Finance Minister Bill English explains the benefits of using funds from the partial sale of a few state owned assets to invest in new ones:
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government continues to make good progress in investing almost $4.7 billion from its share offer programme into new public assets. We are able to invest this money without having to borrow more from overseas lenders. At the weekend the Prime Minister and Minister Brownlee confirmed that $212 million from the Future Investment Fund will be invested in 14 important regional State highway projects around New Zealand. That is on top of the $360 million that we have already proposed for regional roads across New Zealand. This investment will continue to build on the Government’s extensive investment in vital infrastructure, which includes ultra-fast broadband, schools, hospitals, roads, and rail, and more of it will be financed from the Future Investment Fund.
John Hayes: How will the latest investment in regional roads meet the objectives set for using capital raised from the Government’s share offer programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: This investment follows through on the logic of the sales, where the Government sold shares to investors, the investors passed cash to the Government, and now we have the opportunity to invest that cash. As the Prime Minister said at the weekend, the investment in regional roads is a perfect example of money from the share floats being invested for the benefit of New Zealanders, its economy, and its families. The 14 projects are spread across the country from Otago to Northland, from the West Coast to the East Coast.
John Hayes: What other investments in new public assets has the Government confirmed using proceeds from the share offer programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the House is now familiar with, there is $4.7 billion of proceeds from the share offer programme. In Budget 2014 the Government confirmed a further $1 billion of new investment. This included $200 million for health, including $67 million for the new Grey Base Hospital on the West Coast. This took health spending from the Future Investment Fund to $684 million. It also allocated $172 million to education, including the upgrade and replacement of schools in Canterbury. KiwiRail received another $198 million. All up, the $1 billion allocated from the fund in Budget 2014 brought the total allocated to almost $3 billion, which left nearly $1.7 billion in the fund for new public assets over the next couple of years without having to borrow more money.
Using the proceeds for new investments without additional borrowing is very sensible practice and exactly what National said it would do.
The logic of that has until now escaped the Opposition but it now appears to have approval from one party on the other side of the House:
John Hayes: What reports has he seen supporting the Government’s approach to investing proceeds from the share offer programme in new public assets?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen reports from an unlikely source: an alternative budget that was issued in the last week or two. The reports indicate that this alternative approach to the Government’s finances will continue the current Government’s approach of using proceeds from the share offer programme. The Opposition budget includes the $4.7 billion proceeds from the asset sales being spent on public assets, which was rather a surprise given that they had spent 4 years vigorously opposing the policy.
Labour has prevaricated over whether it would buy back shares in the state-owned companies which were partially sold by the government.
But its alternative budget indicates it’s now decided it won’t.
That is sensible but how would that go down with potential coalition partners in the Green and NZ First Parties who opposed the sales at least as vigorously and continue to do so?