Predicted Budget surplus offers choice

LIAM HYSLOP
Last updated 14:22 12/04/2014
Bill English
JASON OXENHAM/ Getty
'CHOICE': Finance Minister Bill English believes there are opportunities ahead for the Government.

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Finance Minister Bill English is confident the Government books will reach a "paper-thin" surplus in the next Budget.

Speaking on The Nation, English reflected on the choices arising from from the surplus predicted for the Budget.

"In this Budget we will have a paper-thin surplus, I mean we'll just have a surplus, but that's the beginning of a series of surpluses and that means we have choices. And there's a lot of choices,'' he said.

"We've got the New Zealand Super Fund to resume contributions, an auto-enrolment for KiwiSaver, paying off debt more quickly, something for households to help them along."

That ''something'' would come on the back of a constantly improving economy that's growing at "probably more than three per cent", but it was up to businesses to pass on those gains, English said.

"We make a contribution through Working For Families, interest free student loans and so on and secondly, that there probably is an expectation that where there's productivity gains people in workplaces who've contributed to that would expect to see a share of it.

"Of course the practicality is each workplace is a bit different and that's up to the people in that workplace to negotiate what their pay is going to be.

"In the broad sense though, a growing economy, one of the better growing economies in the developed world, means it's more likely both that productivity is increasing and that people will get higher wage rises."

On the TV show, English was challenged about growing household debt and said it was up to individuals to get this right.

"Well look it's up to them [homeowners] to decide how much debt they carry.

"All I'm saying is when they're being told by the Reserve Bank governor that interest rates could go up two percentage points then they need to be a bit careful about what extra debt they're taking on.

"But bear in mind this is in the context of an economy that's growing at around 3 per cent-plus."

He ruled out large scale cash hand-outs in the Budget as they were not possible and not a good idea while there were still other underlying problems, such as overpriced housing.

On the housing market, English was presented with documents showing he was briefed by Treasury about the possibility of banning non-residents from buying houses in New Zealand.

English said he had been briefed, but a ban was never considered.

"I mean, it's feasible to do it right, in the sense that it's technically possible.

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"The question is whether in the long run, it's desirable that we ban anyone from outside New Zealand from being able to buy things in New Zealand.

"We don't believe that it is desirable."

English sais auto-enrolment in KiwiSaver was not yet on the table.

- Stuff

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