New thinking for a changing world

Former prime minister Jim Bolger expounded his views on topics from feeding the world's hungry to moving on from the global economic recession in a talk in the resort last Tuesday night.

He was guest speaker at the Institute of Directors Otago-Southland branch cocktail function at Sky City Casino, delivering a talk titled "Learn from yesterday but plan for a different tomorrow".

Mr Bolger (76), who led the National Party to a landslide victory in 1990 and was prime minister until 1997, is a Distinguished Fellow of the Institute of Directors and was made a member of the Order of New Zealand in 1997.

He told the dozens of people gathered he could not think of any time when the advice of the title had been more accurate.

"Plan for a different tomorrow, whether your focus is on the growing pressure on land and water to feed the world .. whether you seek to determine how and in what matter the current economic market will change, and if you run out of all of those, you can reflect on the world energy demands, which is close to the top of everything."

He touched on the implications of these and other issues for directors.

"This interesting, challenging world requires more than ever that leaders step up from behind the skirts of lobby groups and lead, not follow, as many have done and are still doing today."

Despite signs of an "economic spring" after the 100 billion Greek debt restructuring, Mr Bolger said economies had to operate differently to address the needs of 7 billion people and the billions to come.

"Food production is the most important industry on the planet .. hungry people get angry and that's what starts most revolutions - hungry people.

"Policies across the globe dictate agricultural outcome, so the world needs to rethink economic policy if we wish to increase food production," Mr Bolger said.

The most important issue facing the country today was that of an ageing population, which would see a growing reliance on immigration.

"The people question will, emotionally, be the most challenging issue New Zealand and the world faces. Sadly, many people are nervous of people from different cultures, histories and belief."

He said New Zealand had to rely more on high-skill industries in a world with cheap labour markets, and backed the worth of sustainable policies and the country's use of the "most valuable resource in the world - water".

"Reform is never for the faint-hearted and, at this point in history, to succeed, reform must be extensive and not in the form of yesterday."


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