Bay News column
Last Thursday Finance Minister Bill English delivered the National-led Government’s seventh Budget.
Budget 2015 was about keeping our promises to responsibly manage the Government’s finances, build a more competitive and productive economy, deliver better public services and rebuild Christchurch.
While it will take a year longer to return to surplus than we had targeted, the Government is in the right direction, considering that we had a deficit of $18.4 billion only four years ago.
After the last election the Prime Minister also said that child poverty would be a priority for this term. We have delivered on that promise with a $790 million package to help children living in some of New Zealand’s poorest families.
For the first time since 1972 core benefit rates have been increased by more than just inflation. We have been careful to strike a balance between helping the most vulnerable children in beneficiary families while ensuring there remains a strong incentive for parents to move from welfare into work.
We are making changes to Working for Families so that low-income working families will receive more money in their pocket each week, and childcare subsidies are also increasing to help ease the pressure on households.
In my own portfolio of Transport, we are providing an additional $249 million over the next four years for key transport projects. This takes total spending on transport in 2015/16 to $4.27 billion. Contrary to claims that we only focus on roads, these projects include rail infrastructure upgrades and improved urban cycleways.
Budget 2015 is not only about what and where the Government is spending – it is also about the economic outlook. Forecasts show that the economy is expected to grow by an average 2.8 percent, which is among the fastest in the developed world.
By mid-2019, a further 150,000 people are forecast to be in work, and the average wage is expected to increase by $7,000 to $63,000 a year.