20 Mar 2018

'Healthy' growth in government balance sheet

8:17 pm on 20 March 2018

The government's balance sheet has grown, with a difference between assets and liabilities of $117 billion, or about $24,000 for every New Zealander.

Parliament and Beehive

Parliament and Beehive Photo: RNZ

The Treasury's four-yearly investment statement shows the government has assets worth $314bn, while also having $197bn in liabilities.

That compares with $244.4bn in assets and $174.4bn in liabilities in 2013.

"It's about our schools and hospitals, our superannuation and accident compensation, our state highways and state-owned enterprises. And the numbers involved are huge," said Treasury secretary Gabriel Makhlouf.

"And the numbers are growing bigger. By 2022 assets are expected to reach $365 billion and liabilities $205 billion," Mr Makhlouf said.

About 52 percent of the assets were used in the delivery of social services, and were mainly land, buildings and equipment.

Another 30 percent are in the financing portfolio and pre-funding government spending such as accident compensation and superannuation.

State-owned enterprises and other organisations with commercial objectives made up 18 percent.

Most of the liabilities represented debt used to help fund government operations.

"The New Zealand government balance sheet is currently healthy and our public finances are resilient in the face of adverse events," Mr Makhlouf said.

"This strength means we have choices. It opens up a wider range of options for policies and investments that improve the living standards of New Zealanders."

Treasury also stress-tested the resilience of the government's balance sheet, and found it could cope reasonably well with a major earthquake, agricultural disease outbreak or global economic downturn.