she carries that spirit through to her Conservation and Emergency Management portfolios.

While James Shaw does not sit in Cabinet he was highly marked by CEOs at 3.06/5. “James Shaw has managed to make climate change a key role in driving policy direction,” said a utility sector chief. “I don’t think it is the right direction. But it is impressive that a minister who is not in the ruling party has had as much influence as he has.

“Pity he can’t put that energy and intellect into housing!”

For Jacinda Ardern at 4th place this year, her rating is a reflection of a failure to build sufficient confidence with business.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has lost reputational footing with CEOs. Ranked at 19th place with a 2.17/5 rating; the result of the lengthy time it took to address the urgent need to fast-track residency applications to avert a labour shortage.

Datacom chair Tony Carter was on point: “Faafoi in Immigration is an absolute disaster. Wood in Transport seemed to start off well but the ridiculous cycle bridge destroyed his credibility.

From a food industry CEO: “If there was a score lower than 1, I would give it to Faafoi.”

In 2019, Faafoi was rated highest by CEOs in this survey at 3.58/5 — seen as one of the “unsung heroes” of Cabinet and an “engaging and safe pair of hands” in the Commerce portfolio.

An experienced banker noted, “Some of these Ministers perform well in some portfolios and very poorly in others.

“Nanaia Mahuta, for example, I think has performed reasonably well (by which I mean “carefully”!) in her Foreign Affairs portfolio, but in my view very badly in her Local Government portfolio.”

Accordant executive director Simon Bennett said many are unknowns and have marked as unimpressive as a result which may not be fair.

It is however, fair to say, that many Ministers have been out of the public eye during the various lockdowns.

How the Executive fared

The full list includes both Cabinet Ministers and Ministers outside Cabinet.

1. Grant Robertson (Finance) 3.68/5
2. Kiri Allan (Emergency Management) 3.15/5
3. James Shaw (Climate Change) 3.06/5
4. Jacinda Ardern (PM) 3.03/5
5. Chris Hipkins (Covid Response) 2.96/5
6. Andrew Little (Health) 2.85/5
7. Ayesha Verrall (Food Safety) 2.81/5
8. Nanaia Mahuta (Foreign Affairs) 2.76/5
9. Damien O’Connor (Trade/Agriculture) 2.58/5
10. David Parker (Environment) 2.57/5
11. Peeni Henare (Defence) 2.51/5
12. Aupito William Sio (Pacific Peoples) 2.4/5
13. Megan Woods (Energy) 2.38/5
14. Stuart Nash Tourism) 2.34/5
15. Meka Whaitiri (Customs) 2.33/5
16. Jan Tinetti (Internal Affairs) 2.22/5
17. Willie Jackson (Māori Dev.) 2.2/5,
18. Priyanca Radhakrishnan (Ethnic Communities) 2.2/5
19. David Clark (Commerce, Digital) 2.17/5
20. Kris Faafoi (Immigration) 2.17/5
21. Michael Wood (Transport) 2.15/5
22. Marama Davidson (Prevention of Family & Sexual Violence) 2.14/5
23. Carmel Sepuloni (Social Dev. Employment) 2.09/5
24. Poto Williams (Construction, Police) 1.98/5
25. Phil Twyford (Disarmament) 1.79/5
26. Kelvin Davis (Corrections,) 1.73/5

Rating the mandarins

CEOs were also asked to run their rulers over the performance of the bureaucracy. The IRD came out top at 3.5/5 with NZTE (3.28/5), Customs (3.12/5), Treasury (3.05/5), MPI (2.99/5), MFAT (2.98/5), DPMC (2.9/5) and the Ministry of Environment (2.65/5) following behind.

Ministries which have been Covid-facing like MBIE (2.56/5) and Health (2.39/5) were down-rated. Transport (2.48/5) and Education (2.28.5) also had low scores.

Said an experienced banker: “MPI and MFAT are doing a professional job, but Health (lamentably unprepared for the pandemic).

“Education (injecting lots of woke issues but failing to maintain standard and police truancy), MBIE (responsible for our lamentably inadequate immigration programme) and Treasury (poor forecasting record) have let the side down.”

How the Government has performed

“Positive on goals. Lousy on how and execution,” was the blunt summation of a former economist turned CEO when it came to assessing the Labour Government’s’s performance in some key areas.

CEOs rated the Government’s support for Māori and Pasifika at 3.45/5 ahead of its response to the Covid pandemic (3.35/5).

“Across almost all these areas — with trade being the standout exception — the direction of travel needs to be better,” says the NZ Initiative’s Roger Partridge.

Said a banker: “The economy is performing well compared to other economies but the transformation agenda is not clear.”

Government performance in key areas

Top Performance
Supporting Māori and Pasifika aspiration 3.43/5
Covid-19 pandemic
Response to the Covid-19 pandemic 3.35/5
Core business
Maintaining fiscal responsibility 2.88/5
Room for Improvement
Consultation with business 1.85/5
Abysmal Performance
Immigration 1.77/5
Worst performance
Housing affordability 1.7/5

Ratings: Māori and Pasifika aspiration (3.43/5); Response to the Covid-19 pandemic (3.35/5); Strong international relations (3.27); Fiscal responsibility (2.88/5); International trade agreements (2.84/5); Climate change (2.71/5); Regional Development (2.7/5); Managing appropriately Covid fund (2.68/5); Mental health (2.47/5); Children’s wellbeing (2.18/5); Infrastructure deficit (1.91/5); Policy execution (1.90/5); Economic transformation (1.87/5); Consultation with business (1.85/5); Transport constraints (1.82/5); Immigration (1.77/5); Housing shortage/affordability (1.7/5).

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