This has allowed New Zealand to spend “large sums of money” to help its low-income population while keeping its net debt under control, Robertson told CNBC’s Will Koulouris.
“We are in an extremely fortunate position,” said the minister.
Robertson, who is also finance minister, presented the New Zealand government’s latest budget earlier Thursday.
One of the strengths of the budget has been to increase weekly welfare payments to NZ $ 55 (about $ 39.50) per adult to tackle inequality and child poverty. Robertson said in his budget speech that the planned increase would be the largest in “over a generation.”
New Zealand is also part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a mega trade deal comprising 11 countries including Canada, Australia and Singapore – but not the United States and China.
The CPTPP, in its original form called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was led by the United States under former President Barack Obama and seen as a strategy to counter China’s growing influence. But Obama’s successor Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the deal.
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When asked if New Zealand would be open to China’s joining the trade pact, Robertson said, “We welcome all interests. He added that China was not the only party interested, noting that the UK had also said it would join.
“But obviously this is an agreement that we signed, and therefore we are looking to these countries to see where the agreement is today and whether or not they can join it,” said Robertson.
The New Zealand Treasury has forecast a strong economic rebound in the coming years.
According to the Treasury, the economy is expected to grow 2.9% in the fiscal year ending June 2021, before reaching 3.2% and 4.4% in the following two years.
“It has been an extremely difficult year in New Zealand and around the world, but we can definitely see some light here,” said Robertson.
Data from the Ministry of Health showed that as of Thursday morning the cumulative number of confirmed and probable Covid infections in the country stood at 2,659, with 26 deaths.
Thursday’s budget allocated spending on Covid-19 vaccines, infrastructure, education and the welfare of indigenous Maori.
Planned spending is expected to bring the budget deficit to NZ $ 18.4 billion ($ 13.2 billion) in the fiscal year ending June 2022 before declining in subsequent years, according to the New Zealand Treasury .
The deficit for the current fiscal year ending June 2021 is expected to be NZ $ 15.1 billion. Net debt is also expected to rise from 34% in the current fiscal year ending June 2021 to 43.8% in the following fiscal year.