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Budget 2017 Home Page Budget Economic and Fiscal Update 2017

Balance Sheet Risks

The balance sheet is exposed to a number of risks beyond those associated with the operating balance. The Crown's financial position is exposed to risk through changes in the value of the Crown's assets or liabilities, and also through the potential impact of the Crown's explicit and implicit obligations (including a strong expectation that the Crown would respond to an event) as a result of policy settings.

Main sources of balance sheet risk

A large source of balance sheet risk can be attributed to changes in the value of the Crown's assets and liabilities owing to movements in market variables such as interest rates, exchange rates and equity prices. As noted above, these changes can also have an impact on the Crown's operating balance.

Three areas of the balance sheet are particularly susceptible to market risk:

  • Financial assets held by the Crown financial institutions (CFIs) are sensitive to financial market volatility. CFIs tend to diversify their portfolios across a range of financial assets to manage exposures to specific market risks.
  • Insurance and retirement liabilities and provisions are prone to market volatility through their actuarial valuations, which are sensitive to assumptions about variables such as interest and inflation rates.
  • Physical assets such as land, buildings, state highways and military equipment are susceptible to valuation movements through changes in property market conditions, interest rates and changes in the costs of construction.

Other sources of balance sheet risk

  • Business risk: a number of entities owned by the Crown, including commercial and social entities, have their financial performance and valuations impacted by the broader commercial environment.
  • Funding risk: the New Zealand Government remains amongst the highest-rated sovereigns globally, with the top Aaa foreign-currency rating from Moody's and AA foreign-currency ratings from Standard & Poor's and Fitch. Ratings outlooks are stable from all three agencies.
  • In the case of an increase in global risk aversion and in the absence of a marked improvement in the external position, New Zealand could face increased funding pressure in the future. All else being equal, deterioration in the ratings outlook could raise debt-servicing costs and lessen the funding capability for the Crown.
  • Liquidity risk: with respect to its ability to raise cash to meet its obligations. This risk is relatively small and managed by each agency to meet its specific liquidity risk requirements and by the Treasury's NZDMO to manage the Crown's liquidity requirements.
  • Contingent liabilities: relating to natural disasters and financial system stress. The Specific Fiscal Risks chapter discusses contingent assets and liabilities in greater detail.

Managing risk 

While the Crown's exposure to risks is sometimes unavoidable, the Crown's general approach is to identify, measure and treat these risks where practicable. However, it may not be possible to reduce all risks. Maintaining debt at prudent levels and sustaining healthy levels of net worth can help to manage residual risks and increase the Crown's resilience to unanticipated events. A prudent and sustainable balance sheet helps to absorb the impact of risk through the balance sheet so that the wider economy need not adjust immediately at a greater economic cost.

In March 2018, the Treasury will publish its four-yearly Investment Statement, which provides information on the shape and health of the Crown's portfolio of assets and liabilities.

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