After months and months of insisting the Government’s core debt target was inviolable, a pledge repeated by the Prime Minister just last week, Grant Robertson has now admitted it’s more of a hope than a promise, says National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams.
“It is a key admission from Mr Robertson – not because of how much they may miss the debt target by but because this Government made getting core Crown debt down to 20 per cent of GDP by 2022 a key measure of their credibility as economic managers.
“On Q+A yesterday Mr Robertson claimed that even if the Government doesn’t meet the debt target he would consider that ‘we would have still done a good job’.
“No Mr Robertson, you would not have. The fact is that for the Government to have any credibility as economic managers then at the very minimum they must stick to the targets they set for themselves and insisted they would adhere to.
“His comments are directly at odds with the message the Prime Minister gave business leaders in a much-hyped speech last week aimed at easing deep concern and uncertainty about the direction of this Government and the ensuing slump in business confidence.
“The Prime Minister said the budget rules are ‘not a nice to have’ but were ‘a firm guide’ for managing the economy. And in her own ‘read my lips’ moment, she said while there had been calls to borrow or spend more, ‘We won’t’.
“But Mr Robertson is saying ‘We will’ by making it clear that missing the target would still be OK by him.
Just today Mr Robertson also confirmed that Government borrowing costs will be higher as a result of hiding some debt within Housing NZ.
“Conflicting messages are symptomatic of this coalition and part of the reason why business uncertainty is rife. It also speaks to this Government’s lack of credentials as economic managers, which has seen growth and job creation slow, and the cost of living rise.
“New Zealand needs to reduce debt in economic good times so that we’re able to cope when a shock happens. Instead we’ve seen some $6 billion of debt hidden off the Crown’s core balance sheet, a move the Treasury says could harm our reputation as a borrower, and increasingly clear messages that the core Crown debt target is likely to be missed.
“National believes a growing economy helps all Kiwis – creating more jobs, higher incomes and more revenue to pay for the things this country needs. Instead we have a Government intent of eroding the strong economic buffer inherited from National.”