The Government’s finances are in very good shape

Written By: - Date published: 7:55 am, December 17th, 2020 - 66 comments
Categories: climate change, debt / deficit, Economy, employment, grant robertson, housing, International, Keynes, labour, poverty - Tags:

These are in remarkably good shape.  Who would have predicted that dealing properly with a global pandemic would have had better results for the economy than timidly dealing with it and trying to ensure that economic activity continued?

And that making baby boomers stay home and spend their wealth on new kitchens or meals out or local holidays would be much better for the economy than spending the money on overseas holidays or overseas luxuries?

Whatever the reason the country’s figures are looking remarkably good.

From Radio New Zealand:

A faster and stronger economic rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic will see the government’s finances headed back to surplus sooner than expected, according to the Treasury.

The half year economic and fiscal update (HYEFU) shows lower budget deficits over the next four years as a strong tax take and lower expenses bolster the government’s finances.

“While New Zealand’s economy contracted in 2020 it is forecast to rebound strongly in 2021, outperforming regions we compare ourselves to like the Euro Zone, the United Kingdom and Japan,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.

Economic growth is forecast to be 1.5 percent in the year to June next year compared with a slight contraction forecast in the September pre-election update.

Unemployment is expected to peak at 6.8 percent in 2022 and then decline over the next three years to about 4 percent, compared to a 7.7 percent peak forecast in September.

The lower jobless rate was expected to reduce social welfare benefit costs as well as boost the tax take, which would also benefit from higher GST and corporate tax revenue.

“The fiscal position is still challenging,” Robertson said.

However, higher income and lower costs are expected to see smaller budget deficits.

Net debt is now forecast to peak at 52.6 percent of GDP in 2023 down from the PREFU prediction of 56%.  If you look overseas the current figure for Germany is 60%, the UK is 81%, France is 97%, the United States is 107%, Italy is 135% and Japan is an eye watering 237%.

These figures provide a lot of fiscal headroom.  Which is why I would urge the Government to consider spending on some areas where there are crises.  Like:

  • Poverty.  Complete the implementation of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s 42 recommendations.
  • Climate change.  Build those walkways and cycleways and get rid of those coal boilers.  And while they are at it build light rail.
  • The housing crisis.  Get on with the building of tens of thousands of good quality homes of varying sizes that suit all shapes and sizes of kiwi families.

This Government has the opportunity to be completely transformational.  Now is not the time to hold back and look for a middle way.  Now is the time to be brave.  Let’s do this.

66 comments on “The Government’s finances are in very good shape ”

  1. Sabine 1

    oh yeah?

    Tell that to the Sally Army, to all the community food banks, the families that will have nothing for christmas and so on and so forth.

    Oh right, that will be next on the list, maybe something to promise with the next election cycle.

    But hey, boomers who don't need it are buying new kitchens, while others sleep and live in cars next to the few public toilets still available near rugby fields.

    Good grief, this is tone deaf beyond believe.

    • SPC 1.1

      You may have skipped right over

      These figures provide a lot of fiscal headroom. Which is why I would urge the Government to consider spending on some areas where there are crises. Like:

      Poverty. Complete the implementation of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s 42 recommendations.

      Climate change. Build those walkways and cycleways and get rid of those coal boilers. And while they are at it build light rail.

      The housing crisis. Get on with the building of tens of thousands of good quality homes of varying sizes that suit all shapes and sizes of kiwi families.

      • Sabine 1.1.1

        Mickey might be urging the government to do stuff,

        sadly the government don't give no fucks nor shits and does very little.

        As i said, wishfull thinking never fed anyon e, never housed anyone, and certainly never did lift up those that need money more then anything else.

        But maybe the Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future will visist these empty suits and they will drop a few dollars and second bowl of soup to the poor children of poor adults that have not got enough.

        Oh right, they ruled that out. So not gonna happen.

        • SPC 1.1.1.1

          Sure, there is a lack of immediate proactivity.

          The government rides out the pandemic, secures the election win by being acceptable to the middle class and then waits for the new year and the next budget round to respond to growing and acute hardship (referring to past actions to help for now).

          The ship of state is what it is.

    • woodart 1.2

      actually, YOU are tone deaf. do you come on here prepared to whinge, or do you have to work at it.?I have never seen any constructive critisism from you, just incessant whingeing. not at all helpful . constructive critisism would be mentioning free dental care, or restructuring beneficiary tax rates for part time work. not just whingeing…..

      • SPC 1.2.1

        The worth of the increase in amount that beneficiaries can earn before the abatement at 70 cents in the dollar will come through when there is more part-time employment as we come out of this pandemic.

    • Adrian Thornton 1.3

      +1 @Sabine, now brace yourself for the Labour sycophants to come on and barate you for actually demanding real progressive change now…..however that is just a fantasy or course, we all know that the so called middle classes is who and what Labour has really come to represent…first and foremost, that is just a plain fact born out of Labours own actions and policies (or lack of either as the case maybe)…

      Labour’s landslide election win was “inspirational” and will create even more excitement in property, says Auckland real estate millionaire Don Ha.

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/real-estate/123141018/house-prices-set-to-keep-soaring-after-labours-inspirational-win

      Jacinda Ardern says 'sustained moderation' remains the Government's goal when it comes to house prices, as people 'expect' the value of their most valuable asset to keep rising

      https://www.interest.co.nz/property/108301/pm-jacinda-ardern-says-sustained-moderation-remains-governments-goal-when-it-comes

      And to add insult to injury that prick Grant Robertson who had his University education for free is happy to burden all our children with huge debt for that same privilege….and then the rents this generation have to pay while they are studying are fucking obscene…but not it seems to this lot, no they are busy normalizing it all.

      • James Thrace 1.3.1

        Grant Robertson was part of the first generation of student loan payers, coupled with interest on his loan while he was studying.

        Hardly "free"

        • Sabine 1.3.1.1

          and then he joined government and did nothing to make it easier on people that have it harder then himself.

        • Adrian Thornton 1.3.1.2

          Thanks for correcting me there, my bad.

          However my point still stands, straddling our youth with debt for education…what else do you need say about the ugly Liberal political ideology that Robertson is the cheerleader of? I mean seriously it is about as a low brow, bottom feeding, short term thinking political ideology that has existed…

          Typical of this Liberal view on education…it's always a race to bottom with this lot, Labour and National are as bad as each other….

          71 Massey professors hit out over controversial science shake-up

          https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/71-massey-professors-hit-out-over-controversial-science-shake-up/QFMKVCY7QS5G2VPAE32BCQDVJA/

          • Siobhan 1.3.1.2.1

            Don't feel too bad….For some reason 'statsNZ' is "Closed"..but if you google "Average Student Loan Leaving Debt' (Image) and squint really hard, you will get some idea of how much individual student debt has increased since 1992….so while not free, Robinson enjoyed a far far easier debt burden than students over the last 20 years…

      • gsays 1.3.2

        How to tell if you are a Labour sycophant number 1:

        You view a 'surplus' as good management.

  2. Pat 2

    The governments finances are in 'good' shape as long as the international financiers deem them so…and in an economy reliant on imports to function that approval is critical, sadly.

    • Ad 2.1

      The overseas banks and rating agencies adore us.

    • Tricledrown 2.2

      Tough times for every country our balance of payments is the best in years cheap oil low demand now vaccines are becoming available our country starts at a much higher point of economic activity than most so will grow faster than most it will be at least 18 months plus before the economy fully recovers.

      • Incognito 2.2.1

        Do you ever read replies to your comments and if so, why don’t you respond to those replies? It’s a weird way of ‘engaging’!?

    • Nic the NZer 2.3

      What exactly do you think happens if financiers stop rating NZ? They are irrelevant and corrupt to boot.

      In Australia some states have been downgraded to AA+ from AAA. Meanwhile the countries central bank governor has been telling them that the important thing is states supporting economic growth and they shouldn't worry about credit ratings because their central bank has their back anyway.

      • Pat 2.3.1

        The RBNZ only issues NZD…and that buys sweet FA…unless you happen to think you can have an operating first world economy that runs on milk powder, logs, wine and fruit.

        And credit ratings agencies may well be corrupt but they hold sway over the desirability of the NZD…..unless again you believe what we have to offer the world is so unique and desirable that we can ignore the fact that for 40 years we havnt managed to convince anyone of that to the tune of billions shortfall a year.

        So by all means ignore the credit ratings agencies and the capital markets if you are prepared to restrict everyones access to all those things they expect/demand…..something tells me you would be neither up front about about such and also well insulated from the effects or you wouldnt be so enthusiastic about its imposition

        • Nic the NZer 2.3.1.1

          So the credit rating agencies are going to lock us out of foreign exchange markets, is apparently the mechanism.

          However should we really be getting permission from offshore private finance firms before undertaking cycleway building, removing coal boilers or responding to climate change? I am going to suggest that is extremely dodgy belief. New Zealand is more than capable of doing those kinds of things for itself of course.

          As to the evidence (which you present) after 40 years of trade deficits its clear these guys are either not that fussed or not that influential.

          • Pat 2.3.1.1.1

            The credit ratings agencies dont lock you out (you usually lock yourself out) but they can cause you to be priced out which has the same effect.

            I doubt that cycleways or coal boilers are on the list of concerns and responding to climate change would I expect only be an issue if handled poorly…as to our capability, it has steadily reduced to the point where we are unable to manage a basic residential construction programme without outside input so I wouldnt be so confident …certainly in the short/medium term, without a considerable period of investment in improving that local capability.

            Not that fussed?…theyve extracted a pretty good return to date and own over half the countries assets in return, not to mention having considerable influence over policy …change those parameters and see how fussed they are.

            • Nic the NZer 2.3.1.1.1.1

              There is just something very inconsistent about these claims about the need for New Zealand to have to run trade surpluses (or else).

              As you noted the country has a pretty long standing record of not running trade surpluses and the or else doesn't appear to be happening.

              As for the claim that credit rating agencies own over half the countries assets, I mean in which alternate universe? Please do give us the link and send it on to the overseas investment office while your at it.

  3. aj 3

    This morning RNZ nat's financial spokesman Woodhouse . . . 'the governments finances are just like a household'…. blah blah blah. The last 30yrs of neoliberalism set in stone

    • Siobhan 3.1

      All the more weird and downright delusional/dishonest a comparison given that Households Debt To Income in New Zealand is at 163.80 percent and yet we have a housing policy designed to encourage even more debt….

    • Phillip ure 3.2

      woodhouse sounded like a voice from a long distant past..

  4. tc 4

    There's never been a better time to crack onto the 3 bullet points in your piece Mickey.

    Finances, Political capital, majority in the house, plenty of the term left to make an impact and sell it before next election.

    Get on with it labour !
    P.S. you. may want to look at RNZ handing the likes of woodhouse a soapbox rather than facing some tough questions. Not something nat pollys are used to from the msm.

  5. Siobhan 5

    "Climate change. Build those walkways and cycleways and get rid of those coal boilers. And while they are at it build light rail."

    Woah, woah there…hold your horses Mickysavage..we don't want to get too radical about dealing with climate change and the deepening crisis of trapped babyboomers running out of new cycle paths to explore.

  6. RedBaronCV 6

    Yeah sure the government should spend some cash on the entrenched problems – they need it. It could also tax the upper wealth more to get the deficit paid back faster ready for the next disaster.

    BUT above all it needs to change the background settings that caused a lot of these issues so they don't reoccur in the short term. Everything from excessive immigration to serious labour market reform to booting unproductive overseas investment – which would be most of it in our houses and farms to removing the local oligopolies in power and telecommunications. and whatever else I haven't thought of.

    I don't see any appetite for that at any level too much Tony Blair in high heels.

  7. Ad 7

    Minister of Finance Robertson and the Treasury team should be congratulated.

    We remain at just over 5% unemployed, and with an underutilisation rate of 13% the right low paid and low value jobs in low productivity industries are getting squeezed the hardest: tourism and hospitality.

    We have no massive rise in mortgagee sales.

    We have a popular and effective government who is managing the economy very well.

    New Zealand is also within the set of countries where Covid-19 is controlled and also where economies are recovering.

    That's about as good a push into 2021 as anyone could wish for.

    • aj 7.1

      That's about as good a push into 2021 as anyone could wish for.

      True. And we need this to provide a payout for ALL kiwis.

    • Pat 7.2

      "We have no massive rise in mortgagee sales"

      "Since the original guidance was issued in March, many lenders have been supporting customers affected financially by COVID-19. The regulatory guidance means banks can continue to offer temporary mortgage deferrals to their customers, without those loans being viewed as being in default, Deputy Governor and General Manager of Financial Stability Geoff Bascand says.

      The extension takes effect from when the existing guidance expires on 27 September and will apply until 31 March 2021, at which point the usual treatment will resume. Banks will still be able to offer deferrals to borrowers after this date, but they will not have the same concessionary regulatory treatment."

      https://www.rbnz.govt.nz/news/2020/08/reserve-bank-extending-mortgage-deferral-scheme

      Even without the deferral scheme you wouldnt expect mortgagee sales within so short a period.

    • Stuart Munro 7.3

      just over 5% unemployed

      The government that brought in slave fishers doesn't get to pat itself on the back. 5% (assuming the figures aren't juked, and they usually are) find their government is consistently working against their interests by tricks like mass low wage immigration.

      Now would be a good time to put governance on an honest footing, and the best place to start would be with a clear-out of neo-liberal civil servants. Brash didn't lard Treasury with a far-right freakshow for nothing, he was putting a mighty ham-fisted hand on the scale of evidence driven policy. Time it came off.

      • Ad 7.3.1

        We dont have mass low wage immigration now. And not for a while either.

        • Stuart Munro 7.3.1.1

          We've had it for decades, and in direct contravention of our immigration laws – which were selectively not enforced, as is normal in massively corrupt countries.

          Where are the prosecutions for fraudulent visa scams? The Bottle-O guy brought in 107 unskilled workers – there's 107 unemployed kiwis right there. Has he been fined the equivalent of 107 benefits for the working lifetime of those he fraudulently brought in? He has not. The ordinary NZer is paying the cost of his offending – no cost recovery, much less a deterrent. Where is the proceeds of crime seizure of his assets?

          We still have some hundreds of thousand of workers and fake students brought in under Key – it takes a lifetime for unskilled workers to work their way through the economy – the Russian slave workers are still here forty years later.

          Naturally the selective stats used by Treasury won't show that – immigration is an epic good – drives wages and latte costs down, and spruiks the investment property – yippee!

          • Ad 7.3.1.1.1

            You seem closer to this than I am.

            I was referring to Pacific seasonal workers and complaints from farm owners, and tourist businesses anticipating the new flight bubbles.

            • Stuart Munro 7.3.1.1.1.1

              One might expect, when criminal employers are selling residency, which was the fudge factor that made working for an abusive employer desirable or tolerable to 107 unskilled staff who got visas from him, that the civil service entity that always reduces human issues to accounting ones, would have done the maths on all facets of that curious business.

              Were the public service not complicit in allowing such rorts to continue, and keeping their delinquencies out of the public eye that is.

              The Bottle-O guy was merely one of the most public instances of gross abuse; treated as if he'd run up a few parking fines instead of generating substantial human misery and rendering the blithe assumptions upon which policy is made null.

  8. Enough is Enough 8

    Totally agree Mickey. Now is the time to do what needs to be done.

    I will be so dissappointed and disillusioned if we are sitting here in 12 months time still waiting for the structural reforms we desperately need.

    Have a good break Labour MPs. In the new year we expect nothing short of you hitting the ground running and destroying the neo-liberal economy that has caused so much pain over the past 35 years

  9. SPC 9

    The housing crisis. Get on with the building of tens of thousands of good quality homes of varying sizes that suit all shapes and sizes of kiwi families.

    Let's hope the Maori MP's make a big push for delivery of homes (small factory build) onto Maori land. Social housing of this sort would allow older Maori to have somewhere to retire to (iwi homeland community). Many older Maori cannot retire because they have market rents to pay. It would also assist with homelessness in Northland etc. The government costs would be the houses and the infrastructure.

  10. Muttonbird 10

    Yep. If only this government had the courage to deal with the pearl-clutching centre right the same way they dealt with Covid.

  11. Adrian Thornton 11

    OK Mickysavage, how about we take out a little wager on this?…

    You propose the the labour govt implement at least one of the following …

    • Poverty. Complete the implementation of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s 42 recommendations.
    • Climate change. Build those walkways and cycleways and get rid of those coal boilers. And while they are at it build light rail.
    • The housing crisis. Get on with the building of tens of thousands of good quality homes of varying sizes that suit all shapes and sizes of kiwi families.

    "This Government has the opportunity to be completely transformational. Now is not the time to hold back and look for a middle way. Now is the time to be brave. Let’s do this."

    So, I would be more than happy to lose this bet, but nonetheless I bet you $50 to go to your (or mine if you lose) favourite charity that none of those three things (not counting cycle paths) are fully implemented within the next three years….or started at such depth that they are irreversible..what say you?

    .

    • SPC 11.1

      Getting rid of coal boilers and building some light rail is doable even for this lot. The three year time frame will be the reason I won't take you up.

      • Adrian Thornton 11.1.1

        I specified in the bet that as long as they had any of those three ideas started to a large degree ( in an irreversible way) I lose…so put your money where your mouth is my friend.

        • SPC 11.1.1.1
          1. I suppose irreversible for light rail means a plan, the purchase of land and a start to construction.

          They have already announced funding to replace some school boilers this term,

          This includes $50 million to replace 90 school coal boilers

          https://www.education.govt.nz/school/property-and-transport/school-facilities/boilers/#replace

          I do not know how many coal boilers there are – schools also use gas and wood chip.

          2. Would a further committment to do more by the end of the 3 years (in the next term) be enough?

          3. Cycle and walkways – yeah they can plan, fund and start those by 2023.

    • Tiger Mountain 11.2

      Your fiddy will be safe Adrian–but no pleasure in that for people in desperate need for the Govt. to do what is clearly needed.

      I really won’t enjoy three years of (justified) whinging about Labour not delivering by some, and three years of piss weak centrists finding a thousand ways to justify Labour not delivering!

      What would be good is working class and allies, getting organised to take on this Govt. not in an all out hostile way, given the current class forces line up in NZ, but in a forceful and strategic way. The money is there “just do it” Labour! If everyone goes all passive, and surly rather than fighting, as per the Clark years, 2023 is potential gift for the right and conspiracists.

    • Ad 11.3

      Just go to Ardern direct on Twitter or Facebook. Propose them to her. See who follows – they will.

  12. Tiger Mountain 12

    I have read Micky Sav on The Standard for many years now and it is no secret that he is a Labour Loyalist, so loyal that he makes some of the bubbly Labour loyalists I know personally, look half hearted. He is a man of the West, lives for Glen Eden and the Waitakere Board, and his dad was a union President.

    So, when Micky says plainly “ Now is not the time to hold back and look for a middle way.” re Poverty, Climate Change and Housing, the Labour Caucus should leap into action because Mr Savage would not say that publicly unless a whole bunch of New Lynn Labour people felt that way too.

    The thing with NZ Labour though, is the Parliamentary wing has without fail that I know of, subordinated the membership, particularly when in office. So even the most genuine behests will have little practical effect–“Jacinda and Robbo are not for turning” from their neo liberal orthodoxy.

    So direct action is needed to shift the Caucus by the working class and NGOs. Rent strikes, occupations of empty houses, community organising, strategic strikes and boycotts, revitalisation of Climate Strikes and school actions, picketing Labour Ministers wherever they turn up, large delegations to the new rural Labour MPs Electorate offices are what will turn the Caucus. Build a campaign to retire neo liberalism for good in 2023!

    • Adrian Thornton 12.1

      @ Tiger Mountain, That seems to be a pretty insightful comment and probably not far off the mark, and your last part is right on the mark, direct action is what is needed alright.

      Turn Labour Left!

    • Ad 12.2

      In my experience you get more done at barbecues.

      But if you want to occupy a derelict house, go for it.

      • Tiger Mountain 12.2.1

        Direct action can deliver as seen every day in a micro sense in multiple settings. “but if we act we might lose…yes, but if you do nothing you will definitely lose”.

        Take historic Takaparawhā (Bastion point) and today–Ihumātao. The latter can go various ways, corporate supporters are obviously in the Māori world too, but at least Iwi members will now determine the outcome. Would not have happened without thousands of supporters ready to act–the Auckland Police were operationally out manoeuvred with their attempted night time clampdown when it became apparent they did not have the numbers.

        So many incremental gains have come from organisation rather than networking among the elite.

        36 years of institutional neo liberal theory and practice, where every human activity imaginable has been reduced to a transaction, where many New Zealanders know their Fly Buys Points, but would not have a clue what they should be paid for working a Public Holiday, is surely a mountain to climb, but passivity is not the needed response to this Govt.’s bourgeois paralysis. Jacinda is running some sort of “Chicago Boys” programme, while holding a ridiculous MMP majority.

        For a few amazing weeks the PM put public health before private profit–they need to make that the default setting. But it will not happen without working class action.

        • Ad 12.2.1.1

          Go for it!

          1 win every 45 years seems fair return.

          • Tiger Mountain 12.2.1.1.1

            Class struggle is cumulative actually, advances won are extended to other generations as long as they are defended and extended.

            Sick Leave barely existed in an enforceable way until the Northern Drivers Union won it in 1968, Redundancy Pay won by locked out Mangere Bridge workers in 1982, Paid Parental Leave, Homosexual law reform, Gay Marriage, Nuke Free NZ–all resulted from community organisation and action. Pay Equity and resulting life changing training and pay opportunities, and the $20 minimum wage are further examples of taking action getting results.

            • Ad 12.2.1.1.1.1

              If you are interpreting Ihumatao as a class struggle you are deeply misguided.

              • Tiger Mountain

                Failed attempt to deflect from my point about working class wins sticking.

                In a class society with a division of labour, and private ownership and appropriation of socially produced wealth, most actions involving post colonial fall out and challenging corporate behaviour, definitely are class struggle.

                • Ad

                  The book No Right Turn by Chris Trotter documents how wrong that set of assumptions has been over our history.

                  Your examples conflate working class struggle with generalised civic activism.

                  In one of the most unequal societies in the world, our activisms are now minor and managerialist.

                  • Tiger Mountain

                    Using Mr Trotter, who I have known for approaching 40 years now as backup, shows how ill equiped you are to talk about class struggle. Chris is an articulate historian, but he vacillates like many academics and long distance columnists in search of the next payment–and who can blame him for that in one way.

                    You really don’t seem to understand what a class analysis of society is Ad.

  13. Maurice 13

    We the peasants have not been picked clean yet nor has our ability to repay borrowing – so plenty of government funding still available!

  14. AB 14

    Labour under Ardern is a brilliantly-led centre-right party. You have to admire them – everything the National party might have been if it wasn't in cahoots with the ideological freak show that commands the upper echelons of NZ business.

  15. Hunter Thompson II 15

    The HYEFU is only one way of asssessing our situation.

    Don't forget what Robert Kennedy once said – GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.

    Today’s news item on the half-built pseudo castle on the North Canterbury Plains sums it up for me.

  16. Tiger Mountain 16

    To Ad at 19 Dec 3.07pm…

    “Working class struggle is dead here.”–what sort of fuckwittery is this? Does union activity not count as struggle in your world view?

    This past week First Union had extended strike action at Countdown call centre in Ponsonby, and Etū had a week of strike action by care workers at Lifewise Home Support.

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