Provincial Growth Fund – jobs created

National MP Paul Goldsmith asked Minister for Regional Development Shane Jones questions about job creation in Parliament yesterday:

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept the figures of the latest household labour force survey, which showed that while New Zealand was creating 10,000 jobs per month under the last two years of the National Government, over the past three months it’s created only 667 jobs per month; and if so, does he think the Provincial Growth Fund will compensate for that massive reduction in job creation?

Hon SHANE JONES: On the question of jobs, as the first citizen of the provinces, I look at things through the spyglass of optimism. And the reality is that, as we make our allocation decisions, these projects and these capital investments take time to fully roll out. But I have sought additional advice, and very shortly I will provide a figure both to the House and to public, which is inversely related to the gibberish I had from that member around about Waitangi time.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept that if job growth had continued at the same pace that it had under National, there would have been an extra 28,000 jobs created in the past three months in this country; and is the Provincial Growth Fund in any way compensating for that lost opportunity for Kiwis?

Hon SHANE JONES: Obviously, the Provincial Growth Fund is really premised on the notion of provincial futures, and I have had precious little time to think about those dim, bleak times that he refers to.

Comment from Gezza:


Provincial Champion, Shane Jones corrects the record on PGF job numbers
(Actually, it’s more of a case of he says he finally now has a record of job numbers)

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has told 1 NEWS that 560 jobs have been generated so far by the Provincial Growth Fund. It comes several weeks after National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith claimed the fund had only created 54 jobs.

Mr Jones admits he wasn’t tracking the number properly, but says officials have now done a ring-around and are promising regular updates. “[It’s] 10 times larger than the miserable figure that my National opposition character [in] Epsom sulks, Mr Goldsmith was tossing around,” he said.

The Minister says the 560 figure is made up of both part-time and full-time jobs, and does not include contractors, trainees or bureaucrats.

More…

1 News at 6 video clip embedded
https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/exclusive-govts-3b-provincial-growth-fund-generates-560-jobs-good-start-towards-10k-promise?variant=tb_v_1


So 560 is all jobs working any number of hours, not the Full Time Equivalent that is often given for job numbers.

It’s early days yet for the Provincial Growth Fund. ‘Only’ $650 million of the three year budget of $3 billion has been handed out so far.

Time will tell how many jobs are created through investment from the fund – total and FTE – and more time will tell how many of those jobs are not short term. It’s possible that once the fiunding runs out that some jobs won’t be financially sustainable.

 

Splashing cash at Waitangi

So far one of the biggest stories of the lead up to Waitangi Day is the splashing of Government cash.

It looks more like a political pork barrel campaign than a dignified marking of New Zealand’s most important historical event.

And it’s not just the PR use and abuse of being in the national spotlight that is raising questions.

Newshub can reveal the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), designed to create jobs and boost the regions, has only created 54 jobs and spent just $26.6 million of its $3 billion.

Even with just 3.4 percent of the funding paid out, each job is costing the Government about $484,000.

Minister in charge of ther Money Machine, Shane Jones:

“I accept that the projects are going to take a while to fully establish…The Regional Economic Development Minister find himself tangled up in the Government’s own red tape. Despite my heroic rhetoric, it is quite a red tape process”.

 

Nation: Shane Jones on Provincial Growth Fund spending

NZ Herald:  Shane Jones announces suite of regional funding worth more than $80m

More than $80 million from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund will boost rural broadband, expand a driver-training centre near Fielding, and look into building a new freight hub near Palmerston North.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones was in the Manawatū-Whanganui today to announce a number of new initiatives, most of which are for Manawatū-Whanganui region.

About half of the funding – $40m – will be used for a new regional freight hub near Palmerston North, a key staging point for domestic, imported and exported freight in the Lower North Island.

Jones also announced funding across the food and beverage, digital connectivity and tourism sectors in the Manawatū-Whanganui region, including:

• $2.8m to expand the National Driver Training Centre based at Manfeild, near Feilding, to train 700 drivers and machine operators annually
• A $400,000 investment to fund the first stage of an Advanced Aviation Hub at Whanganui Airport
• $100,000 to investigate FoodHQs development to assist food exporters
• $100,000 to assess alternative land utilisation choices in the Tararua District
• $98,000 towards Kaitahi Food & Innovation Factory
• $95,000 towards establishing an education, training and employment programme at the former site of Turakina Māori Girls’ College
• $60,000 towards the Tararua Tourism & Trails Strategy
• $50,000 to investigate education to employment pathways within Horowhenua

The projects are subject to funding contracts that will include a range of agreed commercial arrangements, targets, milestones and deliverables.

Shane Jones admits failure to disclose meetings

The handing out of large amounts of money through the Provincial Growth Fund was always going to be scrutinised by the Opposition, especially with Shane Jones involved. And as Minister in charge Jones has had to admit ‘a slip-up’ in not disclosing 61 meetings, including some with people who have an interest in the Fund.

RNZ: Shane Jones fails to disclose 61 meetings

Shane Jones has had to correct 20 answers to questions from the National Party after he failed to disclose meetings he had earlier this year.

Some of those were with people who have an interest in the Provincial Growth Fund.

Mr Jones, the regional economic development minister, said he took full responsibility for the muck-up which he put down to a transcription error from his outlook diary.

One transcription error missed 61 meetings?

National MP Paul Goldsmith uses weekly written parliamentary questions to ask Mr Jones who he meets with and what for.

He said this slip-up by the minister seriously concerned him, because it was not one or two meetings he missed, but 61.

And, he said, a number of those meetings were to do with the $3 billion of public money Mr Jones had responsibility for.

“What’s made me nervous, is that we regularly ask who he meets with and you can understand that a minister would make the occasional mistake. But what we saw here was 61 meetings which he hadn’t initially declared, which he is now declaring.”

The forgotten meetings include a number with regional and sector representative groups, like Kiwifruit New Zealand and Whakatōhea Mussels.

There are dinners and site visits with local mayors, tourism groups and business representatives, as well as regular catch-ups with Mr Jones’ own ministerial colleagues.

There was also a meeting with the former New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone, who now has interests in an Iwi forestry project which has received a financial injection from Provincial Growth Fund.

It can’t have just been a transcription error, because a number of written questions have not been answered accurately.

Mr Jones said he has received approximately 3000 written questions from National since he became a minister, the majority of which had been answered accurately.

“This figure represents one percent, so in the bigger scheme of things it’s small fry. But the moment that the office uncovered that some of the meetings had been miscast, then we let [them] know.”

It isn’t small fry if the Minister isn’t meeting his responsibility to disclose meetings.

And Jones is likely to remain under scrutiny.

Also today from RNZ – ‘It’s murky’: Questions over use of Provincial Growth Fund

National wants answers as to why the Economic Development Minister is giving out cash to a private trust it says is set to make a killing off it.

A newsletter sent out by the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust, which has secured $6 million of Provincial Growth Fund money for a second round of pine planting on land in Northland, suggests trust benefactors are getting an exceptionally good deal which is “far superior to previous arrangements”.

It said the specifics of the deal were commercially sensitive, but “the financial returns to the beneficial owners to be received from this Forestry Right upon harvest will be substantial [sic].”

The newsletter also reveals the deal will require a third round of planting by the Crown.

“The Forestry Right with the Crown is for one rotation only and it includes the requirement for the Crown to plant a third rotation at its cost which will then be owned 100 percent by the Trust,” the newsletter said.

National’s economic development spokesperson Paul Goldmith said that proved serious financial gain for a private trust – which went directly against the core principles of the Provincial Growth Fund.

“We’ve been asking the minister and the ministry for the business cases, clarity about what is actually being purchased, what the performance indicators are before they get the money – and they’ve refused to give us that information so far.

“It’s murky, it’s been lacking in transparency and the basic principles of good governance.”

Mr Goldsmith also pointed out one of the trustees was former New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone, who he suggested lobbied the minister, Shane Jones, for the money.

But, Mr Paraone said he was appalled that the National Party had sunk so low as to accuse him of soliciting Crown cash.

“I was not part of the discussions as to whether or not Ngati Hine should lobby the minister and I don’t believe that they did,” he said.

“I had no part in the signing of the deal, or determining what the deal should be, other than to attend the actual planting of the first tree.”

Mr Paraone asked how far National was willing to take this argument.

Local governments and groups in the provinces are queueing up for government handouts for projects. This is understandable. Provincial areas have been run down and neglected by successive governments for several decades.

But there are risks of favouritism, money for mates, and poor investments, so scrutiny is important. And the Minister for Regional Economic Development should be aware that the need for transparency – including full disclosure – is important as the credibility of the fund and also the credibility of the Government is at stake.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern agreed the sheer volume of written questions from the opposition could impact accuracy of answers.

Why should it impact on accuracy? Good ministerial records should be kept, and accurate responses should be expected.

There is an issue with the volume of questions being asked, and  that may well impact in response times, but accuracy should be a standard expectation. So that’s an odd position for the Prime Minister to take.

1 News: Shane Jones says it’s a ‘happy coincidence’ his home region is getting the lion’s share of fund he’s in charge of

Northland is getting the most funding from the provincial growth fund that has $1 billion to spend.

A happy coincidence for those getting the money. Northland was badly in need of regional development, but funds handed out should be prudent decisions.

Perhaps it’s also a happy coincidence for the Shane Jones and NZ First re-election chances.

The Fund seems to have been a means for NZ First to fund some of their policies without needing ton get specific budget allocations – like this: Shane Jones earmarks $2.2 million of Provincial Growth Fund for 250,000 native trees

Ardern should be wary of Jones and the Fund, and she should be demanding that everything is transparent and above board – if she is able to demand anything of NZ First. Otherwise (and perhaps inevitably) Jones is an embarrassment waiting to happen for her Government.

Goldsmith isn’t an attention seeking MP, but he is tenacious, and is a good person to be maintaining the scrutiny of the Jones Fund.

NZ First risks regional backlash against racetrack closures

Winston Peters has marketed himself as a champion of the regions, and Shane Jones has similarly promoted himself as such – see ‘Champion of Regions’: Jones holds true to title – with his billion dollar Provincial Growth Fund handouts.

But one of Winston’s biggest hobby horses (and possibly one of his biggest benefactors) is the racing industry. And he is now proposing a radical plan to close a lot of race tracks around the regions and centralise them in three big cities. This is both a clash NZ First priorities, and a risk of backlash.

RNZ: Plan to cut 20 race tracks ‘gamechanger for industry’

The racing industry is facing two choices, significant change or death, says Racing Minister Winston Peters.

Mr Peters has released an independent report by Australian racing expert, John Messara, that concludes the industry is in a state of “serious malaise”.

The report recommends include almost halving the number of tracks and outsourcing the TAB’s commercial activities to an international operator.

Mr Peters said the racing industry was at a tipping point from which it won’t recover unless it took on on board all the reforms put forward by John Messara.

Officials will produce a Cabinet paper from the report’s 17 recommendations, which Mr Peters said was a chance to change the fortunes of the industry and push the reset button.

Mr Messara has proposed reducing the number of tracks from 48 to 28 and Mr Peters said that will have to be a reality if the industry wants to turn around its dwindling profits.

“Every region will retain a race track. There just won’t be the proliferation right now which in stark contrast to a big industry like New South Wales, has far more race tracks. It just doesn’t make any logical sense,” Mr Peters said.

What may be good for the racing industry may not be seen as good for the regions who lose their race tracks.

Taranaki will lose two out of three of its race tracks if the recommendations go ahead.

Taranaki Thoroughbred Racing board member and judge Ron Stanley said racing was getting incredibly more competitive and that required top facilities and cutting back the number of tracks.

“I think it’s a brave decision, we should have been doing it a few years ago. We’ve always had too many tracks”.

The towns who have tracks that may be closed may think differently.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bernard Saundry also backed the proposals which he described as a “gamechanger for the industry”.

“One of our biggest issues is we can’t spread the amount of money we have across 48 venues and improve the sport. So we need to consolidate our spending and make sure we’ve got a number of venues that have good race track surfaces and good customer facilities so that New Zealanders can enjoy the great things about New Zealand thoroughbred racing,” he said.

Centralisation in big cities has been a feature of the ‘neo-liberal’ reforms that Peters has been scathing of (for political purposes, I don’t know if he believes it).

But Peters is putting the racing industry ahead of the regions.

The Provincial Growth Fund will stump up the cash – expected to be about $15 million – for the tracks that Mr Messara has recommended building in Awapuni, Riccarton and Cambridge.

Mr Peters said taxpayers will accept that cost because racing “isn’t just about people turning up at the track in their Sunday best” – it’s about an industry that employs tens of thousands of people.

So he is championing an industry over people in the regions. He and the racing industry are going to pick winners and losers.

I’m not sure how well regional taxpayers and voters will accept that cost if it takes their tracks away.

“We will ensure that every region retains at least one track so there is racing there. And we will consult with the industry on these tracks that are to be closed. But we have to change, even if it is unpopular.”

Peters the prince of populism is prepared to push policies that may be unpopular in many regions – neo-liberal reforms of the racing industry means more to him for some reason.


And – it’s interesting to see how Peters intends using the Provincial Growth Fund to fund NZ First policies over and above what was negotiated in their Coalition Agreement.


ODT report on the winners and losers in the south in Seven race tracks face closure

In his report he recommended thoroughbred racing at Timaru, Kurow, Oamaru, Waimate, Omakau, Winton and Gore should cease.

Mr Messara recommended Wingatui, Ashburton, Ascot Park, Cromwell, Waikouaiti and Riverton hold race meetings in the lower South Island.

Closing Oamaru, Timaru and Gore while retaining Waikouaiti seems odd. I arrived at the Waikouaiti races this January to find out they had been cancelled due to track conditions.


UPDATE:

Risky rush to hand out Provincial Growth funds

One of the big new policies quickly kicked into gear was a billion dollar a year fund for projects in the regions. The rush to hand out money was always going to be risky, and so it proved.

RNZ: Officials failed to do background checks on energy scheme

A review has found government officials failed to do background checks on the people behind a proposed waste-to-energy scheme that was to be given hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money.

The funding for the feasibility study was put on hold by the Regional Development Minister Shane Jonesafter RNZ told him the scheme’s chief executive, Gerard Gallagher, had been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.

The internal review found officials working on Provincial Growth Fund projects failed to carry out due diligence on Renew Energy’s directors and shareholders.

If basic due diligence had been carried out then Gerard Gallagher’s referral to the Serious Fraud Office would have quickly been detected, it found.

The head of the Provincial Development Unit Nigel Bickle apologised.

“We fell below prudent standards of due diligence and we have apologised to the Minister for not getting this right,” Mr Bickle said.

“The public quite rightly expects government agencies to run a robust process before awarding contracts or approving funding – in this case we made a mistake by not completing appropriate checks on personnel associated with the Waste to Energy project.”

Mr Bickle said changes had been made and the unit would now carry out due diligence before applications were considered by ministers and announcements were made.

The implication here is alarming – that funds were announced before due diligence had been done.

The internal report, by the Business Ministry’s director of legal services, Chris Mathieson, also shows that two days after RNZ ran the story linking the new funding with Mr Gallagher’s referral to the Serious Fraud Office – he quit.

“On 2 March 2018, (Renew Energy director and West Coast Economic Development Manager ) Kevin Stratful advised MBIE, that following an emergency board meeting Mr Gallagher has resigned as CEO of Renew Energy and would be selling his shares in Renew Energy. That has now occurred,” the report reads.

Mr Mathieson said it was now up to the Provincial Development Unit to do due diligence on Renew Energy’s other owners before deciding whether the feasibility study should go ahead.

They are still considering the scheme for feasibility funding? RNZ revealed the Environment Ministry had advised the government that the project was a lemon.

Mr Jones said he just plain forgot about that advice.

Jones’ excuses sounded dodgy. Perhaps due diligence should have been done on him before giving him so much money to dish out.

RNZ: National says internal review of Renew Energy fiasco ‘alarming’

The National Party has accused the government of forcing officials working on the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund to cut corners to meet unrealistic deadlines.

Its regional development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said an internal review released late yesterday on the Renew Energy fiasco was “alarming”.

Mr Goldsmith said officials were under pressure from a government wanting “quick wins” for political gain.

“It’s not hard to spend $3 billion but it’s quite hard to spend $3 billion effectively, and to do that you have to have proper systems in place and clear procedures.

“And what we’re seeing doesn’t fill us with confidence at all.”

Goldsmith will have a busy time holding to account the many handouts from the fund over the course of the term.

Mr Jones said he was “disappointed by the lack of checks and balances” but he had confidence in the Provincial Development Unit.

“The scaling up process was a steep learning curve and I thank Nigel [Bickle, the head of the unit] and his team for their thorough review.”

Due diligence should have been done on the systems for deciding who benefits from the fund.

NZ First stands to benefit from generous handouts to regions given they also target provincial voters, but if the fund makes too many poor choices it could backfire.

It will also be a test for Jones, especially if he has ambitions to take over NZ First leadership from Winston Peters.

If Jones makes a big success of redistributing Government Provincial Growth funds he could have a crack at being Minister of Finance, but a bit more due diligence may be required.

Jones dismisses Ministry warning not to touch waste-to-energy scheme

A grant from the Provincial Growth Fund for a feasibility study for a West Coast waste-to-energy scheme was put on hold when RNZ revealed that it’s chief executive had been referred to the Serious Fraud Office, but RNZ now also reveals that the Environment Ministry had warned that it didn’t stack up financially or environmentally – but Shane Jones says that that was trivial and he would have ignored the warning and funded the feasibility study.

RNZ: Experts warned govt not to touch waste-to-energy scheme

The government announced hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for a proposed waste-to-energy scheme two days after experts advised it was a lemon.

The Environment Ministry warned the Provincial Growth Fund that the proposed project on the West Coast did not stack up economically or environmentally.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones placed the proposed scheme on ice in February after RNZ informed him its chief executive, Gerard Gallagher, had been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.

Now, advice obtained under the Official Information Act shows the Environment Ministry warned the scheme had enormous flaws just two days before Mr Jones announced $350,000 for its feasibility study.

Not only would the scheme undermine other incentives to reduce waste – like recycling, it would increase carbon emissions the experts cautioned.

The Environment Ministry warned the project relied upon “unrealistic expectations”.

It said those behind the scheme “do not demonstrate an understanding of the South Island waste market”, “had not secured adequate feedstock for the project”, “the business case and budget are not adequately formed”, and “the applicant demonstrated key misunderstandings of the New Zealand context including the “erroneous assumption all landfills are required to close by 2040”.

But Jones dismisses this advice.

Mr Jones said he never received the advice and even if he had it would have made no difference.

“I haven’t seen that email, but look I wouldn’t catastrophise such trivial events – the bureaucrats will constantly be trading streams of analysis among themselves.”

Mr Jones said even if he had been aware of the Environment Ministry’s position it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

“It makes not one jot of difference to me – a feasibility study should be able to flush all such information out,” Mr Jones said.

“And if the thing dies as a consequence of a feasibility study that’s why private sector and public sector should do feasibility studies.”

That’s a concern on two levels.

Funding schemes against expert advice does not look good – it adds weight to suspicions that it is more of a NZ First slush fund than genuine regional development.

And does Jones get to decide who the Provincial Growth Fund hands money out to? The Fund is supposed to have an Independent Advisory Panel:

Provincial Growth Fund open for business

“We are being bold and we are being ambitious because this Government is committed to ending the years of neglect. Nearly half of us live outside our main cities. If this country is to do well, then our provinces must thrive.

“Our first regional packages support the regions most neglected by the last government: in Northland, Tairāwhiti-East Coast, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatū-Whanganui and the West Coast of the South Island.

The last one of those refers to the waste-to-energy scheme.

“An Independent Advisory Panel has been appointed to assist the decision-making of ministers and officials, supported by a new Regional Economic Development Unit within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to work directly with regions, ensuring this isn’t a Wellington-driven Fund.

“The announcements we’re making today are just the beginning and I’m looking forward to building on this momentum over the coming weeks, months and years and realising the untapped potential of our provinces,” Mr Jones says.

I hope there is more momentum towards heeding expert advice.

NZ First pork or overdue help for regions?

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the regions have been neglected and in some cases allowed to wither by successive governments over the past thirty years.

It’s harder to work how much the $3 billion over three years regional development fund is an overdue investment in provincial New Zealand, and how much might be a vote buying spree by NZ First and Labour.

There were multiple media statements from Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones detailing initial spending targets.


Provincial Growth Fund open for business

The new $1 billion per annum Provincial Growth Fund has been officially launched in Gisborne today by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

“As of today, the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is open for business and has the potential to make a real difference to the people of provincial New Zealand,” Mr Jones says.

“We are being bold and we are being ambitious because this Government is committed to ending the years of neglect. Nearly half of us live outside our main cities. If this country is to do well, then our provinces must thrive.

“Our first regional packages support the regions most neglected by the last government: in Northland, Tairāwhiti-East Coast, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatū-Whanganui and the West Coast of the South Island.

“We are providing an immediate boost to these areas by investing $61.7 million into forestry initiatives, tourism ventures, rail and roading projects, and supporting these regions develop their proposals further to help them get off the ground.

“The first of many projects the PGF will support will create more than 700 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs – an impressive start to what will be an exciting three years for our provinces.

“If all the projects we’re funding realise their full potential, this will equate to more than $344 million of public and private investment for our regional economies.”

The PGF aims to enhance economic development opportunities, create sustainable jobs, contribute to community well-being, lift the productivity potential of regions, and help meet New Zealand’s climate change targets.

“The $3 billion will be fully committed over three years, making investment in the provinces more attractive for private sector investment, which has strongly favoured our main urban centres in recent years.

“We will form genuine partnerships up and down the country and provide the capital needed to stop projects languishing in long-term plans and regional action strategies.”

All regions are eligible for funding.

“An Independent Advisory Panel has been appointed to assist the decision-making of ministers and officials, supported by a new Regional Economic Development Unit within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to work directly with regions, ensuring this isn’t a Wellington-driven Fund.

“Our provinces are full of ideas and proposals. I have been heartened by the aspirations of so many businesses and investors, local councils, iwi, and community groups and I’m pleased to say that we now have a mechanism to see these realised.

“The announcements we’re making today are just the beginning and I’m looking forward to building on this momentum over the coming weeks, months and years and realising the untapped potential of our provinces,” Mr Jones says.

Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay: Tourism and forestry take centre stage

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest $8.6 million in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay to immediately boost tourism and forestry opportunities, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

Manawatū-Whanganui: Port and Rail boost

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest more than $6 million towards revitalisation of the Whanganui Port and upgrade of the town’s rail line, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

Northland: Tourism and jobs at heart of economic development package

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will provide $17.5 million to help create jobs, address infrastructure deficits, diversify the regional economy and enhance the tourism opportunities that exist in Northland, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced today.

West Coast: Future-proofing key to economic growth

The Provincial Growth Fund will invest in two cycle trails for the West Coast and work with the region to develop more proposals to be considered for funding, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced.

Collaborative efforts towards the ambitious one billion trees target are well under way with the first areas of land needed for Crown Forestry planting this winter committed, Forestry Minister Shane Jones says.

Regional Economic Development Minister and Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones has today announced the first of many regional rail initiatives the Government is looking to support.

The future of the upper North Island ports, including whether Ports of Auckland should be relocated, will be considered as part of a wider transport and logistics strategy, Associate Minister of Transport Shane Jones has today announced.

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will provide up to $4.6 million towards a new cultural tourism experience in Opononi, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has announced.