23 Mar 2022

Grant Robertson sets out economic plans ahead of budget

1:14 pm on 23 March 2022
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Finance Minister Grant Robertson speaking on budget day in May 2021. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Speaking at the Auckland Business Chamber this morning, Robertson reaffirmed his confidence in New Zealand's economic resilience as the world economy faces a period of volatility.

He said there would be some difficult decisions ahead, but he said the government will continue targeted measures to help those on low and middle incomes.

Robertson said the government was pushing ahead with an immigration reset targeting sectors with skills shortages.

"We want our immigration to focus on how we build productivity. We want to make sure it is in the sectors that work for us as a country rather than being a more random exercise.

"The corollary of that is to make it easier for companies who are within those sectors to be able to bring the people in that they need to."

Robertson said Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi was working through the reset and it included plans for sectors such as building and construction, or in infrastructure where skills are needed.

Robertson also highlighted the need for New Zealand to diversify its export market, which is currently heavily reliant on China.

Two-way trade between the two nations was just above $11 billion in the three months ended December, well ahead of New Zealand's second biggest trading partner, Australia, at just under $6 billion.

"As a country we do need to make sure that we are trading with the whole world but making sure that our core and key markets expand.

"China will always be a very important market for New Zealand, it has to be. It's a very, very large country not all that far away from us. But if Covid has taught us anything it's to make sure that your eggs are not in one basket," Robertson said.

He said the government was pleased to finalise its Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom recently, and high on the agenda ahead was sealing a deal with the 27-member European Union, which has proved to be tricky.

The government also wanted to support inclusion in the economy.

"[Covid] has highlighted inequities and inequalities in our society and we can't let those fester any further. People want to go back to normal, I understand that, but in some senses normal wasn't great.

"That's why we will continue to focus on lifting the incomes of low income households," Robertson said.

He reaffirmed that health spending would be one of the cores of Budget 2022.

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