But the ' />

New Zealand's economy looks likely to be given a relatively clean bill of health in an annual report by the International Monetary Fund.

But the IMF takes an even darker view of the global outlook than it did as recently as January.

Then, it expected the advanced economies - including most of New Zealand's trading partners - to shrink 2 per cent this year and regain about half of that next year.

The whole world would manage feeble but positive growth.

Now, in updated forecasts for the recent G20 finance ministers meeting, it says it expects the advanced economies to shrink between 3 and 3.5 per cent year, followed by 0 to 0.5 per cent growth next year.

Global output would shrink 1 to 1.5 per cent before a subdued recovery in 2010.

The IMF's mission chief for Australia and New Zealand, Ray Brooks, said the fund saw a bleak outlook for New Zealand's GDP this year, with consumption and investment both weak.

But the country was better placed, in terms of its starting point going into the crisis, than many countries.

The basic nature of its banking system, the floating exchange rate, and low Government debt should stand it in good stead.

Unlike the US, New Zealand does not allow banks to "securitise" mortgages - bundling them into investments which they can sell, getting them off their books.

As a result, the proportion of mortgages with high loan-to-value ratios and borrowers with high debt servicing costs in relation to their income was not high, Mr Brooks said.

Banks' reliance on imported, short-term credit remained an area of vulnerability, but it was eased by Government guarantees and by the fact that as the exchange rate fell, it took fewer US dollars to fund the same amount of New Zealand dollar lending.

"New Zealand is fortunate that the banking system is still working."

As well, "significant" stimulus from monetary and fiscal policy was happening, even if its full benefits had yet to be felt.

"The average advanced country is starting with [government] debt of around 80 per cent of GDP," Mr Brooks said.

"New Zealand's gross debt is around 20 per cent and in net terms it has positive financial assets. That's important."

But the increase in debt predicted as the fiscal balance moves from a surplus of about 3 per cent of GDP to a string of 3 or 4 per cent deficits is a problem.

Mr Brooks said the IMF took heart from Finance Minster Bill English's statement that the projections in the December statement were outside the range he considered prudent and the Government would not allow them to eventuate.

It was important that the Government take "credible measures" to bring debt down over the longer term to around present levels.

"Our preference would be to focus on the expenditure side."

Meanwhile, monetary policy was now at stimulatory levels, he said, after the official cash rate had been cut 5.25 percentage points.

"There may be scope for further cuts if the outlook for growth and inflation remains weak."

More than in some countries, the rate cuts had flowed through to mortgage rates.

The IMF has been concerned about New Zealand's high level of external debt for some time. But that is mitigated by the fact that banks are almost entirely - and corporate borrowers are very largely - hedged against the foreign exchange risk.