What to look for in the New Zealand budget
Finance Minister Grant Robertson hands down his sixth budget on Thursday at 1200 AEST. Here's what to look for.
* The bottom line
Government financial statements released last week showed collapsing revenue. Treasury forecasts already had the 2023 budget in deficit, and this almost certainly wipes out the chances of New Zealand being back in the black, as much as Mr Robertson might have liked to be.
* Updated economic forecasts
Storm clouds are gathering over the New Zealand economy, which for so long resisted COVID-19's ravages but is now constrained by inflation and the Reserve Bank's tightening. The OCR is already at 5.25 per cent, with another meeting next week likely to bring another hike. GDP contracted by 0.6 per cent in the December 2022 quarter, and another fall would confirm a recession.
* Election year sweeties
Mr Robertson might deny it's a motivation, but election years bring the expectation of budget time treats for taxpayers. The October 14 poll - fewer than five months away - is surely one of the reasons the government ruled out a cyclone levy to help pay for its multi-billion dollar clean-up. So what might be on offer? Tax credits, cheaper healthcare and infrastructure pledges.
* Climate pledges
A biofuels mandate, "clean car upgrade" and low emissions vehicle leasing schemes and a container return system were all axed this year as Prime Minister Chris Hipkins trimmed the government's agenda to meet the cost of living challenge. There's an expectation the budget will include new emissions-cutting plans to replace these.
* The opposition's wish-list
Attacks on the government's increased spending is central to the National party's pitch for office. Opposition finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis wants to see "fiscal discipline restored" on Thursday after "six years of high-spending and high-waste budgets". National wants a smaller government, including cuts to consultants, communications staff and advertising.