Whoa there, Minister – a majority of Kiwis will be disappointed if govt spending is not curbed in this year’s Budget

Uh, oh – it’s probably too late to influence the government on the case for its spending to be curbed  ahead of the Budget Speech to be delivered on Thursday.  The speech and the raft of documents that will accompany it will be ready for the printer – if not already printed – by now.

But the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has ascertained that most New Zealanders oppose increasing Government spending.

A new scientific poll of 1,000 respondents was conducted by Curia Market Research and asked,

Given the current levels of inflation, do you think the Government should continue to increase overall spending in this year’s budget, or keep it about the same? Continue reading “Whoa there, Minister – a majority of Kiwis will be disappointed if govt spending is not curbed in this year’s Budget”

Why several Labour MPs (whose futures are in electoral jeopardy) will be hoping for miracles in this year’s Budget

Finance Minister Grant Robertson managed  to  put  a  bold  face on  his  fiscal management  last week  when he  presented  the  latest set of Crown accounts, saying they   “are continuing to reflect the strong position New Zealand is in to manage the challenging global environment”.

Tax revenue in the  nine months  to March  was $2.7 bn above forecast at $78.6bn, due to better-than-expected corporate profits and a strong jobs market.  This was partly offset by lower GST returns.

Core Crown expenses were close to forecast at $92.6bn.

The operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) deficit was $8.1bn, $4.1bn  below that forecast in December’s Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update.

Robertson commented approvingly:

“This result shows the strong position New Zealand finds itself in, despite the uncertainty and volatility of the Ukraine war, the pandemic and ongoing supply chain disruptions in critical trading hubs like China. It is further evidence that our strong health response has been the right one for the economy”.

Robertson concedes there are significant challenges for families and business right now. Continue reading “Why several Labour MPs (whose futures are in electoral jeopardy) will be hoping for miracles in this year’s Budget”

Buzz from the Beehive – exemption cards are to become available (but not for taxes)

Tax Minister David Parker’s speech about his quest for better information about who is paying how much in taxes and the development of tax principles can now be found on the Beehive website.

The speech (yet to be posted when Point of Order reported yesterday) mentions “an important stage of the project”, which will be wide public consultation on the proposed principles and reporting framework. It’s a shame Parker couldn’t persuade his Cabinet colleagues to take the same principled approach to

Parker wants the tax principles enacted in a Bill before the end of the current Parliamentary term, resulting in the Tax Principles Act taking its place alongside the Tax Administration Act and other revenue Acts “to create the tax system that New Zealanders can understand and be proud of”.

The speech was posted alongside news of exemption cards becoming available – no, not an exemption from having to pay taxes.  The card attests to an exemption from having to wear a mask.

And Energy Minister Megan Woods brings news of Auckland harbour ferries being set to get quieter, cleaner and greener, thanks to two new fully-electric ferries for commuters and sightseers to travel on.

The project is a collaboration between the Government, Auckland Transport, EV Maritime and boat builders McMullen & Wing.

Auckland Transport receives a $27 million grant funding from the Government to pay around 75% of the costs of constructing two new electric ferries.

The funding comes from the Infrastructure Reference Group’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

Latest from the Beehive

27 APRIL 2022

Conservation cup win runs in the family

Wetlands expert and advocate Dr Beverley Clarkson was today presented with New Zealand’s most prestigious conservation award, the Loder Cup by Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan.

New mask exemption card to remove uncertainty

People who have genuine reasons for not being able to wear a face mask can access a new personalised exemption card from the end of May.

Shining a light on unfairness in our tax system

Those coming here expecting announcements of new tax policy will be disappointed. None are being made. We have no secret plan to introduce a CGT nor a wealth tax or a deemed income tax, nor others.

26 APRIL 2022

Auckland harbour goes electric

Auckland harbour ferries are set to get quieter, cleaner and greener, thanks to two new fully-electric ferries for commuters and sightseers to travel on.

And on the 11th day, the govt moved with a sanctions package to show the world what we think of Putin’s war in Ukraine

The flow of news from The Beehive in recent days seems to have been aimed largely at enabling ministers to remind voters of their portfolio responsibilities and duties.

On International Women’s Day, for example, the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Sexual Violence, Marama Davidson, joined with other women “to reinforce the need for collective action to address gender-based violence”.

The Minister for Children, Kelvin Davis, drew attention to the celebration of Children’s Day/ Te Rā o Ngā Tamariki by asking everyone to continue with crucial support for our young people as the fight with Covid continues.

 Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio announced the 2022 Pacific Language Weeks series, highlighting the contribution of those who have provided life-saving Covid-19 messages in the nine Pacific Island languages over the past two years.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi reassured us the Government is “progressing” legislation to ensure that courts can continue operating safely and effectively as COVID-19 spreads in the community.

And Finance Minister Grant Robertson issued a ministerial statement to serve what looks like the  purpose of putting  down National Party leader Christopher Luxon, who had called for the government to give struggling Kiwis tax relief as the cost of living soars. Robertson rejoined that Kiwis had heard “the same tired old story” from Luxon that “fails to give any new ideas for our future”.

Then came something with a bit more heft. Continue reading “And on the 11th day, the govt moved with a sanctions package to show the world what we think of Putin’s war in Ukraine”

Two perspectives on the NZ economy – the business outlook (grim) and Robertson’s emphasis on resilience (ebullient)

Listen  to  economists, and  you  will hear  that New Zealand is ploughing through rough  waters. Inflation expectations  are soaring, business  confidence   is  falling, investment intentions   are  down.

In fact, the  ANZ  Business  Outlook data  for  November record declines in all forward-looking activity indicators except employment intentions.  A net 9% of firms expect lower profits ahead.

This is likely related to extreme cost pressures, with a net 89 % of  firms   reporting   higher  costs.

If you want an antidote to this pessimism, listen  to  Finance Minister  Grant  Robertson in Parliament – the  story he tells is very  different.

Answering  a  “patsy” from Mana  MP Barbara Edmonds,  Robertson  celebrated the  resilience of  the  NZ  economy  which – he  said – had been demonstrated by last week’s Statistics New Zealand job figures for the September 2021 quarter.

The data showed the unemployment rate fell from 4%  in June to a record-equalling low of 3.4% in the September quarter, last recorded in December 2007.

Whoopee. Continue reading “Two perspectives on the NZ economy – the business outlook (grim) and Robertson’s emphasis on resilience (ebullient)”

APEC leaders learn about waka and Aucklanders hear it cost $30m to encourage walking and cycling on just one street

We confess to being bemused by some of the latest Beehive announcements and pronouncements.

Auckland became a harbour of waka, in the PM’s remarks to APEC leaders who – we suspect – might not know what a waka looks like.

Then there are moves afoot to protect us – from what?

To protect us from what we might read, view or hear, it transpires.

Less puzzling was news of Government tax proposals that – it is sure – will dampen investor demand for existing houses and so bring down house prices.

“The proposals we are releasing today will help to achieve that goal,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.  

His confidence is admirable.

Oh, and we learned how much it has cost – $30 million – to widen the footpaths of Karangahape Road and reduce the roadway to discourage emission-spewing motor vehicles by establishing cycle paths.

Nurses, meanwhile, are bridling against their  pay … Continue reading “APEC leaders learn about waka and Aucklanders hear it cost $30m to encourage walking and cycling on just one street”

Thinking big – Biden’s spending programme signals shift in thinking about role of the state in the economy

Here’s a Think Big project of which even Rob Muldoon would have been proud.  US President Joe Biden has launched a $US2.3 trillion infrastructure plan designed to fix roads and bridges, replace pipes, expand broadband internet access and boost funding for research and development.

Might we need something similar here rather than tinkering with light rail and broadcasting?

The infrastructure plans would water the eyes of an old Minister of Works. There’s $US621 billion to modernise transportation infrastructure, for starters.  But then there’s $US400 billion to help care for the aging and those with disabilities, $US300 billion to boost the manufacturing industry, $US213 billion on retrofitting and building affordable housing and $US100 billion to expand broadband access, among other investments

There are plans to modernise 20,000 miles of roadway, build 500,000 electric-vehicle charging stations, replace the country’s existing lead pipes and service lines, repair aging schools, fix the ten most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction, repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges, and provide critical linkages to communities.  And plans to replace thousands of buses and rail cars, repair hundreds of stations, renew airports, and expand transit and rail into new communities.

Home care for the elderly and disabled will be expanded. Billions of dollars will go into semi-conductor manufacturing. More of the country’s electricity will be generated from low-carbon sources, with a goal of eliminating carbon emissions from the power grid by 2035. Continue reading “Thinking big – Biden’s spending programme signals shift in thinking about role of the state in the economy”

Mahuta plugs the progress of Maori at powhiri for our big APEC year

A rich mix of fresh pronouncements from the Beehive includes the delivery of an election promise to improve the wellbeing of workers with more sick leave.  Yes, this may adversely affect the wellbeing of their employers, who will be obliged to do the paying.  But this has been partly offset by a sop which extends by 10 months the rules allowing affected businesses to put their debt on hold by 10 months.

Ministers have also advised the people who employ them (we, the people, dear reader) of:

  • The government’s intention to enable drug users and pill poppers to check on the quality of the stuff that gives them their buzz;
  • The government’s giving more protection to consumers who borrow money (at the same time as it is amassing a record-high public debt to be repaid by all consumers who pay taxes);  
  • Plans to make the public sector carbon neutral by 2025, starting with the phasing out of the largest and most active coal boilers;   
  • A bill to keep an election promise to have a new top tax rate of 39 per cent on income earned over $180,000. The new rate will apply from 1 April 2021.

Oh – and then there’s the speech delivered by Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta to APEC big-wigs, although it seems to have been pitched to resonate with a Maori audience as much as with an international one.    

The speech was delivered at a pōwhiri on Wellington’s waterfront where the local tribe, Te Atiawa, and several government ministers welcomed representatives from the other 20 APEC economies.

Mahuta  described APEC as a hugely important international event and said APEC 2021 (NZ will be the host) would be one of the largest ongoing virtual events in the world, with more than 300 meetings conducted across New Zealand.  

The pōwhiri was one of the few physical events of New Zealand’s APEC virtual host year. The first virtual APEC 2021 meeting, the Informal Senior Officials Meeting, will be held on 9 December.

Mahuta briefly brought history into considerations and attempted to make it relevant to the experience of other APEC countries:  

“It is significant to note that around 700 years ago, our ocean-navigating Māori ancestors or tūpuna traversed the vast Pacific Ocean, using the signs they observed in the stars and ocean currents to travel south to ultimately arrive here in Aotearoa. I hazard a guess that they would have stopped off at many of your homelands across the Pacific along the way to rest, recuperate and re-stock supplies for the long journey ahead.”

She mentioned the inclusiveness and environmental sustainability that have become potent  components of policy-making under our caring prime minister. 

“We seek to promote trade and economic growth that is inclusive, especially as it relates to women and indigenous peoples, to ensure APEC makes full use of the untapped economic potential of these and a number of other groups. We will also focus on sustainability, not only in response to environmental realities such as climate change, but also to facilitate a green economic recovery from COVID-19.”

The spirit of “partnership” was not overlooked:  

“APEC New Zealand Officials are working in partnership with the local tangata whenua, Te Atiawa Iwi, to ensure that we maintain our Māori cultural integrity in the way that we welcome, host and farewell our manuwhiri, our guests.”

Then global challenges were addressed (albeit briefly):

“As you may well recognise these are challenging and uncertain times. A global pandemic has cause us to be caught in the same storm and while we are experiencing the impact of this storm very differently collectively we know we must get through the other side.

“Responding to COVID-19 will be top of mind for New Zealand, and we will be looking to use a number of mechanisms to facilitate an effective, long-lasting economic response to the crisis as we set out a ‘new normal’ approach to support our resilience.

“Following the biggest economic shock in 90 years, we will focus on rebuilding confidence in the multilateral trading system. An effective, functioning and rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organisation at its centre, underpins APEC’s work to support our economies to grow together and be cognisant of the challenge before us. Promoting indigenous collaboration to broaden the diversity of our approach, and the consequent benefits to women and young people is also important.”

Mahuta declared she was heartened by the progress made by New Zealand since this country last hosted APEC in 1999. 

But her measure of New Zealand’s progress  – dare we suggest it? – was somewhat narrowly focused on the achievements of one racial group: 

“In 1999, Māori were largely invisible in New Zealand’s hosting and were mostly reduced to ceremonial and cultural roles. However, we are determined that for APEC21, Māori will play a more prominent and meaningful role in New Zealand’s hosting. I anticipate this approach may assist broader opportunities for indigenous peoples and economies to connect in more meaningful ways.

“Over the last twenty years the Māori economy and asset base has grown exponentially enhanced further by Treaty Settlements, which have provided an economic base for our people. Today, the Māori economy is valued at around $50 billion and represents six per cent of New Zealand’s total asset base. The Māori economy includes a range of authorities, businesses, and SME employers who self-identify as Māori.

“From 2010 to 2018, Māori enterprises have increased in number by over 30 percent and employee count by 50 percent. However, the general consensus is that further diversification of the Māori asset base is required to ensure resilience in the long-term.  We are starting to see this across the Māori economy with Māori businesses branching out into new investment areas including geothermal, digital, education, and housing.

“With the Māori economy in such a solid position, we have an excellent opportunity to diversify the benefits our trade policy and within APEC over the next twenty years.”

And the progress – was there any? – of the national economy?

We may suppose MFAT officials or Mahuta’s speech writer reckoned it wasn’t worth mentioning.   

But Mahuta did acknowledge that indigenous recognition can be a sensitive subject and that the New Zealand experience is not uniformly replicated across the Asia-Pacific.

She offered this country’s help in changing their ways of doing things:   

“We are willing to share our experience and offer support to assist economies to enable the greater participation of indigenous communities in trade and economic activity, including through APEC. Economic inclusion such as this approach will contribute to greater equity and opportunity for indigenous peoples and can contribute to greater social cohesion and stability in our region”

Wrapping up her speech, Mahuta told the locally based APEC economy representatives that, because of the virtual nature of NZ’s host year, they would play an even more important connecting role between NZ officials and their home agencies.

She told New Zealand government officials they had an enormous task ahead as they prepared proposals, meeting papers, statements, projects and events during the year, all while ensuring a strong New Zealand sense of manaakitanga, hospitality.

And last but by no means least she addressed tangata whenua, Te Atiawa Iwi, and Māori organisation partners, saying 

“ … you are our Treaty partner and represent Māori cultural and economic interests in APEC and what we strive to achieve across these economies.”

In conclusion, she drew on the wisdom of her ancestor Tāwhio who said;

“Ki te kotahi te kākaho ka whati, ki te kapuia e kore e whati.

” ‘When a reed stands alone it can be easily broken, but bound in unison it stands firm, joined together, and is unbreakable!’

“That is the intent of APEC 21 that we Join, Work and Grow Together.

“No reira, Turuturu Whakawhitia mau a kia tina! Haumi e, hui e, tāiki e! Tēnā koutou. Tēnā koutou. Tēnā tātou katoa!”

Among the signals we pick up from this, diplomats and APEC representatives who want to understand everything Ardern’s second-term ministers tell them should get to grips with te reo fast – or recruit local staff who can do the translating for them. 

 Latest from the Beehive

2 DECEMBER 2020

Public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025

  • Public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025
  • Immediate focus on phasing out largest and most active coal boilers

Government fulfils election undertaking on new top tax rate

The Government will today keep its election promise to put in place a new top tax rate of 39 per cent on income earned over $180,000.

Sir Robert Martin re-elected to UN Committee

New Zealand welcomes the news that Sir Robert Martin has been re-elected to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, says Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni.

New rules to protect Kiwis from unaffordable loans

The Government is making sure all consumers who borrow money get the same protections, regardless of where they get their loans.

1 DECEMBER 2020

New visitor attraction to boost tourism

The opening of the first major new tourism attraction since the global outbreak of COVID-19 closed borders to international travellers will provide a welcome boost to visitor numbers in our largest city, says Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.

Govt moves on drug checking to keep young New Zealanders safer this summer

The Government will pass time limited legislation to give legal certainty to drug checking services, so they can carry out their work to keep New Zealanders safer this summer at festivals without fear of prosecution, Health Minister Andrew Little says.

Public Service Commissioner reappointed

Minister for the Public Service Chris Hipkins announced today that Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes CNZM has been reappointed for three years.

Pōwhiri marks the start of a critical year for APEC

New Zealand kicked off its APEC host year today, with a pōwhiri taking place on Wellington’s waterfront with local iwi Te Atiawa, and a number of Government ministers welcoming representatives from the other 20 APEC economies.

Speech at APEC 21 Opening Pōwhiri

Kei aku rangatira no ngātapito e whā o te ao huri noa, tātou e huihui mai nei. Tēnā rā kōutou katoa.

Government extends business debt relief to October 2021

To assist with the ongoing economic recovery from COVID-19, rules allowing affected businesses to put their debt on hold have been extended by 10 months.

30 NOVEMBER 2020

Bill introduced to support workers with 10 days sick leave

The Government is delivering on a key commitment by introducing a Bill to Parliament to expand sick leave entitlements from five days to ten days a year, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood announced today.

Progress on pay equity for DHB staff

Today’s initial agreement between DHBs and the PSA on pay equity for clerical and administration staff is an important step toward better, fairer pay for this crucial and largely female workforce, Health Minister Andrew Little says.

 

CRI restructuring plus smarter ways of financing  science should be a  priority  in economic recovery plan.

Finance  Minister  Grant  Robertson,  setting out  Labour’s   key plank   in its  post-Covid economic recovery plan, insists  a new top tax rate of 39% for income earned over $180,000  will  be the only  move  it makes  on the tax front if the party is re-elected.

Those liable   will be  paying  only  $23  a  week more.  So  is it  just  an   empty  gesture?  Will there be  other  tax changes?.

Robertson   is adamant  there won’t be any  new taxes in  the next term.

“We are here under the lens of Covid-19. We took the decision that the right tax policy for this time in our history is to provide stability and certainty..We’re making a change that will see 2% of New Zealanders pitching in a little bit more for our recovery and rebuild but we have prioritised certainty and stability at this time”.

And he adds:

I hear some people saying it’s not very much money, it’s $2bn over a four year period that we can invest in health and education This is the right thing to do at this time in our history”. Continue reading “CRI restructuring plus smarter ways of financing  science should be a  priority  in economic recovery plan.”

Parliament legislated at great speed to change the tax laws but slowed down when MPs’ pay cuts were at issue

The Covid-19 emergency has been used by the government to justify legislative urgency and curtail Parliamentary scrutiny.

The aim was worthy – to introduce  a package of tax reforms. The process was shabby.

Urgency provisions were invoked to have the package legislated quicker you can say IRD.

Just as shamefully, the government moved smartly this week to scuttle a bill aimed at lopping the pay of all members of Parliament.  Finance Minister Grant Robertson denied Parliament the opportunity to consider this measure, promoted by Act leader David Seymour, by vetoing its introduction.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash, in charge of the tax package, was unapologetic about the unseemly haste he intended should be taken.  He issued a statement to proclaim:

A significant package of tax reforms will be pushed through all stages in Parliament today to throw a cash flow lifeline to small businesses. Continue reading “Parliament legislated at great speed to change the tax laws but slowed down when MPs’ pay cuts were at issue”