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Economy healthier than expected

Written By: - Date published: 11:42 am, November 4th, 2008 - 34 comments
Categories: economy, election 2008, wages, workers' rights - Tags:

The latest government accounts show the economy is in better condition than was expected. Tax take was $500 million higher than expected due to higher-than-expected income tax revenue. That means more money was being earned from wages and salaries than Treasury had forecast; in other words, unemployment is not rising as fast as Treasury had expected. The other effect of employment holding up better than was expected is that government spending on benefits was lower than forecast. Company profits are down, perhaps due to losses on the international markets and the sharp drop in the exchange rate. GST is in line with expectations, so domestic spending is doing OK. All in all, really good news and indicates, as Don Brash says, we are in the best possible condition to weather the international financial crisis.

That crisis has hit the Government’s financial investments. They are worth $1.8 billion less than was expected before the meltdown hit. Markets will go up and down, so the Operating Balance Excluding Gains and Losses (OBEGAL) just looks at the balance between revenue and spending. As Treasury says “By excluding gains and losses the OBEGAL gives a more direct indication of the underlying stewardship of the Government than the operating balance”. That was a $900 million surplus in the three months to September, $500 million more than expected.

Since the end of that quarter, the Government has introduced tax cuts and new spending which will lower the surplus. The new financial statements don’t update Treasury’s forecasts for coming years but, with employment apparently holding up better than they thought, it is likely the deficits in coming years will be smaller than projected.

Gross government debt is a little higher than expected at 17.8% of GDP (vs 17.2% forecast) but the net financial position was right on forecast – net assets of 5.7% of GDP.

So, as good news as there could be given the international situation. There was nothing that could be done to avoid losses for our financial interests when the world markets went into free-fall and company profits have also been hit but the real economy and, most importantly, jobs and wages are doing better than expected.

[as a side note, Treasury has consistently under-forecast employment and over-forecast unemployment for years; ever since unemployment went under 4% four years ago, they’ve been saying it would soon be back above 4%. I wonder if their model fails to account for the self-reinforcing effect of full employment.]

34 comments on “Economy healthier than expected”

  1. randal 2

    New Zealand supplies the world with high quality protein food so it is no wonder that we are ok
    Its only the New Zealand sux campaign led by John Keys and the Natoinal party that takes the opposite view

  2. scribe, whats wrong it my analysis, apart from the that Herald’s sensationalist coverage has a different angle? My coverage is closer to the Treasury sec’s press release

  3. yl 4

    Scribe,

    The post says ‘healthier than expected’.

    There was talk of the books being 2.3bil in the red. Not the 0.8 that they are.

    Smile Scribe, we are in one of the best positions to pull through this mess

  4. Scribe 5

    Steve,

    My coverage is closer to the Treasury sec’s press release

    NBR and Stuff take similar lines to The Herald. Things are $1.7 billion — with a B — worse than expected just a couple of months ago. Forgive me for not seeing the silver lining.

    yl,

    Yes, we are in a good position. We’re about to vote in a centre-right government.

  5. BeShakey 6

    “Things are $1.7 billion — with a B — worse than expected just a couple of months ago. Forgive me for not seeing the silver lining.”

    A large amount of that will be losses in the Cullen fund, ACCs fund etc. Just like other long term investments, these are critical, but short term fluctuations in their value are not. Of course it’d be nice if they went up year after year, but any smart invester will tell you that isn’t the way long term investments work. As SP noted, for the short term, the OBEGAL is much more important.

    “Yes, we are in a good position. We’re about to vote in a centre-right government.”

    If only we’d voted them in in 2005. We’d now be in a much much worse situation and be about to vote in a centre-left government to fix the mess. I guess we’ll see on Saturday whether people really do get the government they deserve.

  6. Stephen 7

    Tax take was $500 million higher than expected due to higher-than-expected income tax revenue. That means more money was being earned from wages and salaries than Treasury had forecast;

    “Dr Bushnell said corporate tax and GST were $200m and $100m respectively higher than forecast, but that was due to reversals in accruals relating to an earlier period.”
    -Herald article

    Whatever that means, but apparently it’s significant.

  7. randal 8

    well they certainly dont deserve a swingeing, grafting, cheeseparing, hornswoggling, gerrymandering crew like the gnats who will smile as they rob everyone blind so they can build up their portfolios, tick their silly little boxes and retire to the south of france on yours and my money!

  8. Herald and stuff the same NZPA report, scribe. And I’m not surprised to see the media being sensationalist or the NBR rightwing. I don’t take my analysis from the media, that’s why people come here because they want better analysis than they get from the media.

  9. vto 10

    SP your post is more about the government books than the economy. Two different things. One is the host and the other the epiphyte.

    But mixing them up is one of the reasons I struggle to bring myself to vote for labour. It reflects the obsession with carving up the pie rather than growing the pie.

    Best example is WfF – it is a sad day when people on the highest tax rate and incomes well over 100k require govt assistance to merely survive (and on the govt’s own admission!). It bothered me when it was introduced and it bothers me now. And that the left can’t see the fundamental flaw in this situation exemplifies the issue.

  10. yl 11

    Vto,

    your comment about working for families is misleading,

    A family with one child on 70000 doesn’t get any working for families.

    http://www.ird.govt.nz/calculators/tool-name/tools-c/calculator-wfftc-estimate-2009.html

    so pull the other one.

    I dont think anyone likes the fact that we have wff, but do we need it? i would say yes

  11. Phil 12

    Stephen,

    Tax take was $500 million higher than expected due to higher-than-expected income tax revenue. That means more money was being earned from wages and salaries than Treasury had forecast;

    “Dr Bushnell said corporate tax and GST were $200m and $100m respectively higher than forecast, but that was due to reversals in accruals relating to an earlier period.’
    -Herald article

    Whatever that means, but apparently it’s significant.

    What that means is Treasury got 300mln that was supposed to arrive in the coffers at some point in the past, which means they were actually very close to forecast, and their assumptions about the underlying economy are probably about right.

  12. dave 13

    I don’t take my analysis from the media, that’s why people come here because they want better analysis than they get from the media.

    Oh that’s just so funny Steve.

  13. Scribe 14

    Steve,

    I don’t take my analysis from the media, that’s why people come here because they want better analysis than they get from the media.

    But meanwhile, just an hour or so earlier….

    My coverage is closer to the Treasury sec’s press release

    I’m sure the Treasury’s thankful that you’re drinking the Kool-Aid.

    [the Treasury are the experts. I’m quite comfortable when I read the source data and my conclusions are the same as the experts’ (before you say anything, that doesn’t mean I always think experts are right but they’re more likely to be right than media who want to cause a fuss. SP]

  14. Lampie 15

    yl

    No wonder some are voting National for all the wrong reasons

  15. yl 16

    Lampie

    “yl

    No wonder some are voting National for all the wrong reasons”

    sorry i dont follow?

    captcha: off trolley (me!)

  16. cocamc 17

    yl – i used the calculator and with one child on $70k of annual family income i do get a credit $14 per week

  17. yl 18

    Sorry i just ran it too,

    you are correct the cut off is 74001. Still it is misleading.

  18. vto 19

    yl, the fact that WfF is needed at all speaks the largest volumes re Labour’s failure to provide an economy that can provide. And it is Labour who claims the last 9 years economy.

    p.s. it is not misleading at all. the govt offers assistance to some families with well over 100k income.

  19. yl 20

    vto,

    i would argue that it is still there because we have not recovered from the effects of the 1990’s.

    There are 50000 more children now living above the poverty line since 1999, so that is good and because of wfftc.

    have you ever tried to put toothpaste back into the tube. It is easier to do something than under do something. Clearly we still need wfftc,

  20. vto. WFF is tax breaks for families.

    less than $10 million from the 1 odd cost of WFF goes to families with incomes over $100K.

  21. Daveski 22

    Borat is rumoured to be our next Minister of Finance under a Labour-led govt:

    NZ slipping behind Botswana and Borat

    I think this is vto’s point at 1.44.

    Captcha – la punting

    Indeed, I will be before 5 pm 🙂

  22. vto 23

    Hey, I hear the various things you are saying but you are avoiding the fundamental flaw that WfF exposes – namely that Labour’s introduction of government assistance to help out those who are on very high incomes and the labour govt’s at the time recently introduced 39c tax rate (they can afford it! remember?) is an admission of systemic failure.

    On the one hand the labour govt says these people are rich and should be taxed at the highest rate, yet on the other hand the labour govt says that they need govt help to merely survive!

    I mean, what does it say about the economy (that labour claims)?

    If everyone requires govt assistance then who supports the govt?

    It is a little like the recent govt bailouts of financial institutions. Effectively everyone has underwritten everyone. Doesn’t take an einstein to realise that these situations are unsustainable, or rather, fundamentally flawed.

  23. vandem 24

    vto – While WfF for families with incomes over 100k may look inequitable at first glance, this is a balance against “Effective Marginal Tax Rate” or clawback. It’s a classic welfare policy dilemma. You either set a low entry point (and/or high exit point) and low marginal clawback rate, or higher entry point (and/or lower exit point) and higher marginal clawback rate.

    I haven’t done the math, but suspect that if WfF has a lower top cap, say 60k for family of 4 children, marginal clawback rate (= tax + reduction of WfF) would be 100% or more of any extra $ earned in wages / salary.

  24. BeShakey 25

    “Borat is rumoured to be our next Minister of Finance under a Labour-led govt:

    NZ slipping behind Botswana and Borat”

    Sigh. How come the supporters of the party that is supposed to be more focussed on the economy know so little about economics? Economic growth is much easier to achieve in third world countries. Obvious if you think about it – build a few roads in Botswana, and improve communications, for example, and you’ll probably see a large jump in the economy. The same thing in a first world country wouldn’t be noticable. I personally don’t like OECD rankings for comparing countries (it’s like the idea that parents should all complain if their child isn’t top of the class), but NZ does very well compared to other similar countries.

    “I think this is vto’s point at 1.44.”

    I think his point was that the government books aren’t the same as the economy. If you read SPs post I think his point was more that the books reflect certain parts of the economy (eg if unemployement skyrockets the books will take a hit). The fact that the books look good is a reflection of strength in the economy, not that they are the same thing.

  25. Daveski 26

    BS the broader issue is that our economic performance continues to decline year on year, even allowing for 9 years of the good Dr’s medicine.

    I agree the accounts are in relatively good order given what’s happening else where. But Cullen can’t take the credit for this given the reason for our stability here is a lot of the changes made in the 1980’s and 1990’s that many here would like to see turfed out.

    I accept the link is a slight digression. However, it provides some stats to support the view that NZ needs to do better (apparently having a view that NZ can do better is the same as saying “NZ sux”).

  26. Lampie 27

    sorry i dont follow?

    Some who vote National are basing it on misleading information such as vto here and his idea of wff

  27. randal 28

    well Keys whole schtick is lies and misinformation with a cocodile grimace wrapped round his otherwise surly mug so dont expect too much from his followers…this years angry mob…rebels without a clue

  28. vandem. you’re exactly right. that’s what bill english was talking about in the first secret agenda tape when he said key didn’t understand kiwisaver

    vto. government receipts, seeing as taxes are collected as percentages of other economic measures, show us what is happening with those other measures.

  29. vto 30

    Lampie, how do you know who I vote for? I don’t follow your post.

    Mind you, nobody seems to have followed the main thrust of my posts. Or perhaps they have simply refused to answer the elephant in the room.

  30. BeShakey 31

    “BS the broader issue is that our economic performance continues to decline year on year, even allowing for 9 years of the good Dr’s medicine.”

    The point I was making was that, using the measure suggested, this is false.

    I agree the accounts are in relatively good order given what’s happening else where. But Cullen can’t take the credit for this given the reason for our stability here is a lot of the changes made in the 1980’s and 1990’s that many here would like to see turfed out.

    Not just here that you are in a minority with that opinion.

  31. Chris G 32

    vto: “Or perhaps they have simply refused to answer the elephant in the room.”

    Hah, no. I just read your deluded views on WfF and why it came about, laughed, continued on with my business.

    Definately no elephant in the room.

  32. vto 33

    so ChrisG you see no fundamental flaw in increasing the top tax rate to 39c on those earning over 60k ‘because they can afford it’ and then later offering those on EVEN HIGHER incomes government assistance ‘because they need it’?

    Nobody has answered it including you (other than a deluded claim which is a bit useless)

  33. Ianmac 34

    Rumour: Bill English leaked the E-mails for the Hollow men.
    Winston has been cleared by the Police.

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