The Bill enabling the Government to offer New Zealanders minority shares in four energy SOEs has passed its third and final reading in Parliament yesterday.
Even someone as partisan as I am wouldn’t call the 61 -60 vote an overwhelming majority. But as Colin James points out the government has a mandate to govern.
Using that mandate it has chosen to sell up to 49% of four energy companies so it doesn’t have to borrow to invest in other assets.
“This is part of the National Government’s wider economic plan to control debt and keep investing in our economy,” State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall says. . .
“We expect strong New Zealand interest. Current international economic uncertainty may see more interest in the government share offers as local investors stay home rather than invest overseas, and as they look to invest in known infrastructure businesses such as the electricity sector.
“The National Government has been upfront about its plans to offer New Zealanders minority shareholdings in government owned businesses, as part of a wider plan to protect and grow the New Zealand economy.
“We took that clear plan to the country and New Zealanders voted for us in overwhelming numbers.
“The share offers will help to control debt, increase opportunities for New Zealanders to save, and deepen capital markets.
“And, over the next 3 to 5 years the around $6 billion in proceeds from these share offers will pay for essential new public assets like modern schools and hospitals through a new Future Investments Fund – that is $6 billion we would otherwise have had to borrow from overseas lenders and pay significant interest on. That is $6 billion off our national debt.
“We have strict ownership limits and these are now enshrined in legislation. The government will retain at least 51 per cent control and there will be a 10 per cent share cap on all other investors. We have also set a target of 85-90 per cent New Zealand ownership at the time of the offer.
The opposition still won’t like this, even though most people opposed to the partial sales would buy shares if they could.
That won’t stop them continuing to waste money on attempting to gain enough signatures to force a
Citizens MPs Initiated referendum on the issue.
The motive for that, when they’ve said they wouldn’t buy the shares back if/when they’re in government, is purely political.
It’s an opportunity to get attention and they’ll continue to milk that opportunity for as long as they can.