Last week Finance Minister Bill English delivered the National-led Government’s seventh Budget. It sticks to a plan that’s working and helps families, while responsibly managing the growing economy and the Government’s finances.
Budget 2015 confirmed the economic outlook for New Zealand is positive. We’re on track for average growth of 2.8 per cent a year over the next four years. We’ve created 194,000 new jobs since the start of 2011 and a further 150,000 new jobs are expected to be created over the next four years. A $176 million surplus is forecast for next year, and is…… expected increase over the following years. This confirms New Zealand’s strong, growing economy, backed by the National-led Government’s clear economic plan, is translating into real benefits for New Zealand households and businesses.
Through Budget 2015, we are continuing to build upon what we’ve put in place to help New Zealand families. Our approach is working, as there are now 42,000 fewer children in benefit-dependent families than there were three years ago. Budget 2015 delivers an investment of $790 million over the next four years to help children living in some of our poorest families. This investment will see increased work obligations for sole parents on benefits, and more childcare support for low-income families to help parents be in work, education or training. We will also increase Working for Families payments to low-income families by $12.50 in most cases and deliver a $25 a week increase in benefit rates for families with children.
Around 160,000 of New Zealand’s lowest income families will benefit from the changes, which will help parents to better provide for their children. This package is on top of the $500 million investment we announced last year, which included free doctors’ visits and prescriptions for children aged under 13, extensions to paid parental leave and increased parental tax credits. Health also continues to be a priority in Budget 2015 and gets the largest share of new funding – $1.7 billion over four years. We’re providing new funding for more elective surgeries, hospice care and extending the bowel cancer screening pilot. Education also receives a boost, bringing our total investment in education to a record $10.8 billion next year. We’re investing in building new schools and classrooms, more support for early childhood education and special education.
Overall, I think we can rightfully be proud of what we have been able to achieve in Budget 2015.