21 Feb 2012

Minister downplays deficit

7:52 am on 21 February 2012

Government books continue to be in worse shape than was forecast before the election but Finance Minister Bill English is downplaying the gap.

The forecast in the pre-election fiscal update in October 2011 was for an operating deficit of $6.8 billion for the six months to the end of December.

The actual figure has turned out to be $9.4 billion - nearly 40% more.

The blow-out is mainly due to higher than expected losses on the Government's investments and actuarial changes to the Government Superannuation Fund's future liabilities to take account of beneficiaries living longer.

Core tax revenue was 1.5% below forecast with lower sales and income taxes offsetting higher corporate tax revenue.

Mr English says that reinforces the need for the Government to be disciplined in its spending and stick to its plan to get back to surplus in 2014 - 2015.

GST revenue was more than 3% below forecast, largely due to earthquake-related refunds to insurance companies being double earlier predictions.

Mr English says that may indicate insurance companies are paying out claims sooner than expected.