The Nation: Is the rock star economy still rocking?

This weekend The Nation interviews Steven Joyce on the economy and the budget:

Is the rock star economy still rocking? Tomorrow we’ll talk to the newly-minted Finance Minister Steven Joyce ahead of next month’s Budget.

See also: Inflation up to 2.2%

Joyce says Auckland Council needs to look at how much it can spend on transport.

Expect to see the Govt’s expenditure on the CRL in the Budget, Joyce say.

Still a rock star economy? Joyce wouldn’t call it that but the new Zealand is still performing well, and better than most.

Joyce says he’s keen to see the tax system work more clearly for people. No decision yet on tax thresholds (for PAYE), everything is still “on the table” for the budget.

Steven Joyce on tax cuts

Finance Minister Steven Joyce has given some indications of Government thinking on tax cuts (in election year).

Stuff: Joyce signals low and middle earners’ top rates target for tax cuts

Finance Minister Steven Joyce has signalled that cutting the top tax rate paid by lower and middle income earners is his top priority for tax cuts.

In a speech to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce on Thursday he said it was still too early to be sure that a surplus will be achieved in the current financial year, particularly given the costs associated with the Kaikoura earthquakes.

Treasury revealed on Thursday  that the books were in surplus by a narrow $9 million in the first six months of the current financial year – almost $700m ahead of forecast.

He was concentrating on four key areas for his first Budget on May 25.

They are:

  • better public services for a growing country,
  • building the infrastructure a growing modern economy needed,
  • paying down debt “as a percentage of gross domestic product”
  • reducing the tax burden “and in particular the impact of marginal tax rates on lower and middle income earners, when we have the room to do so”.

The Government has let bracket creep effectively increase tax rates for all income earners over the past eight years – something Michael Cullen eventually got hammered for by voters in 2008.

One could be a bit cynical about now offering to address this in the first election after John Key’s exit.

$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.”