The opposition likes to say the government doesn’t have a plan, but it does and it’s still on track:
The Government’s economic plan to deliver a faster-growing economy, more jobs and a return to surplus remains on track, despite ongoing uncertainty in many parts of the world, Finance Minister Bill English says.
Issuing the Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update today, along with the Government’s Budget Policy Statement, he says Budget 2013 will focus on continuing to implement this plan.
“We’ve set four main priorities for this term. “They include returning to surplus and reducing debt; pushing ahead with a wide-ranging programme of microeconomic reforms to create a more productive and competitive economy; driving better results from public services; and supporting the rebuilding of Christchurch.
“This programme is helping New Zealanders and their families to get ahead, encouraging personal responsibility and rewarding people for hard work and enterprise.”
The Half-Year Update forecasts the Government posting a modest surplus of $66 million in 2014/15 – down from the $197 million surplus forecast in Budget 2012. It also shows net core Crown debt peaking below 30 per cent of GDP.
“Thereafter, surpluses are forecast to increase and debt is forecast to fall,” Mr English says. “Continued control over spending has allowed the Government to remain on track to surplus, despite the impact on revenue of more difficult global conditions.”
The importance of this hasn’t yet got through to the opposition who have fought tooth and nail against every policy to control spending, even though it has been done without reducing services.
Over each of the next five years, economic growth is forecast to average 2.5 per cent, together with increasing numbers of New Zealanders in employment and a falling unemployment rate.
“The global economic environment remains uncertain and this makes it even more important to maintain clear and credible fiscal settings,” Mr English says.
“This is a time for sensible and responsible policy – not for untried economic experiments. “Budget 2013 will confirm the Government’s commitment to responsible long-term fiscal management.
“This will require restraint well beyond the surplus target of 2014/15, so we can pay down debt and build a buffer against the next global shock, while at the same time resuming payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and targeting investment at priority public services.
Opposition parties are much better at spending money than saving or making it – except of course Green co-leader Russel Norman who is very keen to just print some more.
“At the same time as getting its own finances in order, the Government is continuing to address New Zealand’s significant economic challenges, including a sustained rebalancing towards the internationally competitive sectors of the economy.
“A broad range of targeted microeconomic reforms currently underway through the Government’s Business Growth Agenda will help to lift New Zealand’s productivity and competitiveness.”
Looking ahead, the European sovereign debt crisis and ongoing fiscal debt problems in the United States are risks to the global recovery. Downgraded forecasts of global growth have been factored into the Half-Year Update.
“Compared to many other countries, the New Zealand economy is in good shape,” Mr English says. “Despite our growth forecasts being slightly weaker than in Budget 2012, New Zealand is expected to grow more strongly over the next four years than the Euro area, the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada.
“New Zealand has a number of positive opportunities over the next decade, including strong and growing trade and investment links with Asia, elevated terms of trade and the Christchurch rebuild – which is expected to contribute 0.7 per cent to annual growth over the next few years.
“We’re in a strong position to translate those opportunities into more jobs, higher incomes and better living standards for New Zealand families. “The Government’s economic and fiscal programme is aimed squarely at ensuring this happens.”
The outlook isn’t for boom times, but sustained growth in the face of domestic and international challenges is no small achievement for the National-led government.
It’s also one which we couldn’t hope to achieve with Labour-Green prescriptions.