Data Futures Forum delivers final report

28 July 2014 0 Comments

The Data Futures Forum has delivered a range of thought-provoking recommendations on the use of data in New Zealand, Finance Minister Bill English and Statistics Minister Nicky Wagner say.

The forum, an advisory group comprising public and private sector experts, delivered its third and final report to the Government today.

“It shows New Zealand has the opportunity to be a world leader in the sharing of data held by government, with high ethical and privacy standards,” Mr English says.

The Data Futures Forum was established in February to consider how to unlock opportunities through greater data sharing. The initiative is part of the Government’s wider programme to deliver better results from public spending.

“We are already seeing the benefits that more intelligent use of data can deliver – for example the actuarial valuation of the welfare system is supporting early interventions that avoid bigger costs later.”

Statistics Minister Nicky Wagner says the Data Futures Forum has come up with a number of interesting ideas.

“With the opportunity around the greater use of data goes responsibility. We’re aware of the genuine concerns about the way data is shared and managed. This report has made concrete recommendations that will be of interest to New Zealanders and I encourage them to read it,” Ms Wagner says.

“We thank the Forum members, under the leadership of John Whitehead, for their efforts. The Government will fully consider the report before responding.”

The report is available here: https://www.nzdatafutures.org.nz/.

Local regulations go under microscope

22 July 2014 0 Comments

The Government says it is accepting nearly all of the recommendations the Productivity Commission has made on ways to improve local regulations.

“The quality of local regulation impacts significantly on New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing.  It affects all aspects of our lives from resource and building consents through to food safety and liquor licensing,” says Regulatory Reform Minister, Bill English.

Mr English says the Government is determined to ensure the local regulatory system is functioning as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“That’s why we asked the commission to provide advice on how we can improve how functions are allocated at a local level and ensure there is adequate resourcing and clear directions on the local and national management of regulations. 

“I’m pleased to announce that we are accepting all but two of the Commission’s recommendations to improve the local regulatory system. 

“The Department of Internal Affairs will work with other government agencies whose policies and legislation impact on local government to improve consultation and minimise any unintended negative impacts.

“Treasury will work with key agencies to consider how the regulatory planning process can be used to provide better information about future regulatory proposals affecting local government,” Mr English says.

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett is also establishing a new Rules Reduction Taskforce that will identify and address bureaucratic and nonsensical rules.

She says the Government has already made some changes to improve the way regulation works at the local level.

“The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 requires councils to coordinate with other monitoring and enforcement agencies.  Changes proposed by the freshwater and resource management reforms will improve the delivery of local regulation in those areas,” says Mrs Bennett.

The Government response to the Commission’s ‘Towards Better Local Government’ can be found at: http://www.dia.govt.nz/diawebsite.nsf/wpg_URL/Resource-material-Our-Policy-Advice-Areas-Local-Government-Policy?OpenDocument

Good progress on Better Public Service targets

21 July 2014 0 Comments

Long-term welfare dependency is reducing and more young people are achieving higher qualifications under the Government’s Better Public Services initiative, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman say.

The Government today published the July update of BPS targets, which confirms more good progress in tackling some of the most challenging issues facing New Zealanders, however making headway in other areas is slower, Mr English says.

“The Government is committed to making progress on the really difficult issues that affect our communities and families, and particularly the most vulnerable,” he says.

“Taxpayers spend billions of dollars a year on public services to help their fellow New Zealanders and this Government is determined to ensure they get what they pay for. Our focus on reducing welfare dependency, increasing achievement in schools and reducing crime require government agencies to find better solutions and to work with others to implement them. 

“We are prepared to spend money on effective programmes which change lives, because what works for the community also works for the Government’s books.”

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Australian Treasurer Hockey to visit NZ next week

18 July 2014 0 Comments

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey will visit New Zealand between 21 and 23 July – his first visit to this country since becoming Treasurer last year, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“I’m looking forward to hosting Mr Hockey for our annual bilateral meeting,” Mr English says. “We’ve enjoyed a strong and positive personal relationship going back a number of years and I’m looking forward to catching up with him once again.

“New Zealand’s economic, trade and investment ties with Australia are closer than with any other country. We share a number of common opportunities and challenges, which I’m keen to discuss with Mr Hockey.

“The visit will follow New Zealand’s attendance at the Leadership Group of the Business 20 in Sydney this week - a forum that brought together business leaders from across the G20.

“The New Zealand Government appreciates Australia – through its G20 presidency – providing the opportunity for New Zealand to attend a number of G20-related meetings this year,” Mr English says.

During his New Zealand visit, Mr Hockey will visit Christchurch to learn about progress with the city’s rebuild.

In Wellington, he will meet Prime Minister John Key and other ministers, along with a number of business leaders.

Mr Hockey and Mr English will address a Trans-Tasman Business Circle lunch in Wellington on 23 July, before Mr Hockey returns to Australia.

English attends B20 business forum in Sydney

15 July 2014 0 Comments

Finance Minister Bill English will attend the B20 forum in Sydney this week, where around 300 business leaders from around the world will finalise private sector policy recommendations for the G20 leaders’ summit later this year.

Australia, as host of the G20 this year, has invited New Zealand to attend as a guest alongside the G20 members.

“New Zealand strongly supports Australia’s approach to the G20 presidency, including its focus on promoting strong economic growth and employment, and making the global economy more resilient to deal with future shocks,” Mr English says.

“Such significant opportunities do not come along often. We appreciate Australia providing this opportunity for New Zealand – both at a political and business level – to showcase our country at an important international forum.”

New Zealand’s delegation to the B20 will include more than a dozen business leaders.

The forum, which runs from tomorrow until Friday, will include a keynote address from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. It will also include sessions focused on driving growth and jobs and on maximising global investment.

Fitch’s positive outlook backs Govt programme

09 July 2014 0 Comments

Credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings’ decision to revise New Zealand’s AA sovereign rating outlook from stable to positive is a vote of confidence in the New Zealand economy and the Government’s programme, Finance Minister Bill English says.

The positive outlook, which was announced overnight, indicates the likely direction of the credit rating over the next year or two, although it is not confirmation that a change will occur.

“As Fitch notes, the Government’s fiscal consolidation and its track to surplus in 2014/15 are strengthening the resilience of New Zealand’s credit profile,” Mr English says.

“Furthermore, it confirms that the Government has a credible plan to increase its fiscal surplus in the years ahead and to reduce net core Crown debt to 20 per cent of GDP by 2020.

“And Fitch comments that New Zealand’s economic policy framework, business environment and standards of governance rank among the world’s strongest from a credit perspective, warranting ‘high grade’ sovereign ratings.”

In its ratings update, Fitch also notes that New Zealand’s main vulnerabilities relate to its high net external debt and dependence on commodity exports.

“The Government remains focused on working with New Zealand households and businesses to lift our economic competitiveness,” Mr English says.

“We have made some good progress in addressing our longstanding vulnerabilities, with both the current account deficit and New Zealand’s net international liabilities substantially lower than they were five years ago.”

Alongside Fitch’s AA rating with a positive outlook, New Zealand is rated Aaa with a stable outlook by Moody’s and AA with a stable outlook by Standard and Poor’s.

Fitch Ratings’ media statement: https://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/press_releases/detail.cfm?pr_id=838474

Careful spending in order as surplus within sight

08 July 2014 0 Comments

The Government’s latest monthly financial accounts confirm that achieving a surplus in 2014/15 requires a determined focus on careful spending and responsible economic management, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“Just as the Government’s careful fiscal stewardship has taken New Zealand within sight of fiscal surplus in the coming year, the last thing we need is a return to big government spending programmes that would crowd out private investment and put that surplus in jeopardy,” he says.

“New Zealanders should be wary of such approaches from political parties as we head towards the election in September.”

The Crown accounts for the 11 months to May 31 show core Crown expenses were $36 million below the latest forecast, but that was more than offset by core Crown tax revenue coming in $459 million below forecast.

This left the operating deficit before gains and losses at $1.1 billion – $332 million larger than forecast.

Despite the economy growing by 3.8 per cent in the year to March 31, GST, corporate tax and other direct taxes were below forecast for the 11 months – driven in part by lower-than-expected consumer spending.

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Same old tax and spend from Labour

25 June 2014 0 Comments

Labour’s tax and spend ‘plan’ released today is the Opposition’s usual approach to public finances, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“After nearly six years in Opposition, all Labour can come up with is a re-hash of its failed old recipe of taxing more and spending more,” Mr English says.

“No one will be surprised – or impressed – by that.

“Labour want to increase taxes so they can spend more without any focus on better results. They are out of touch with New Zealanders’ expectations that the measure of good government is better results, not more spending.

“Labour’s complex capital gains tax would be full of holes, slap a new tax on 2.3 million KiwiSavers and on every New Zealand farm and business without addressing the real issues around housing affordability.

“As for the proposed new top tax rate, it’s just the politics of envy. It wouldn’t actually raise much money, it would encourage those who could do so to shelter money in companies and it would ignore the fact that these taxpayers already pay 22 per cent of income tax - even though they are just 2 per cent of taxpayers.”

NZ among better performers on inequality - OECD

24 June 2014 0 Comments

New Zealand was one of only six developed economies in which both income inequality and disposable income inequality was flat or slightly better between 2007 and 2011, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In its latest report, which looks at the impact of the global financial crisis  on inequality across 33 developed economies, the OECD confirms New Zealand performed relatively well through the GFC and its aftermath, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“The domestic recession in New Zealand under the previous government in early 2008 and the global financial crisis that followed were tough on many New Zealanders and their families,” he says.

“However, this Government ran large deficits and borrowed through that period to continue its significant support programmes. At the same time, we also set a track back to surplus and supported an economic recovery that is now delivering more jobs and higher incomes.

“This latest OECD research confirms that while inequality increased in many OECD countries during the global financial crisis, this was not the case in New Zealand.”

Using data compiled for the Ministry of Social Development’s household incomes report, the OECD’s latest Income Inequality Update confirms that both income inequality and disposable income inequality were flat or slightly better in New Zealand between 2007 and 2011.

It also finds that the disposable incomes of the top 10 per cent of New Zealand’s income earners were hit harder than the bottom 10 per cent of income earners through this period.

“Across the OECD as a whole, the opposite was true,” Mr English says. “The bottom 10 per cent of disposable incomes fell by twice as much through the GFC and the top 10 per cent.

Mr English says that the Government remains focused on supporting the most vulnerable New Zealanders by improving public services, lifting education standards and supporting more New Zealanders off welfare and into work.

“It’s in these areas that we can make a real difference to the lives of New Zealanders most in need.”

The OECD’s Income Inequality Update is available at: http://www.oecd.org/social/inequality.htm

Govt share offer programme costs below target

20 June 2014 0 Comments

The Treasury’s total costs for the Government’s share offer programme were $85.5 million – or 1.83 per cent of the $4.67 billion in total proceeds, Finance Minister Bill English and State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall say.

This is slightly below the 2 per cent estimate made at the start of the programme, which excluded costs to the share offer companies themselves and the cost of incentives to New Zealand retail investors.

“This final cost is low by the standards of share offers in both New Zealand and overseas,” Mr English says. “In the context of a programme that raised almost $4.7 billion to be reinvested in new priority public assets, it represents good value for money for New Zealand taxpayers.”

Of the Treasury’s $85.5 million costs, $12.6 million was for advertising and communications, $64.9 million was for other outsourced professional services such as legal, brokerage and advisory, and Treasury’s own internal costs were $7.9 million.

The share offer companies themselves incurred an extra $35.1 million in costs associated with the programme.

Mr Ryall says that in addition to keeping costs below the initial target, the share offer programme had met all of the Government’s wider objectives.

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