Finance Minister Grant Robertson is talking down rosy Crown account numbers, cautioning they might not remain as upbeat in coming months.
The Treasury’s financial statements for the Government in the 11 months to May 31 paint a picture of healthy Crown books.
At $73.5 billion, tax revenue was $300 million above forecast and the Government’s surplus came in at $400 million higher than the projected $5.2 billion in May.
The Crown Accounts showed net core Crown debt was $57.5 billion – $1.1 billion lower than had been forecast.
This works out to be 20.1% of GDP – just 0.1% higher than the Government’s 2022 target.
Although pleased with most of the numbers, Robertson is cautious.
“We have to be a little bit careful with those projections – there can be some reversing back and [they] may increase a little bit in future months depending on the amount of revenue and the amount of expenditure that the Government has,” he told reporters.
In the House, he said the Treasury noted the figures had some variants within the sources due to a “timing issue.”
“[These are] set to reverse out in June, putting the accounts back in line with Budget forecasts,” he said.
On debt, Robertson said the Government had no intention of revising its target, regardless of how close it is to 20%.
As net debt is measured as a proportion of GDP, it is possible for the Government to take on more debt and stay on track to meet its target. GDP just needs to continue to increase.
The economy is expected to continue growing at an average of 3% per year, according to the Treasury, meaning the Government could have some extra money to spend.
And what would the Government do with this extra money? Robertson has indicated the focus would be infrastructure.
“We have a lot of things we want to do over the coming years, particularly in terms of significant infrastructure expenditure,” Robertson said.
According to the Global Infrastructure Hub, New Zealand is facing an annual shortfall of almost 0.3% of GDP on infrastructure investment in transportation, telecommunications, electricity and water services.
This is expected to translate into a cumulative gap of 9.5% of GDP by 2040.
“That is the kind of thing we should be using debt for is to help improve our productivity. Infrastructure is an incredibly important part of that,” Robertson said.