27 January 2012
Happy New Year. I hope you had the opportunity to relax over the summer break and spend some time with your family and friends. It's good to be back at work after a relaxing holiday with my family.
Building a brighter future
I was in Auckland yesterday where I delivered a speech outlining the Government's four main priorities over the next three years. I also talked some more about our plan to build a brighter future for New Zealand.
We face an uncertain international environment. The economic outlook across the world has deteriorated since last year and no-one can be certain how the crisis in Europe will play out.
We are expecting this to have an effect on New Zealand, as overseas markets demand less of our goods. But it won't knock New Zealand for six - we are in a good place to deal with any fallout in the near-term. And it certainly won't stop the Government pushing ahead with our priorities.
Our four priorities over the next three years are to:
• responsibly manage
the Government's finances
• build a more competitive and productive economy
• deliver better public services
• rebuild Christchurch.
Responsibly managing the Government's finances
In my speech I reaffirmed our commitment to return to budget surplus in 2014/15. We're on track to reach this and the upcoming Budget Policy Statement will show a forecast surplus of $300 million to $500 million in the 2014/15 financial year.
Sticking to this responsible track is important because it will help keep the pressure off interest rates, which are the single biggest cost to most households, and the exchange rate, which is good for exporters.
Building a more competitive and
I also talked about how Government will help businesses operate more efficiently on the world stage.
During the election campaign we released a 120-point economic action plan. Much of this work is following through on progress made in our previous term. Our action plan shows how we are going to be pursuing a more competitive economy over the course of the next few years, and we have a busy agenda in the year ahead.
All New Zealanders rely on the public services provided by Government, whether it's health services, education, welfare, or the justice system. Better public services improve the lives and wellbeing of all New Zealanders.
We're going to ensure that we deliver on our priorities in these areas. In education we remain committed to lifting achievement, particularly for those students who have historically underperformed.
Welfare reform is also a major priority for Government over coming years, and we'll be introducing legislation to Parliament shortly to enact some of our welfare changes.
Our final priority is to get on with the rebuild of Christchurch. We can all be proud of the way Cantabrians have handled the past 12 months. They continue to show their strength and resolute nature.
A lot of the demolition in the CBD has already taken place. In 2012 we want to see some real progress with the rebuilding of our second-largest city. We are totally committed to the reconstruction of Canterbury and I'm determined to see that momentum is maintained.
From my diary
This weekend I'm off to Melbourne, along with seven of my Cabinet Ministers. We're attending our annual meeting with the Australian Government. The opportunity for two Prime Ministers and seven Ministers from each side of the Tasman to share ideas on the challenges we face is extremely valuable.
The following weekend I'll be making my way to Waitangi to attend annual events with other Ministers. Over the next couple of weeks I'm also looking forward to attending events to celebrate the Chinese and Korean New Year. It's the year of the Dragon, which is said to bring happiness, strength and wisdom. All the best for 2012.