The rapid economic changes initiated a few years ago by the government in New Zealand were launched with great fanfare and optimism. New initiatives were taken with the hope that a new approach to managing the economic affairs of the country would generate a new level of prosperity, and, at the very least, eliminate some of the unproductive channelling of assets that had become endemic. As Roger Douglas--perhaps the chief spokesman for the new agenda--declared:
The present Labor government has gone back to fundamentals. It has taken a new look at (its traditional) goals...and come to the conclusion that, if we really want to achieve equity and equal opportunity, we have to take a different route--one that works for the world of the 1980s and 1990s. (Douglas 1987, 9).
That different route entailed one of the most significant economic turnabouts taken in the recent history of the Western world--tariffs were eliminated, the currency was allowed to float, state-owned departments and organizations were split up and corporatized. Time and again the government made moves that departed greatly from tradition (The Economist 1988a, 1989).
Though economic initiatives may clear the way in principle for a more open, more free-market economy, from the point of view of small business, the game has clearly changed. Conducting business today and in the future is, and will continue to be, a more complex undertaking than it was just a few years ago.
Though policymakers might argue that such changes were essential medicine for the lagging economy, not all individuals and enterprises view these initiatives in the same light. Offsetting the expected positive features, the country has seen a substantial increase in unemployment and the failure of many businesses unable to compete in a less protected marketplace (Fuerbringer 1991). And though others may argue that small business needs assistance to survive the challenges ahead, supportive government assistance to date has not been forthcoming. This article explores how small businesses in New …