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News and Updates from Bill English

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.

Read full article

11 March 2015
Books show surplus for seven months to January

The operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) for the seven months to January was a surplus of $77 million, driven by higher than expected tax revenue and lower than expected operating expenses, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“This is the first time the Government’s books have shown a part-year surplus since 2009. Although it is too early to say whether we will have a surplus for the full 2014/15 year, this result demonstrates the strides we have made in improving the Government’s finances,” Mr English says.

The OBEGAL outturn was $712 million better than the $635 million deficit forecast by the Treasury in the Half-Year Update (HYEFU) in December, but was still $120 million below Treasury’s Budget 2014 forecast, undertaken at the start of the fiscal year.

Corporate tax was $158 million, or 3.2 per cent above the HYEFU forecast and source deductions were $146 million, or 1.0 per cent above forecast.

“Although corporate tax and source deductions were both ahead of forecast for the seven months to January, these latest figures underscore the difficulty in forecasting the difference between two large numbers,” Mr English says.

“We won’t know until the final accounts are published in October whether we will achieve a surplus for the whole year. The variance of both tax and expenditure from forecasts reinforces that message.”

Core Crown expenses for the first half of the financial year were $249 million lower than forecast at HYEFU.

“The Government is continuing to responsibly manage its finances. Core Crown expenditure for 2014/15 is forecast to be $4.1 billion lower than forecasts made when we first set the surplus target back in 2011,” Mr English says.

06 March 2015
Moody’s reaffirms NZ’s top Aaa credit rating

Leading credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service has reaffirmed New Zealand’s Aaa sovereign credit rating with a stable outlook, noting the strength of the economy and improving government finances.

“This is a further endorsement of the Government’s responsible economic and fiscal programme,” Finance Minister Bill English says.

“Moody’s notes that New Zealand’s economy is growing relatively strongly, despite a steep fall in dairy prices during 2014. Compared to similarly rated countries, it says that New Zealand has a track record of faster and more stable growth in recent years.

“In addition, Moody’s has assessed New Zealand’s fiscal strength as very high. This reflects a debt burden that is lower than the median for Aaa-rated countries, along with the prospect of a return to budget surplus.”

Mr English says the Government’s spending restraint and falling debt as a proportion of gross domestic product have again been recognised by Moody’s.

It notes that the National-led Government is committed to not raising taxes and that its strategy for returning to surplus is based on expenditure restraint. This will allow spending to fall to below 30 per cent of GDP during the coming four years – down from a peak of 34.6 per cent in 2010/11.

“As Moody’s notes, New Zealand’s main vulnerability is its external debt and structural current account deficits,” Mr English says. “Both of these indicators have improved somewhat in recent years and the Government is focused on further improvement through its economic programme.”

New Zealand is one of only 14 countries with the top Aaa rating and a stable outlook with Moody’s.

Moody’s credit analysis of New Zealand is available at: https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-New-Zealands-economic-growth-supports-Aaa-rating--PR_319984

27 February 2015
Govt backs data forum’s recommendations

The Government is backing the recommendations of the NZ Data Futures Forum to make better use of public data and uphold privacy standards, Finance Minister Bill English and Statistics Minister Craig Foss say.

The NZ Data Futures Forum — an independent expert advisory group from the public and private sectors — was established by the Government last year to help drive further use of open data.

Recommendations in the forum’s final report included:

  • Exploring the potential value of an independent data council which could lead, support and advocate for data use
  • Reviewing the policy and legislative environment to ensure it supports better use of data
  • Launching catalyst projects supporting collaboration between public and private sectors
  • Encouraging Government agencies to continue to open up data to the public.

The Government has directed officials to report back in March on progressing data catalyst projects and the Government’s Open Data initiative.

“Delivering better public services for New Zealanders means making better use of the information we have and lifting accountability to the public through transparency,” Mr English says.

These initiatives sit alongside a range of measures the Government is taking to improve data use, including Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure, the Ministry of Social Development’s investment view, and a pilot project between Land Information New Zealand and Wiki NZ.

The Government has also established the Social Sector Board to accelerate integration of social sector data, including setting common standards.

“More data use highlights the need for that data to be used responsibly,” Mr Foss says.

“The Government has signed-up to the Forum’s four recommended data use principles of value, inclusion, trust and control.

“Giving individuals greater control over the use of their data, and building confidence in our institutions to protect sensitive information is an essential part of making better-use of information.”

New Zealand was recently ranked fourth-equal in open data by Open Data Barometer Global Report.

The recommendations of the New Zealand Data Futures Forum can be found at: https://www.nzdatafutures.org.nz

The Government’s response can be found at: http://www.stats.govt.nz/about_us/what-we-do/our-publications/cabinet-papers.aspx