By this time next week we would have heard the Finance Minister deliver his Budget speech and we will be dissecting what this means for our community.
A number of announcements have already been made, and I know how beneficial these will be for people in Tauranga.
First up we announced more than $500 million to fund an extra 1125 police over the next four years to make our communities safer.
That’s been followed by an extra $11 billion for infrastructure, taking total infrastructure investment over the next four Budgets to $23 billion.
Government drug-funding agency Pharmac is getting an extra $60 million over the next four years, including $20 million in the coming year, which will provide around 33,000 people with access to new medicines.
Regional tourism gets a big boost with a $178 million for tourism infrastructure. A new Tourism Infrastructure Fund will provide $102 million in partnership with local councils and other community organisations for projects such as new carparks, toilets and freedom camping facilities. Sitting alongside this is a $76 million funding increase for the Department of Conservation to upgrade and develop tourist facilities and co-fund two new Great Walks.
The Budget will include a $321 million Social Investment Package with 14 initiatives designed to help our most vulnerable to improve their lives.
There’s also funding in the Budget for our ambitious trade agenda, the film industry, and research and development.
Of course, we can only make these investments because of a strong growing economy and a good set of government accounts.
The latest accounts show the books continue to exceed forecasts with a $1.5 billion surplus for the nine months to March, $1.3 billion ahead of Treasury’s forecast just four months ago.
The hard work of all Kiwis, supported by the government, means we’ve given ourselves choices that few other countries have. While some similar countries are having to make hard decisions about which programmes to cut, we’re in the happy position of being able to fund well-thought-through new initiatives that make a difference to people’s lives.
However, we need to retain our focus on delivering a strong economy, not just on sharing the returns of it, because if we slip back these opportunities could disappear pretty quickly.
As we know, we have to prepare ourselves for any future shocks. That’s why, along with improving public services, investing in infrastructure needed for a growing economy, and sharing the benefits of economic growth, we’re working to reduce net debt to 20 per cent of GDP by 2020. But we need to shore up our resiliency further. That’s why we’ve set a target of reducing net debt to between 10 and 15 per cent of gross domestic product by 2025.
Low debt gives us the flexibility to adjust to sudden changes in circumstances without cutting entitlements, as has happened with the Global Financial Crisis and Christchurch earthquakes of the past seven or eight years.