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Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update 2008

Ministerial Statement

In the time between the publication of Budget 2008 and the preparation of this Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update there have been a series of significant events in world financial markets. The fallout on New Zealand's housing market and on business and household incomes arising from higher international credit costs has compounded the effects of a weakening domestic economy. This has resulted in a Pre-EFU noticeably weaker than at Budget time.

Nine years of prudent fiscal management and sustained economic growth means that New Zealand is well placed to deal with these challenging times. Despite calls to spend the surpluses in recent years this government has adhered to our fiscal objectives and has reduced Gross Sovereign Issued Debt (GSID) so that we can meet the economic challenges ahead, while still delivering tax cuts and support for families.

While the international position has worsened over recent months New Zealand has been in what is forecast to be a short and relatively shallow recession. Treasury is forecasting a return to positive growth in the last quarter of 2008. These forecasts, however, do highlight the importance of fiscal restraint during favourable economic times to enable us to have room to respond in less favourable times.

New Zealand is well placed to manage the external shock that our economy has endured. So while today's report card highlights how critically important it was to utilise more favourable international and domestic economic times to save for a rainy day, it also tells us that the rainy day has arrived and that the Crown's fiscal position has taken a big hit. Changes in the operating balance from the Budget forecasts are predominantly driven by the weaker economic outlook (reductions in revenue and associated finance costs).

The New Zealand economy has come a long way since 1999:

  • the 1999 Pre-EFU forecast an unemployment rate of 7.0% in the March 2000 quarter compared with this Pre-EFU forecast of 4.4% unemployment in the March 2009 quarter
  • real gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaged 2.9% from 1990 to 1999 compared with 3.5% from 1999 to 2007
  • in 1999 net core Crown debt sat at 21.8% of GDP but this moved into a positive net financial asset position (including NZ Super Fund assets) since 2006, and
  • in 1999, GSID was above 35% of GDP but it has been brought down to below the government's medium-term target.

And we have achieved all this while enhancing social equality and while delivering significant gains for New Zealanders including:

  • the longest period of economic expansion since WWII
  • strong investment in New Zealand's infrastructure after the 1990s decade of neglect
  • lower primary health care costs
  • restoring and lifting entitlements in superannuation
  • tax relief for businesses, savers and families with children, and
  • personal tax cuts for all workers.

This Government is proud of what it has achieved during the past three terms. The New Zealand economy of 2008 is much stronger and more sustainable than that of 1999 and it is also fairer.


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