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Trade deficit explodes, Government crosses fingers

Petroleum imports on fire, trade deficit explodes, Government crosses fingers

28 June 2006

The Government must take action now to reduce New Zealand’s dependence on imported fossil fuels to reduce the spiralling trade deficit, the Green Party says.

“The explosion in the cost of petroleum imports has pushed the monthly merchandise trade deficit to $104 million, the worst ever recorded for a May month,” says Russel Norman, Green Party Co-Leader.

The annual merchandise trade deficit for the year ended May 2006 is now nearly an incredible $7 billion and there has been an increase in the cost of petroleum and petroleum product imports of $1.2 billion over the May 2005 year.

“Oil imports now account for 13.3% of all imports, up from 11.2% in the year to May 2005. Oil by itself now accounts for 75% of the record merchandise deficit,” says Dr. Norman, the Green Party spokesperson on economics.

“The Government is very focussed on exports but it must also pay attention to the cost of imports if we are to bring our trade deficit and current account deficit under control.

“This is actually a major structural problem in the economy and the Government needs to more than cross its fingers and hope it will get better as a result of the falling dollar – we need a public transport plan.

“We need a plan to move freight off the roads and onto shipping and rail, and a plan to move passenger transport onto buses, trains and cycling in our urban centres.

“People are caught between inadequate public transport and rising petrol prices – they desperately need better public transport now.

“But, instead, the Government in the last budget went on a motorway building spending spree and projected declines in the spending on public transport infrastructure.

“Reducing our dependence on imported oil would be good for the economy, it would be good for the environment by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and it would be good for people caught between inadequate public transport and rising petrol prices.

“Let’s be honest with ourselves – we are facing the end of cheap oil, let’s prepare ourselves for it,” said Dr. Norman.

ENDS

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