Seymour slams Super policies

Act MP David Seymour has slammed ‘baby boomers’ (I’m one of those) that he says will “turn our country into a debt-ridden basket case”.

The Spinoff: NZ baby boomers are building a banana republic, and no one gives a shit

The Treasury has made it clear that current superannuation policies will turn our country into a debt-ridden basket case, and yet media remain largely silent and politicians in denial. Young people need to get voting in a hurry, writes David Seymour.

You could be forgiven for missing that the Treasury published its four-yearly Long-term Fiscal Outlook this week (please, please stay with me, I promise this is worth it). The gist of the report is the same as the previous two editions:

If no policy changes are made, by 2060, when current students reach retirement age, government debt will be 206 per cent of GDP.

No matter how well you prepare for retirement, you’ll be living in a banana republic.

No, it’s unlikely to be a republic, New Zealand politicians are as reluctant to deal with ditch the monarchy as they are dealing with escalating superannuation costs.

The reason? Ageing baby boomers who will be more numerous and longer-lived in retirement than any generation before them. Right now there are four working-aged taxpayers supporting every retiree, but by the time current university students retire there will be only two.

Probably – unless eating ourselves to earlier deaths reverses the improving life expectancy trends of recent decades.

The cost of pensions and healthcare as a share of the economy will double, the government will run large deficits, and the international financial community will demand higher interest rates on New Zealand government debt, leading to larger deficits.

John Key and Bill English claim the country can afford the huge increases in costs, or they don’t care about leaving the problem for future governments.

The first way of absorbing the change is to raise taxes by about a quarter, so GST becomes nearly 20 per cent and the top tax rate goes over 40 per cent, along with every other rate being increased by the same proportion. People embarking on their careers now would pay a 25 per cent extra “boomer tax” for being born at the wrong time.

There tends to be a bit of resistance to increasing tax rates, especially by this sort of amount.

Another alternative is extreme productivity growth, the private economy grows faster than ever for longer than ever, and public services become more efficient than ever. We basically trade our way out of this situation and become so rich we can afford all-you-can-eat pensions and healthcare for retiring boomers.

This is the Key/English gamble.

The problem is that pensions are tied to income so getting wealthier just increases the amount paid out.

The final option is to adjust pension entitlements. Follow Australia, the US, UK, Germany, Canada, to name a few, who have increased the retirement age so there are more workers and fewer pension recipients.

Seymour laments the lack of media coverage of the report and the predicted problems – but people have been shouting  about Super unaffordability for a long time, but politician’s ears are deaf to it.

John Key has torpedoed the debate by saying he’d rather resign than raise the pension age, effectively saying to his supporters: choose fiscal sustainability, or me. Labour and the Greens have followed suit, abandoning the policy after the last election. New Zealand First would rather serve yum cha at their party conference than debate the issue.

Almost every political leader is holding their hands up to their ears and chanting, “la la la la la.”

Peter Dunne tried to force a re-evaluation of Super in the last term of the current Government, proposing ‘flexi-super’, but English and Key looked like having no intention of  acting on the ‘discussion document’ that was done as part of their confidence and supply agreement with United Future.

If NZ First holds the balance of power after next year’s election there is now way Winston will allow any cutting back of Super payments for his primary constituency.

National under Key’s leadership is committed to kicking the Super can down the road.

Unless ACT gets a few more seats and is in a balance of power situation and forces National to do something?

That may be what Seymour is angling at.

To have any hope of success I think that Act and Seymour will have to promote Super change (not ‘discussion’) as a core election policy, and they will have to win enough seats to be able to force Key’s hand.

If Act succeeds in the election then the choice may be National+Act with Super reform, or National+NZ First with a booming Super budget with a risk of our economy blowing up (after Winston has retired or died so he won’t care).

I think Seymour has the gumption to have a go at this. Would he get enough support? Will younger people start to vote for Act to try to sort out their not so Super prospects?

National battles in Clutha-Southland

There seems to be some taking of sides in the Clutha-Southland electorate after it was reported yesterday that someone is challenging MP Todd Barclay for the very safe seat that Bill English vacated in 2014.

ODT/NZME: Horse-trading begins ahead of Election 2017

Simon Flood,  a 52-year-old former Merrill Lynch investment fund manager, plans to challenge Clutha-Southland incumbent Todd Barclay.

It is understood Mr Flood was widely expected to get the selection in 2014 but pulled out at the last minute for family reasons.

Mr Barclay’s first term has been blemished by resignations of long-standing staff and reports of disputes.

Barclay was rated 2/10 by the 2016 Trans Tasman MP report.

 

John Key is staying neutralish: Bill English refuses to back embattled MP Todd Barclay

Prime Minister John Key says he has met Mr Flood before, but didn’t know him at Merrill Lynch, where he also worked.

“Firstly, he came from a different division of Merrill Lynch, it’s worth noting that,” he says.

Mr Key rejects the challenge against Mr Barclay has been orchestrated by the National Party hierarchy.

“We don’t engineer challenges, or stop them. If someone decides to go and challenge a sitting MP, they’re free to go and do that.

“If you’re a sitting MP who’s working hard, that’s developing your electorate, then the cards are stacked in your favour,” says Mr Key.

Bill English too: Bill English refuses to be drawn on Todd Barclay’s future

Finance Minister Bill English, who held the seat for 18 years before going list only, is declining to make any specific comments on Mr Barclay’s situation, or even saying whether or not he endorses him.

“I’m not a delegate, I’m not participating in it. It is a matter for the local party, that’s how the National Party runs these things.”

When specifically asked if Mr Barclay had done a good job in the role, Mr English said “he appears to have done a good job.”

But National MPs were prepared to state a preference. Judith Collins:

judithcollinstweetbarclay

That was ‘liked’ by MPs Barbara Kuriger, Kanwaljit Bakshi and Sarah Dowie.

maggiebarrytweetbarclay

That was ‘liked’ by MP Tim McIndoe

Cameron Slater is clearly taking sides. Is this just a continuation of bad blood feuds or a vested interest?

Board skullduggery in the Clutha Southland Selection

There is skullduggery going on  in Clutha-Southland with a shabby move against Todd Barclay which is being orchestrated quietly by the former MP, currently residing in Karori, and assisted by at least one stroppy board member intent on taking the presidency.

This is a challenge being orchestrated by National Party Board Member Glenda Hughes, who is trying to muscle into the democratic processes of electorates selecting their own candidate, to force out Todd Barclay, the current MP. Hughes wants to appoint her chosen outside candidate, imposing her will on the Clutha-Southland electorate.

This is an absolute disgrace.

The National Party board should not be involved in selections in any partisan way. They should not be involved at all, except to undertake their constitutional duties and ensure local electorates select the person they think best suits their electorate. Board Members with integrity will not be involved the kind of tearing down of MPs that Glenda has been doing.

If Glenda Hughes wants to play political games in National Party selections she should do the honourable thing and immediately resign her board position. If she continues to interfere we will be forced to continue to draw readers attention to Hughes’ hamfisted attempts in other electorates selections, not just Clutha-Southland.

The last time the board tried meddling in a local selection it turned into a PR disaster for them. Do they really want that again?

Slater has a history of trying to meddle in candidate selections, prepared to dish out dirt to try to destroy the chances of some people. He tried this in Northland for the by-election. His motives weren’t clear there, but it would be odd if he tried to orchestrate a Winston win.

Is Michelle Boag spinning against Todd Barclay?

Hot on the heels of the attack on Todd Barclay in the ODT came a predictable attack on him on Radio Live. Radio Live reckon that Barclay is going to be beaten by challenger Simon Flood, “a Merrill Lynch Banker”.

The tip line is saying that Glenda Hughes’ ally Michelle Boag is all over this. Boag is forever meddling in electorates she has no business being in, and Hughes is stupid to get an Aucklander involved in the deep south.

Funny, is he aware at all of his hypocrisy? Slater is an Aucklander getting involved in the deep south. Does he have business there?

The article is from a journalist who simply doesn’t understand the National Party selection process, or who has spent any time on the ground in Clutha-Southland.

How does Slater know how much time Eileen Goodwin has spent “on the ground in Clutha-Southland”? She has been around down here for quite a while, reporting on Barclay’s employment issues earlier this year , and also on Clutha-Southland during the 2014 election campaign – see here.

What Glenda Hughes wants doesn’t matter. It is what the large number of delegates from around Southland want that matters. The media should stop buying into Glenda Hughes’ bullshit.

This could be just ongoing hits on Hughes and Boag, who Slater has bitterly attacked a number of times in the past.

Slater hasn’t always favoured Barclay. Last year he posted ‘Todd Barclay is a gutless little twerp.

English said, “It is a matter for the local party, that’s how the National Party runs these things.”

So why is there so much interest from Hughes, Boag and Slater?

Interestingly Boag is credited with helping recruit John Key as a candidate – along with Slater’s father, John.

Key went on to successfully challenge long serving MP Brian Neeson for selection to stand in Helensville.

Will history repeat itself in Clutha Southland?

RNZ funding questions

Radio New Zealand (and other media) have justifiably been praised for their coverage of the earthquakes this week. In times of disaster most trivia gets sidelined as media rises to the occasion (except for a few diversions on cows and paua).

RNZ is state funded and the Government purse strings have been tightened over the past few years. Their funding in relation to their earthquake coverage came up in Parliament yesterday.

Garth Hughes took the opportunity to push for more money for RNZ – at a time when Government funding of things like rescuing Kaikorai from devastation and isolation and fixing a few roads and railway lines may be a tad more important.

Bill English responded by saying that RNZ had used the money it does receive wisely, and demonstrating the ability to use the money it receives well does not on it’s own justify giving them more money.

MediaSupport for Media and Radio New Zealand Funding

9. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Will she join with me to acknowledge the work of all media in New Zealand, which is so important in times of natural disaster and crisis; if so, will she consider increasing our public broadcaster Radio New Zealand’s funding in Budget 2017?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting: Yes, I do agree with the member. The media has done an excellent job of the vital task of keeping the public informed about what they should do at a time of stress. In terms of Radio New Zealand’s (RNZ’s) funding—and, of course, Radio New Zealand, uniquely among media organisations, has a guarantee of revenue for future years, something that many media organisations would regard with envy. However, any bids will be considered in due course as part of the usual Budget process.

Gareth Hughes: How long does the Minister think our only public broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, can continue to provide the high standard of broadcasting we have seen in the past few days, when its funding has not been increased for 8 years?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, clearly up until now it has done a very good job. I have not seen any noticeable deterioration, in fact, I have seen some improvements in the broadcasting of Radio New Zealand on the guaranteed funding that it has, which, as I said, makes it unique among media organisations, a number of which are fighting simply to stay alive.

Gareth Hughes: Given the Minister’s comments around the ability to lodge a Budget bid, is the Minister concerned Radio New Zealand did not put in a funding bid in the last Budget round, with the chairman describing it as: “pointless beating your head against a brick wall of reality.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I was not disappointed at all. I know for public organisations it can be a sort of automatic reflex that they bid for more money just because they had some last year and think can do more good next year. In the case of RNZ though, over a number of years it has changed with the times. I am particularly complimentary of its website development. It sees itself now less as an owner of a broadcasting system and more as a content provider. I am sure that the wider media sees benefit in broadcasting content of the quality of RNZ’s.

Gareth Hughes: Given the excellent work that Radio New Zealand has done in the last few days despite a real-term funding cut of $4 million since this Government came to office, would the Minister encourage Radio New Zealand to put in a Budget bid for the next funding round?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, not on that basis. I mean, we do not give a public organisation more money just because it has demonstrated its ability to use the money it has. If there is a greater need for the long-term sustainability of the organisation then I am sure the board and executive of Radio New Zealand will see merit in putting up a bid. Equally, we also try not to give money to organisations where their services habitually fail, because that would also be rewarding organisations, rather than just applying money to obvious need.

 

The House shaken

Ironically, and disconcertingly for some, while Bill English was answering questions on dealing with earthquakes a sizeable quake rocked the house. English paused briefly, then carried on, but some around him looked around with obvious concern, including John Key.

At about 1:20 there was a 5.8 shake 15 km east of Seddon (it’s about 70 km from there to Wellington across Cook Strait):

Earthquake, Kaikōura—Economic Impact

2. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What advice has he received about the economic impact of the Kaikōura earthquake?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): At this point, the priority is on getting assistance to those who need it, and restoring services to affected areas. There is no funding constraint on that; the job just simply has to be done. Treasury has provided some preliminary advice, which is that the Kaikōura quake is significant, but it is going to be quite difficult to get a clear picture of overall cost.

Matt Doocey: What steps is the Government taking to respond to the earthquake?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The shorter-term steps have been outlined by the Prime Minister, and the Minister in charge of earthquakes—[Earthquake]

Hon David Parker: It’s working.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is working. So we know that repairing roads and other utilities is a costly and long-term solution, which is likely to have an impact on Government expenditure and will have some impact on tax revenue.

Matt Doocey: How well placed is New Zealand to deal with the consequences of the earthquake?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: This time I will be more careful with what I say. Ha, ha! The economy is generally in good shape. Government debt is relatively low. We have budget surpluses. We are in about as good a shape as we could be to deal with this natural disaster.

Matt Doocey: What financing options does the Government have to respond to the Kaikōura earthquake?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is a range of pretty straightforward options. The Government has capacity to borrow, to the extent that we do not actually have cash surpluses, and we want to make sure that financing is not an impediment to the rapid recovery, particularly for the vital transport links that have been so affected by the quakes.

Kiwibank ownership changed

NZ Post has sold nearly half of it’s shares in Kiwibank to two other Crown entities, the Super Fund and ACC.

The NZ Super Fund and the Accident Compensation Corporation’s purchase of minority stakes in Kiwibank has been welcomed by Finance Minister Bill English and State Owned Enterprises Minister Todd McClay.

“The deal keeps Kiwibank in public ownership and gives the bank access to additional sources of capital,” Mr English says.

“It also returns a dividend of about $200 million to the Government which can be used for other high priorities.”

Under the terms of the deal, NZ Post has sold a 25% shareholding in Kiwibank to the Super Fund and a 22% shareholding to ACC. The remaining Kiwibank shares are retained by NZ Post.  NZ Post, the NZ Super Fund and ACC are all owned by the Crown.

Mr McClay says the deal recognises that the business operations of NZ Post and Kiwibank are at very different stages of development.

“The transaction will result in a greater separation of NZ Post’s and Kiwibank’s operations and will allow the boards and management of both businesses to focus on their respective markets.”

Green co-leader James Shaw responded:

The privatisation of Kiwibank starts today with a 47% sale to ACC and Super Fund.

would have invested $100 million directly in Kiwibank meaning we’d still own it in 5, 10, 20 years’ time…

https://www.greens.org.nz/policy/smarter-economy/kiwibank-can-get-low-rates-all-us

Time for a meaningful discussion about Super?

A meaningful discussion about the future of universal superannuation in New Zealand is long overdue, but the National Party is adamant that kicking the Super can down the road is the best way of avoiding it.

Stuff: David v Jacinda: Super changes a poison pill that must be swallowed

David Seymour:

“A political hot potato that no party wants to handle.” That’s how The Nation’s Lisa Owen last week described rising superannuation costs, and she’s almost right. Since Andrew Little last year abandoned Labour’s policy of raising the age of eligibility, ACT is the one party campaigning on sustainable super.

Now perhaps that may be sort of correct. In past terms of the current Government Peter Dunne campaigned for changes to Super, promoting ‘flex-super’ which is still a United Future policy.

Politicians across the spectrum, including the Prime Minister, treat changes to super like a poison pill for how it polls with older voters. But if this Government doesn’t make changes, a future one will. By denying this, politicians deny younger Kiwis the chance to even discuss the issue. They are showing contempt for younger voters.

It is often framed as an ‘appeasing older voters’ versus addressing issues that younger peeople will face in the future.

No-one wants to punish today’s retirees or near-retirees. The question is how super should work in the decades ahead. In the long term, policy change appears inevitable – we’re healthier, working and living longer, resulting in a rapidly aging population. This trend won’t stop – half of babies born today are expected to live until the age of 100, and in my lifetime we’ll go from five taxpayers per superannuitant to two taxpayers per superannuitant.

The effects of this huge demographic shift can’t be overstated, with its effect on super alone costing an extra billion dollars each year. It’s reasonable to assume taxpayers won’t tolerate this forever, and fair enough.

When asked about the problem, politicians gloss over the real scale of the cost and instead pivot onto smaller issues. A typical tactic is to focus on immigrants, who can receive the pension after just 10 years of residency. This period should be extended, but that would be just a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of super for the existing ageing population.

Another idea mentioned is flexi-super – letting some people take it earlier at a lower rate, or later at a higher rate. It’s a good idea, but ultimately doesn’t affect the policy’s cost. It needs to come with more substantial reform.

Some suggest means-testing – taking super away from retirees with high earnings. But it’s surely both unwise and unfair to punish those who choose to continue working and pay taxes.

So that brings us back to raising the age.

That’s something that National won’t consider, and I presume NZ First won’t either.

Jacinda Ardern:

I agree with you David, on most counts.

Where I disagree is with David’s interpretation of other parties position on this question – namely ours. Labour knows we have a problem and we knew it when Michael Cullen set up the Super fund. We knew it when we campaigned to raise the age of superannuation, not just one election, but two. That may have been rejected by voters, but we can’t give up on the conversation on how to guarantee universal super for everyone. That has to be our bottom line.

So yes, you’re right. The National Government has rejected taking action in this area, and they are wrong.

But Seymour points out:

The Prime Minister promised in 2008 not to make changes under his leadership.

Not only that, Key and Bill English refuse to consider planning for the future affordability of Super.

If they get back in for another term that’s another three years of inaction, unless ACT and/or Dunne hold the deciding votes and force National to do something.

If NZ First hold the balance of power then no change will be locked in, whether Labour or National lead the next government.

Ardern:

Perhaps the courage we are now asking for needs to come from us, but also from voters – we need them to start banging down a few doors too.

It doesn’t seem to be an issue that voters will decide elections on.

A meaningful discussion about the future of universal superannuation is needed but is unlikely to happen in this decade.

Prime Minister Bennett

Tomorrow we will have Prime Minister Paula Bennett (acting).

Bill English has been acting PM while John Key has been away trying to get to India (he and the trade delegation arrived there yesterday).

But tomorrow English and Steven Joyce head off to Australia for the annual Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF) in Sydney.

Bennett will be acting PM for a couple of days until Gerry Brownlee returns from a trip to Paris.

So that will be four Prime Ministers (acting) in a week.

 

Tax paid by multinational companies

The issue of tax paid (or lack or tax paid) by multinational companies came up in Parliament’s Question Time yesterday.

7. FLETCHER TABUTEAU (NZ First) to the Minister of Finance: Does he think it is acceptable that 20 multinational companies paid just $1.8 million in income tax in 2014, despite recording nearly $10 billion in annual sales in New Zealand?

That sounds like dramatic underpayment of tax but it lacks a lot of detail. In many cases much of the cost of sales from multinational companies is incurred overseas and the sales are recorded overseas.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): As I think the member is aware, we do not tax turnover in New Zealand, so it is a bit hard to know. It is possible that the levels of tax are lower than they should be. We expect multinationals to pay their fair share of tax and be good corporate citizens. Most companies play by the rules, but the Government is continuing to tighten up the rules around transfer pricing and interest deductibility. New Zealand continues—most importantly, in my view—to work with other OECD countries to strengthen international tax settings, because, in some respects, what is most concerning about some multinationals is that they do not appear to pay much tax anywhere. We need to work with other countries to make sure that they pay their fair share as appropriate to each country’s rules.

That’s standard waffle from English, and his following responses didn’t add much. But Tabuteau came up with two examples.

Fletcher Tabuteau: Given that he just stated that he believes in a fair and equitable tax system, does he think it right that MasterCard New Zealand declared revenue in New Zealand of just $4.5 million, and paid tax of only $71,000 in its latest figures, despite sharing evenly in $40 billion of annual credit card billings?

That seems interesting but it is misleading, as his next question shows.

Fletcher Tabuteau: Given his answer, does he think it right that Visa New Zealand shared in the same pool of credit card billings of $40 billion, and it declared only $3.2 million of revenue and paid only $185,000 in tax in its latest figures?

So Mastercard and Visa together shared in “the same pool of credit card billings of $40 billion”. And that is not their sales, it is the sales of many companies who use credit card services so people can pay for goods and services.

It doesn’t separate domestic versus international sales.

Credit card charges are only a small part of overall sales, a few percent at most. If you pay Inland Revenue by credit card the fee paid to Westpac is 1.42%, if you pay the Police the fee is 1.9%.

It is obvious from this that some of the $40b are not sales but are payments with no revenue or tax involved.

One percent of $40b is $400 million, still a substantial amount. But there will be significant costs involved in providing the service and providing the finance – banks provide finance free of interest for up a month and a half.

So the detail Tabuteau is insufficient to have any ideas how outraged to be about how little revenue Mastercard and Visa report and how little tax they pay.

I don’t know how things are structured between the banks and the credit card companies. It looks like the banks incur most of the costs and will get most of the sales value from transactions.

Fletcher Tabuteau: How will the Minister help many New Zealand companies, which have said that they have missed out on investments here at home because overseas competitors are abusing the tax system here in New Zealand, giving them an unfair advantage over Kiwi firms?

That’s little more than a vague assertion of abuse. Without details Tabuteau has embellished his claims and made a very weak argument.

No surplus?

Stephanie Rodgers claims that the surplus announced yesterday is not actually a surplus – because, she says, the Government should have spent more so there wouldn’t be a surplus.

There is no surplus

In Year Eight of this National government, the idea of a budget surplus is a joke (and not just because it’s been completely engineered by the catastrophic Auckland housing bubble). They’ve promised it for nearly a decade. They’ve fiddled the books to make the numbers come out OK. They even declared a surplus in the middle of the financial year – that’s how desperate Bill English has been to pretend that everything’s going along just fine in New Zealand.

That shows an alarming lack of understanding of how how a Government budget works, and why the surplus was announced now.

“Finance Minister Bill English has today presented the Crown accounts for the year to June”.

It’s normal to announce financial results a while after the end of the financial year, like about now.

The Government is required to announce crown accounts, even when the timing isn’t too Rodgers’ liking.

The truth is, there is no surplus.

This surplus isn’t a success for our government. It is a sign of their failure. It shows they do not understand what their job is: to look after the people of this country. To govern us – not bean-count.

There is no surplus – not if you care about people more than money.

So Rodgers doesn’t want a surplus because she wants more money spent, probably a lot more money than Crown revenue, which means a deficit. She would probably complain if a deficit was announced at this time of year too.

$1.8b surplus announced

The Crown accounts for the year to June were presented yesterday, with the big news being a bigger than expected surplus.

Media release:


Government surplus increases to $1.8 billion

Finance Minister Bill English has today presented the Crown accounts for the year to June, showing a surplus of $1.8 billion in 2015/16, up from $414 million in 2014/15.

The Crown accounts show core Crown expenses are under 30 per cent of GDP for the first time since 2006, net debt has stabilised to 24.6 per cent of GDP and net worth has grown to $89.4 billion in 2015/16.

Mr English says the $1.8 billion operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) in 2015/16 – which compared to a forecast of $176 million in Budget 2015 – is a significant turnaround on the $18.4 billion deficit in 2011 following the Global Financial Crisis and Canterbury earthquakes.

“Government surpluses are rising and debt is falling as a percentage of GDP which puts us in a position to be able to make some real choices for New Zealanders,” Mr English says.

“The New Zealand economy has made significant progress over the past eight years. This delivers more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders, and also drives a greater tax take to help the Government’s books.”

Core Crown tax revenue was $1.6 billion higher than forecast in Budget 2015.

“We’ve also been getting on top of our spending, exercising fiscal restraint while still investing responsibly in our growing economy and public services.

Core Crown expenses were $73.9 billion in 2015/16, below the forecast of $74.5 billion at the beginning of the year.

“We’ve focussed on results and are starting to address the drivers of dysfunction by investing in better public services. We remain committed to maintaining rising operating surpluses and reducing net debt to around 20 per cent of GDP in 2020.

“If there is any further fiscal headroom, we may have the opportunity to reduce debt faster and as we’ve always said, if economic and fiscal conditions allow, we will begin to reduce income taxes.

“The outlook for the economy is positive, the Government’s books are in good shape and we are addressing our toughest social problems. However, we also need to bear in mind that there are a lot of risks globally and that is why it is important to get our debt levels down.

“Budget 2017 will make positive long-term choices to strengthen the economy and our communities.”