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News and Updates from Bill English

13 April 2015
English to visit Australia this week

Finance Minister Bill English will visit Australia this week, where he will take the opportunity to hear first-hand from business and industry leaders their thoughts about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Australian economy.

“Australia is one of our major international partners and traditionally, we do well when they do well. So while the proximity of exchange rate parity is an indicator of strength in the New Zealand economy, it also reflects some uncertainty about  Australia which could impact on us. Almost 20 per cent  of New Zealand exports are to Australia, and over 50 per cent of our Overseas Direct Investment goes across the Tasman.

“It will be useful for me to talk to companies who are big investors and employers in Australia. The trip  also provides a chance to strengthen  our  links with the Australian business and investment community. We have many common challenges and opportunities and it’s good to know what each other is thinking,” Mr English says.

Visiting Perth tomorrow, Mr English will speak with mining sector leaders and Government representatives. He  will then spend a day each in  Brisbane and Sydney  meeting with business and infrastructure sector leaders, including the Trans-Tasman Business Council before returning on Friday.

Mr English will return briefly to Sydney on 20 April to speak at the Business Council of Australia Annual Forum.

10 April 2015
Crown accounts turn back to deficit in February

The Crown accounts have slipped back to a deficit of $269 million in the eight months to February, making the previous month’s flirtation with surplus short-lived but nevertheless encouraging, Finance Minister Bill English says.

The operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) for the seven months to January showed a surplus of $77 million - the first time since 2009 that the Government’s books had shown a part-year surplus.

Revenue from some tax sources have remained higher than forecast in February, but not as far ahead as they were in January. “Other individuals” tax is $217 million ahead of forecast, and corporate tax $91 million higher, indicating a pleasing lift in profitability for some businesses. However, the February accounts show GST being $261 million lower than forecast. About  $150 million of that is attributed to earthquake-related refunds to insurers. The rest of the GST shortfall is related to very low inflation leading to lower-than-expected spending on consumption.

The Government continues to do a good job of controlling its own expenditure with core Crown expenses in the latest eight-month period  $312 million lower than forecast, though some of that relates to the timing of Treaty settlements so will reverse out in time. Taken over the year, core Crown expenditure for 2014/15 is forecast to be $4.1 billion lower than forecast in Budget 2011  when the Government  first set the target of returning to surplus in 2014/15.

“We’re continuing to manage the books carefully but lower inflation, while good for consumers, is making it less likely that the final accounts in October will show a surplus for the whole year,” Mr English says.

“Nevertheless, the fact that we’re a bit over one month, and a bit under the next, shows just how far we have come since 2010/11 when we had an $18.4 billion deficit. Next month’s Budget will produce new forecasts that I expect will take in to account further reductions in the inflation outlook.”

08 April 2015
Social housing comments unfounded

Comments from the State Housing Action Network that the Government is abdicating its responsibility to social housing tenants are completely incorrect, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“Our social housing reforms will provide more social housing for New Zealanders in need, and we will grow the community housing sector while maintaining Housing New Zealand as by far the largest provider of social housing,” Mr English says.

Community housing providers already own or manage around 5,000 properties around New Zealand, and have a proven track record of delivering services for their tenants. Their core business is providing safe, affordable social housing for New Zealanders in need, which is why we want to work with them to provide more quality social housing.

“Resolving some of New Zealand’s longstanding social challenges requires the Government to be open to working with community groups, non-government agencies and the private sector,” Mr English says. “We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas.”

“The Government has set bottom-line commitments about the social housing changes which will help ensure there is greater support for tenants, including:

  • Housing New Zealand and community housing providers will collectively provide more social housing places than there are now.
  • Properties will be sold only if this results in better services for tenants and fair and reasonable value for taxpayers.
  • Tenants in properties that are sold will continue to be housed for the duration of their need.
  • The Government will spend more on income-related rent subsidies and ensure that Housing New Zealand has enough capital to build new social housing and to develop its existing properties.”

Background material:

Further detail on the specific objectives of the social housing reform programme, and the full set of bottom-line commitments are available at http://www.beehive.govt.nz/sites/all/files/Qs_and_As_0.pdf

19 March 2015
NZ’s consistent economic growth continues

New Zealand’s economy continues to perform consistently well with another quarter of solid growth reported today, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Statistics New Zealand today released gross domestic product figures for the December quarter showing growth of 0.8 per cent. This took annual growth – from the December quarter 2013 to the December quarter 2014 – to 3.5 per cent, the highest annual rate since Sept 2007. Average annual growth to December 2014 was 3.3 per cent.

Growth was across the board, with retail trade and accommodation, manufacturing, and rental, hiring and real estate services all contributing strongly in the quarter.

“The good news about New Zealand’s economic growth is that it has proved to be consistent and sustainable, which is contributing to confidence about hiring and investment,” Mr English says.

“Where this growth really makes a difference to New Zealanders and their families is in their household budgets. They are earning more, saving more and borrowing less.

“In 2014 we saw 80,000 new jobs created, a record high participation rate in the labour force of 69.7 per cent, and average weekly wages growing at 2.5 per cent compared with inflation of 0.8 per cent.

“This is helping New Zealand families, particularly those with mortgages who are experiencing a long period of stable low interest rates, to get ahead. The Government’s leadership and direction are helping the economy to grow, and that growth is helping New Zealanders.

“However, there are many risks around and no-one should take this consistent growth for granted. The effects of drought and lower dairy prices are likely to have an impact this year, and international risks - including declining growth prospects for some of our main trading partners - are ever-present.

New Zealand continues to be one of the higher-performing countries in the OECD.  New Zealand’s 3.5 per cent economic growth in 2014 compares with  growth of 2.7 per cent in the UK,  2.5 per cent in Australia, 2.4 per cent in the United States, 0.9 per cent in the Euro area and  -0.7 per cent in Japan over the same period.

12 March 2015
Flag Referendums Bill passes first reading

A bill that sets out how the two postal referendums on the New Zealand Flag will be conducted passed its first reading in Parliament today, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says.

The New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill was referred to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee after a 76 to 43 vote on the first reading.

“New Zealanders will decide whether the flag changes or not,” Mr English says.

“The bill simply puts in place the structures and processes needed to ensure that the consideration process is carried out formally, carefully and fairly. The proposed legislation contains no bias in favour of change.”

The bill sets out the rules and requirements for the conduct of the referendums, as well as rules for participation by voters and advertisers.

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