NZ Finance Minister dismisses visitors' tax

New Zealand finance Minister, Steven Joyce, confirmed his reluctance to impose a visitor levy on tourists because visitor numbers may not remain at the current level, he said. He was speaking at a lunch on April 28 2017, hosted by the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce.

 He noted that tourist numbers in New Zealand were only a small percentage of tourist numbers worldwide - although they might seem big to us.

 However, it was important for the government to invest in infrastructure, to make things happen, he said, particularly in a place like Queenstown given that it is a tourist mecca.

 He also spoke about the need to mobilise private capital and utilise that when necessary.

 At the end of April, Joyce announced that he would be allocating $11 billion over the next four years to infrastructure in the May Budget, up from $4 billion. Some of these projects are already underway such as the Kapiti Expressway and the new City Rail Link (CRL) in Auckland.

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NZ Super Fund among global leader in climate change

Private equity in New Zealand is lead by the country's sovereign wealth fund. The annual SWF conference was held in Auckland last November. Here is a link. IFSWF Conference: where should sovereign wealth funds invest?

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund has achieved a AAA rating in its listing of top international asset managers in the most recent Global Climate Index report, and ranks at 15, in its list of top international} asset managers.

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Getting real with Riyadh

I thought this article was very interesting (not that I agreed with all of it) explaining the very complicated relationship between Washington DC and Riyadh. There is always the risk of oversimplifying the relationship but I think this article does a good job of avoiding that trap. It also explains the somewhat fraught relationship between Iran and the Gulf States. Such is the complications of the relationship between the Gulf States and Iran, even my friend (who has always kept his counsel on the subject of Iran) talked about the "mad country next door that may do something at any time". Whether this is true or not, probably doesn't matter as long as people believe it will happen.

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Tradition meets modernity- camel racing

I recently had the opportunity to go to camel racing in Dubai, way out on the Dubai-Al Ain Highway- not far from the Outlet Mall. While I lived in Dubai (for 8.5 years) I had wanted to attend these races but at the time women could not attend, and then there was all the performance about the use of child male jockeys, which, for a time, seemed to stop camel racing altogether- or at least it was never advertised. There was certainly no stadium, as there is now, and visitors weren't encouraged to attend.

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Saudi Arabia Lifts Oil Market

Here are some thoughts about Saudi Arabia's energy policy, and Tesla. 

Saudi Arabia Lifts Oil Market With Support for Renewing Production Agreement

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How tolerant are you?

I gave a talk recently at Toastmasters, in Queenstown, New Zealand, about my experience travelling to the West Bank and my time in Bethlehem. What I found interesting is that even in a place as supposedly “tolerant” as New Zealand, the audience response is still subdued as regards Palestine, and way more “moved” by what happens to and in Israel. Admittedly, I was wearing a hijab or a headscarf.

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Future Proof - A Podcast

Measurement, a capabilities framework, mental health, the CIPR at 70 and #PRfest, are all among the topics discussed on the latest #FuturePRoof podcast.

Sarah Hall and Stephen Waddington  recorded a new edition of the #FuturePRoof podcast this week. Here's what you'll learn.

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Defeating the Islamic State: A war mired in contradictions

This author regularly sends me articles, many of which are very interesting in that they are written from an academic rather than a journalistic perspective. In this case, he writes about the Kurdish plight and the conflict Turkey has dealing with this group, which I think the government hates more than IS. As a consequence, the US is also conflicted. And Saudi Arabia continues to focus on destroying Iran rather than any threat from a Sunni terrorist group, such as IS.

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Trump Russia Dossier Decoded: Yes, There Really Was A Massive Oil Deal

Further investigation into the Trump's link to Russia shows that this connection is not imagination. I was in Dubai when I was working on the proposed Glencore and BHP Billiton transaction. I learned a lot, especially about the involvement of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) in Glencore. Recently, to Putin's pleasure, Glencore and QIA took a 19.5% stake in Russia's Rosneft.  Grant Stern found out the following information.

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NZ Superfund CEO wins Business Achievement Award

It’s good to know that the organisation for New Zealand’s Techweek ‘17, which will run from 6-14 May 2017 is moving ahead. A week of events bringing together bright minds to tackle global issues with local ingenuity. Head to Techweek‘17 to meet like-minded people, discover new opportunities, and learn about the latest and most exciting technologies that are changing the shape of the near future, according to Techweek’s website.

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EU says it's legal to ban women wearing headscarves at work.

The EU decision comes as countries across Europe are grappling with how to accommodate huge numbers of migrants, many from predominantly Muslim countries. AP
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A Japanese ad agency invented an AI Creative Director

Recently, I've been reading about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how we can exploit it in different fields such as education. Therefore, I was very interested when I came across this article that talks about AI and the advertising industry. How uncomfortable would you feel if AI was preferred to a human?

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Iran: making the most of it

Recently I was elected president of Queenstown Travel Club and at the first meet up of the year we learned all about Iran. Here is what the speakers said.

Jon and Robyn Bitchero talked about their experiences in Iran when they spoke at the Queenstown Travel Club, which met on 27 February. They pointed out how different Iran is from the way it is portrayed in the media. Referred too in the ancient world as Persia, it conjures up romance, great food and great living. In contrast, the country Iran often conjures up visions of burqa wearing women (which is often not the case), tyranny and evil. Yet it is the same country.

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Accessing the right information in crisis situations

How accessing the right information in crisis situations can be crucial

In this article Lucia Dore and Melisande Middleton, founder of the Center for Internet & Media Ethics (CIME), discuss how information flows matter in crisis situations, even in small, far away countries like New Zealand.

 During the civil war in Afghanistan (1989-92) Iran opened its borders to refugees but not many people knew about this, cites an Afghan familiar with the situation. “Many people fled to there and sought safe haven and temporary education for their kids. Many didn’t hear about it and stayed and I know many people who lost their loved ones because they didn’t know that Iran had finally opened the border.”

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Trust and warmth matter most

It's interesting that trust and warmth matter more than competence when people first meet you. What does that mean for you?
A Harvard psychologist says people judge you based on 2 criteria when they first meet you
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Walking the Kepler Track

It's been a week since I last posted on here. Since then I've been on a 60km hike from Te Anau and back again. It's a hike known as the Kepler Track, one of New Zealand's Great Walks. It is a great way to get away from it all, without going on a retreat. No internet, no cellphones-  only freez dri food and lots of walking, with a full pack. 

For me, since my great grandfather was an early explorer around Lake Manapouri and I was born in that part of the world and spent my early years there, the information I found out was even more impactful. Here are some photos.

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Why New Zealand needs a written constitution?

by Lucia Dore

On a road show around New Zealand are Sir Geoffrey Palmer, law professor and former prime minister, and Andrew Butler, a litigator at Russell McVeagh in Wellington, New Zealand. They are promoting their book: “A constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand” and are asking people for their views on the points they have laid down for a otential written constitution.

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New Zealand’s Refugee Report Card

A campaign to increase New Zealand's refugee quota started two years ago, when I completed a documentary: "Stepping up: NZ's response to the refugee crisis" 

Amnesty International then endorsed it. In it, I point out that while I agree with increasing the refugee quota, any increase should also go hand-in-hand with an increase in government funding. Refugees will only do well if they have employment, have educational prospects, overcome any language barrier and have good access to healthcare. The Canterbury Refugee Resettlement and Resource Centre (CRR&RC), formerly, the Canterbury Refugee Council (CRC) and I are about to embark on a study to investigate these issues further.

In the meantime, Tracey Barnett, has written this great article about NZ's response to the refugee crisis so far.

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The forgotten NZ deal behind Trump’s phone call

Amidst the frenzy of President Trump's first two week's in office, and of his phone calls with other world leaders, including the prime minister of NZ, Bill English, the plight of refugees has been forgotten. What does the new American vision mean for refugee policy and for New Zealand in particular? In this article, Tracey Barnett, founds out.

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Saudi Arabia Opens the Hood on its Reserves

The volume of oil reserves in Saudi Arabia has interested me, ever since I covered oil and gas in the Middle East. There were often disputes about the oil reserves in the region, and that the current estimates were not believable. How much does Saudi Aramco administer? How much will it fetch for its planned IPO? This article that appeared in the Wall St Journal, on 26 January, sums up recent activities.

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