Government interference stifling investment

red_tape.jpgLast week, I met with a group of self-made business men and women.

They were all financially successful yet seemed to have the balance right in respect to other aspects of their lives too. They had families, seemed to take their parenting responsibilities seriously, tried to keep fit and also pursued numerous philanthropic endeavours.

They all had something else in common too; every one of them politely explained to me how difficult government had made doing business.

Right from start-up, the myriad state and federal rules and regulations stifled business growth. Tax and compliance burdens left potential job vacancies unfilled, while a lack of legislative certainty impeded business planning and investment decisions. I could go on but I don’t want to give the impression that they were complaining – because they weren't.

All of them were concerned about the future of our country. They had succeeded in spite of the barriers government had put in their way, but they worried that thousands more wouldn’t be able to. Every year there seems to be a new incentive for the ambitious to opt out of the risk of entrepreneurial self-employment and stick with the safety of working within established organisations.

This is a cultural phenomenon we have to redress because small business is the key driver of economic growth in our economy. Successful small businesses generate jobs and wealth as they become successful bigger businesses. The capital they accumulate is released into other areas of our economy, generating even more jobs and economic growth. In some cases, the entrepreneurial small business becomes a massive business success.

We desperately need more people to commit to this path; the path of calculated risk, investment, hard work and potential reward. Yet seemingly at every turn we make it harder for people to take even the first step.

In this respect, government has become a barrier rather than a facilitator to self-reliance and success.

It is a similar circumstance when it comes to individuals planning for their retirement through superannuation. The level of uncertainty as successive governments continually change the rules leaves few people with the confidence to make long-term plans when it comes to superannuation. Unless one is already close to retirement, it makes little sense to tie up money in long-term savings which you may or may not have access to at some time in the future.

Constantly changing rules in respect to lump sum payments, age of accessibility, contribution limits, surcharges, taxes and compliance creates a sense of unease at voluntarily committing money to a vehicle that is subject to government ‘improvement’ over the next 40 years or more.

We have seen more of this ‘improvement’ today with the Labor Party announcing their changes to superannuation should they be elected again. It’s worth noting it had minimal impact on those receiving or eligible to receive a defined benefit parliamentary pension!

Little wonder people are growing increasingly cynical of the merits of government interventions which seem to have such a negative effect at both the top and bottom end of town.

I get the sense that it is fostering the belief that when it comes to government the ‘less is more’ approach is growing in popularity. At least I hope so.