Finance Minister Grant Robertson stuck to his guns on the Government economic direction today in the face of the weakest business confidence in a decade.
Speaking to a debt market summit in Auckland's SkyCity, Robertson stressed this country was a good place to do business.
It comes after the latest NZ Business Outlook slumped to levels not seen since the global financial crisis.
Robertson, in his speech, repeated statistics as to why New Zealand's economy remained strong.
"We are in surplus – projected to be $3.1 billion this year, rising to $7.3b by 2021/22.
"Net core Crown debt is low, compared to international trends, and our Government is committed to reducing that to 20 per cent of GDP over the next five years. Over the forecast period we are set to see GDP growth average around 3 per cent," he said.
"Last week's employment statistics also showed the highest employment rates ever for Māori and women, and we've seen a fall in the number of young people not in employment, education or training.
"In the last few months, I've had conversations with business leaders up and down the
country. I've consistently heard similar messages: that businesses are optimistic about their own prospects, but that they do have some concerns.
"They face problems finding workers with the right skills. They are also concerned about growing trade protectionism and geopolitical tensions abroad. And yes, there are aspects of the Government's agenda that they disagree with," Robertson told the audience.
"That concern about the international picture is something I share and which the
Government will continue to monitor.
"It is important not to overdramatise the situation. Global growth is projected to be 3.9 per cent this year. But there are issues well beyond New Zealand's control that we need to be mindful of. Tit-for-tat tariff restrictions, some slowdown in the Chinese economy and various international tensions are risks that, if they develop further, will affect New Zealand.
"Overall, the markets for New Zealand exports continue to grow. The Government is
committed to expanding them and we were very pleased to recently get a free trade deal
with the European Union across the start line.
"The Trade for All agenda launched by the
Prime Minister this week is an important ingredient in ensuring that we continue to develop high-quality trade agreements that support our exporters in their quest for higher value and greater returns.
"There is every reason to be optimistic about New Zealand's future economic prospects, and this Government is committed to working alongside the business community to develop them."