Coronavirus: Businessman's bold proposal to create economic advantage from New Zealand's potential 'safe haven' status

A bold new proposal has been mooted by Wellington businessman Troy Bowker which he believes could boost New Zealand's economy in the long run.

In response to the economic devastation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bowker, executive chairman of private investment firm Caniwi Capital, has suggested a scheme where 2000 foreigners invest roughly $50 million in New Zealand in exchange for a visa and the ability to relocate here.

With about 2 million COVID-19 cases and more than 125,000 deaths worldwide, Bowker says ultra-rich listers around the world are "petrified" looking at their countries in disarray with "people dying around them". He knows people would jump at the opportunity to move to New Zealand if we can squash the virus, something many other countries are unlikely to do.

"What we have created from a business perspective is intellectual property as a country. We have paid for it by our sacrifices, enormous sacrifices financially, and we have created this intellectual property which is New Zealand being a safe haven," he told Magic Talk's Peter Williams.

"If we manage to achieve squashing the virus, big assumption, we will be able to be seen around the world as a unique country where people will be safe from the virus, for a period of time until a vaccine is found."

He said conditions could be put onto their entry, such as not allowing the rich listers to invest in farms or New Zealand's cultural assets. Instead, they could support small or medium businesses, the tech industry and food-processing, as well as investing in infrastructure.

"These businesses don't have to be necessarily located in Silicon Valley or Europe, they can be located here in New Zealand. Those are real jobs coming into the country with capital."

Asked by Williams if that would just make Kiwis tenants in our own land and if we would lose leadership positions in sectors, Bowker said the investors wouldn't need to purchase our assets, but provide capital for them. 

"I am not suggesting that we necessarily sell all our businesses to foreigners. We bring in people with capital. One of the conditions would be that they would have to leave the capital here forever… It's not like they are taking the assets and moving offshore."

He said it is about developing a long-term vision for New Zealand beyond small measures to keep people afloat during the pandemic.

New Zealand is one of few countries around the world attempting to eliminate the virus. We haven't secured that yet, but COVID-19 case numbers in New Zealand have been trending downwards. The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed on Tuesday that we had passed the peak. Tight border restrictions have also been implemented to safeguard New Zealand against imported cases. 

Treasury forecast on Tuesday that if New Zealand's lockdown continued for months, up to 26 percent of working Kiwis would become unemployed. More likely, however, is that if lockdown is lifted and the Government provides more financial support, it could be kept below 10 percent and fall to 5 percent next year.

Already the Government is attempting to look to the future with the repurposing of the Provincial Growth Fund and a search for shovel-ready infrastructure projects.

The International Monetary Fund warned on Wednesday that the global economy could shrink by to 3 percent over 2020, the steepest decline since the Great Depression of the 1930s.