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Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update 2014

Fiscal Forecast Assumptions

The fiscal forecasts are based on assumptions and judgements developed from the best information available on 5 August 2014, when the forecasts were finalised. Actual events may differ from these assumptions and judgements. Furthermore, uncertainty around the forecast assumptions and judgements increases over the forecast period. The impact of the Canterbury earthquakes adds further uncertainty to the economic and fiscal forecasts.

The fiscal forecasts are prepared on the basis of underlying economic forecasts. Such forecasts are critical for determining revenue and expense estimates. For example:

  • A nominal GDP forecast is needed in order to forecast tax revenue.
  • A forecast of CPI inflation is needed because social assistance benefits are generally indexed to inflation.
  • Forecasts of interest rates are needed to forecast finance costs, interest income and discount rates.

A summary of the key economic forecasts that are particularly relevant to the fiscal forecasts is provided in Table 2.11 (on a June-year-end basis to align with the Government's balance date).

Table 2.11 - Summary of key economic forecasts used in fiscal forecasts
Year ended 30 June 2013
Actual
2014
Forecast
2015
Forecast
2016
Forecast
2017
Forecast
2018
Forecast
Real GDP1 (ann avg % chg) 2.2 3.6 3.6 2.8 2.1 2.1
Nominal GDP2 ($m) 212,955 231,149 240,199 251,041 261,741 271,173
CPI (ann avg % chg) 0.8 1.5 1.6 2.3 2.4 2.2
Govt 10-year bonds (ann avg, %) 3.6 4.5 4.6 4.8 5.0 5.2
5-year bonds (ann avg, %) 2.9 4.1 4.4 4.8 5.0 5.2
90-day bill rate (ann avg, %) 2.6 2.9 4.1 4.8 5.0 5.3
Unemployment rate (ann avg, %) 6.7 6.0 5.6 5.3 4.9 4.6
Employment (ann avg % chg) 0.4 3.3 2.5 1.5 1.4 1.1

Notes:

  1. Production measure.
  2. Expenditure measure.

Source: The Treasury

In addition, a number of other key assumptions are critical in the preparation of the fiscal forecasts.

Key Assumptions
Government decisions The forecasts incorporate government decisions and other circumstances known to the Government and advised to the Treasury up to 5 August 2014.
Tax revenue Tax policy changes enacted and announced by the Government will take place as planned and will affect tax revenue and receipts as calculated and agreed between IRD and the Treasury.
Earthquake costs Expenditure (accrual measure) is forecast based on estimates of when key decisions will be taken.  The timing of cash payments is based on estimates of when actual spending will take place.  Refer to page 35 for further discussion.
Operating allowance Operating allowances are net $1.5 billion from Budget 2015, growing at a rate of 2.0% per year for subsequent Budgets.  For further details, see note 8 of the Forecast Financial Statements.
Provision for new capital spending Capital allowances are $0.8 billion in Budget 2015 and $0.9 billion in Budget 2016.  The Treasury's forecasts then assume capital allowances grow at a rate of 2.0% per year for subsequent Budgets.  For further details, see note 8 of the Forecast Financial Statements.
Finance cost on new bond issuances Based on the 5-year rate from the main economic forecasts and adjusted for differing maturities.
Top-down adjustment

A top-down adjustment is made to compensate for departments that tend to forecast upper spending limits (appropriations) rather than best estimates.

Top-down adjustments to operating and capital expenses are as follows:

Year ended 30 June
$billions
2015
Forecast
2016
Forecast
2017
Forecast
2018
Forecast
Operating 0.9 0.5 0.4 0.4
Capital 0.4 0.1 0.1 0.1

The adjustment will be higher at the front end of the forecast period as departments' appropriations (and therefore expenses) tend to be higher in these years, reflecting the flexibility departments have around transferring underspends to later years.

Property, plant and equipment For the purposes of the forecast financial statements, no revaluations of property, plant and equipment are projected beyond the current year.  Valuations that have occurred up to 30 June 2014 are included in these forecasts. 
Student loans The carrying value of student loans is based on a valuation model adapted to reflect current student loans policy.  As such, the carrying value over the forecast period is sensitive to changes in a number of underlying assumptions, including future income levels, repayment behaviour and macroeconomic factors such as inflation and discount rates used to determine the effective interest rate for new borrowers.  Any change in these assumptions would affect the present fiscal forecasts.
Investment rate of returns The forecasts incorporate the unaudited actual results to 30 June 2014.  Beyond this time, gains on financial instruments are based on long-term benchmark rates of return for each portfolio.
GSF and ACC liabilities

The GSF and ACC liabilities included in these forecasts have been valued as at 30 June 2014 respectively.  Both liabilities are valued by projecting future cash payments, and discounting them to the present.  These valuations rely on historical data to predict future trends and use economic assumptions such as inflation and discount rates.  Any changes in actual payments or economic assumptions would affect the present fiscal forecast.  For example, if the discount rate decreases, the value of the liabilities would increase.

GSF's assets are offset against the gross liability and have been updated to reflect market values.  The value of assets over the forecast period reflects long-run rate of return assumptions appropriate to the forecast portfolio mix.

NZS Fund contributions

No contribution is assumed in the forecast period in line with the Government's stated intentions to commence contributions once net core Crown debt has reached 20% of GDP as set out in the Fiscal Strategy Report (FSR).

Year ended 30 June
$billions
2015
Forecast
2016
Forecast
2017
Forecast
2018
Forecast
Required contribution1 2.3 2.3 2.2 2.1
Actual contribution - - - -

1.  Calculations of annual contributions if they were to resume in 2013/14.

The underlying assumptions in calculating the required contribution in each year are the previous year's NZS Fund balance and projected series, over the ensuing 40 years of nominal GDP, net (after-tax) New Zealand superannuation expenses, and the government 5-year bond rate. The latter is used in calculating the Fund's expected long-run after-tax annual return.  Over the forecast years, all Fund variables, apart from the capital contributions, are provided by the NZS Fund itself. 

Refer to the Treasury's website for the NZS Fund model. 

 

 

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