Understanding the grassroots of his adopted country is important to Gabriel Makhlouf, secretary and chief executive officer of the Treasury.
Yesterday he visited Tauranga for the first time and met dozens of local business owners and representatives.
Mr Makhlouf has been the CEO of the powerful Government department for just over a year, and recently gained citizenship having lived in New Zealand for just over two years.
As a leading adviser on financial and economical policies, the Treasury wields considerable influence on the Government of the day.
"As a Government department we have access to lots of data, but it can't beat talking to people before deciding on policies," Mr Makhlouf said.
Mr Makhlouf got his chance to get a Bay of Plenty perspective on what our people consider should be Government priorities.
Mr MakhlOuf met CEO Mark Cairns, of the Port of Tauranga, the Chamber of Commerce and dozens of business owners who attended a morning function hosted by BNZ bank.
A familiar issue raised by locals was frustration with the Resource Management Act consulting process and its impact on local business. "Treasury is pretty focused on this issue, but it is not straightforward or it would have been fixed by now," he said.
Other issues brought to the light of the Treasury were how to increase professional support networks, how to attract the right type of skilled labour and how the business community could work with local polytech and universities.
Mr Makhlouf said he had learned local business had a huge commitment to the region and to collaborating with each other across industries and trades.
"I am leaving in a very positive mood for the prospects of the region, and I am sure I will continue discussions with the Tauranga business community," he said.
Mr Makhlouf has insisted that other lower level Treasury officials also get out of their comfort zone and meet locals around provincial New Zealand.
Hawkes Bay and New Plymouth are next on the travel agenda for the cosmopolitan policy maker.
What is the Treasury?
- The Treasury was established in 1840 and is one of the oldest Government departments.
- Manages the country's money.
- Manages the country's debt.
- Advises the Government on economic and financial policy.
- Minister of Finance the Hon Bill English is responsible for the Treasury.
- The Treasury's goals are to improve the country's economy, improve living standards, and make the state sector more effective and efficient.
- The Treasury is a small Government department with just 300 employees (state sector employs 36,000-plus people).
- source www.treasury.govt.nz