Voters blame Labour more than National for the country's current debt levels, according to a nationwide survey of Fairfax newspaper readers.
With the two main parties pointing the finger at each other, we asked more than 2000 of our readers who they blamed more.
Almost half of those in the survey saw it as effectively ''a plague on both their houses'', with 44 per cent blaming a combination of the Clark and Key governments.
But among those who singled out one or the other, 33 per cent saw Labour as being more at fault, while only 18 per cent blamed National more.
That is despite a huge blow-out in net core Crown debt since National took office, with a rise from $10 billion in 2008 to $50b now and forecasts it will top $70b by 2015.
However, in 2008 Treasury was forecasting a decade of deficits, though not at the level actually seen over the last few years. There was a record $18b deficit last year, which was hit by the cost of the earthquakes, and will be a likely $10b to $12b deficit in the current financial year.
The National-led Government has pointed to a number of main drivers of the soaring debt:
- Costly programmes put in place by Labour, including KiwiSaver, Working for Families and interest free student loans All were endorsed by National, though it has taken the pruning shears to them, especially KiwiSaver.
- The global financial crisis in 2008-09 and the slowing of the New Zealand economy.
- The Canterbury earthquakes, which has cost the Government more than $9b..
The centrepiece of this week's Budget looks set to be the promised return to surplus by 2014/15 as the Government starts to chip away at a looming debt mountain.
The Government has signalled other changes will be unveiled in Finance Minister Bill English's fourth Budget, including a rise in the excise tax on tobacco and possibly alcohol to raise more revenue and cut back on consumption, a key plank of the Maori Party's agenda.
Returning the books to the black has become a touchstone of the Government's economic management, although rating agencies and the International Monetary Fund have signalled that a slightly slower return to surplus would not scare the horses.
Labour finance spokesman David Parker says the return to surplus in 2014/15 which Labour also promised is no big deal and Finance Minister Bill English has failed to put in place policies to boost growth and cut overseas debt.
''Of course the Government's books will limp back to surplus but the underlying problems are not being fixed. Overseas borrowing keeps growing, the economy underperforms and more people leave because jobs and incomes are not keeping up,'' Mr Parker said.
How much debt the Government has carried since 1972 in relation to the size of the economy.
YEAR - GROSS DEBT - NET DEBT (AS % OF GDP).
1972 - 46.4 - 5.9
1975 - 42.0 - 5.0
1978 - 49.1 - 8.8
1981 - 49.91 - 7.4
1984 - 60.7 - 30.6
1987 - 75.5 - 45.2
1990 - 60.2 - 48.5
1993 - 61.1 - 47.9
1996 - 43.7 - 30.2
1999 - 35.2 - 24.5
2002 - 28.8 - 20.0
2005 - 23.0 - 12.9
2008 - 17.2 - 5.6
2011 - 36.2 - 20.0
2012 - 37.7 - 25.4
2013 - 36.1 - 28.5
2014 - 37.7 - 28.9
2015 - 35.4 - 29.0
2016 - 34.9 - 28.2
Net core Crown debt in $NZ:
Gross debt is total government borrowing. Net debt takes into account the government's investments.
Figures do not include the value of the ''Cullen'' Superannuation Fund.
With that included, 2008 would have been a surplus of 1.5% ($2.7b), while the 2010 net debt would be 6.6% and the forecast 2015 net debt would be 19.7%.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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