23 Jan 2012

Financial worries beset start of political year

6:49 am on 23 January 2012

The political year begins on Monday against a background of continuing financial worries.

The Labour Party meets this week and Cabinet holds its first session amidst fears the economic recovery might be faltering.

One indication came from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, which said last week that business confidence fell sharply in the last three months of last year.

There is a sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the World Bank has slashed global growth forecasts for 2012. The IMF has even warned a new recession could be imminent.

Despite the gloom, both of the major parties are buoyed slightly by the fact that Government debt is considered relatively manageable and low inflation might stave off interest rate rises for some time.

Prime Minister John Key and Cabinet ministers will meet at Parliament on Wednesday.

The Labour Party caucus will set its agenda for the year on Wednesday with a 1½ day retreat in Taupo.

On Tuesday, politicians will make their annual pilgrimage to the Ratana Church near Whanganui to celebrate the birth of its founder.

Parliament resumes on 7 February.