Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Timing crucial for share floats of SOEs

Bill English. Photo / Greg Bowker
Bill English. Photo / Greg Bowker

Finance Minister Bill English says disruption to the timing of the partial share floats of state-owned assets will push the Government over its self-imposed debt limit of 30 per cent of GDP.

Mr English, who is leaving today on a trip to Hong Kong, Moscow and New York, said borrowing was forecast to peak next year at 29.6 per cent and so any extra borrowing would push it over. "It's an informal benchmark - we wouldn't be getting lectures from people about how you've got to stay below but it's a good discipline on us," he said.

"Countries who are in that range are considered in a very sound condition compared to other developed countries. One of the reasons for the timing is to enable us to continue investing in public assets without having to borrow more money at the peak of government borrowing."

The Government planned to get between $5 billion and $7 billion over five years for the sale of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand.

The proceeds have been booked for forward spending on capital items, such as schools, irrigation schemes and hospitals. Any delay or shortfall in proceeds would mean having to borrow more in the markets.

The key feature of Mr English's trip is the Apec finance ministers' meeting in Moscow, one of two multilateral forums he attends annually - the other being the IMF ministerial meeting.

He will hold discussions with his Russian counterpart about the free trade agreement New Zealand is negotiating with Russia - which last week joined the World Trade Organisation. Normally, New Zealand would not be high on Russia's radar but the free trade agreement was, Mr English said.

- NZ Herald

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