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The next Economic survey of New Zealand will be prepared for 2011.
An Economic Survey is published every 1½-2 years for each OECD country.
Read more about how Surveys are prepared.
The OECD assessment and recommendations on the main economic challenges faced by New Zealand are available by clicking on each chapter heading below.
Bookmark this page : www.oecd.org/eco/surveys/nz
Macroeconomic adjustments in the current crisis
Even though New Zealand’s banks are sound, global interdependencies and accumulated domestic imbalances mean that the economy is being affected by the worldwide financial and economic crisis. New Zealand has one of the OECD’s highest levels of foreign debt, the result of sustained and sometimes large current account deficits that reflect a long period of unbalanced growth and structural deficiencies, notably a small pool of household savings and a low rate of productivity growth. These imbalances, along with the present reversals in global risk appetite and credit availability, present a risk of sudden and costly macroeconomic adjustments. As a small nation on the world’s periphery, New Zealand is affected by the sharp decline in world trade, which began in late 2008 and is unlikely to be reversed during 2009. At the start of the crisis, both fiscal and monetary policies had substantial room for counter cyclical action, and much has been done on both fronts. There remains more room for monetary policy easing than in most OECD countries, while fiscal policy is now constrained by the projected growth in debt and associated credit rating concerns. Even so, a deep and protracted recession, involving a housing market correction and deleveraging of household and business balance sheets, is unlikely to be avoided. As principal intermediaries between foreign savers and domestic borrowers, banks depend to a large extent on overseas funding, most of which is short term. A number of smaller finance companies, less regulated than banks, have gone bust. To maintain confidence in the banking and financial sector, new guarantee schemes for retail deposits and wholesale bank funding have been introduced, along with temporary liquidity facilities, and non bank deposit taking institutions have been brought under the central bank’s regulatory umbrella. The main challenges for policy makers are to manage the downside economic risks posed by the current crisis, while preserving the longer run credibility of the macroeconomic policy framework.
Structural policies to overcome geographic barriers and create prosperity
New Zealand’s living standards remain well below the OECD average. This is entirely attributable to persistently low labour productivity, which in turn is related to economic geography as well as structural policy factors. The small size and remoteness of the economy diminish its access to world markets, the scale and efficiency of domestic businesses, the level of competition and proximity to the world’s technology frontier. This points to the need for a “New Zealand policy advantage”, that is, a set of structural policies attractive and welcoming enough to overcome the geographic handicap and attract the drivers of prosperity – investment, skills and ideas – to New Zealand. The reforms of the 1980s and 1990s laid much of the groundwork for creating this advantage and for a pickup in productivity growth. But in recent years, New Zealand has lost ground relative to its OECD peers. The reform focus has shifted away from growth and the government has introduced a large quantity of often poor quality regulation. Policies should be refocused around the productivity goal in a number of areas, beginning with those covered in this chapter, namely international trade, the business climate for domestic and foreign investment, public sector efficiency, infrastructure, innovation and natural resources management. This chapter also evaluates the recently legislated emissions trading scheme through a productivity lens.
Health care reform: challenges for the next phase
New Zealand spends less per capita on its health care system than many OECD countries, yet as elsewhere, trends in demography, technology and costs will exert mounting and unaffordable pressures on spending over the long run. Policy makers can manage the fiscal challenge by controlling health care costs and putting limits on public coverage. The fiscal framework, which imposes hard budget constraints on health and other spending, provides a good foundation for cost control. However, government intervention to blunt price signals in health care systems and enormous supplier influence over patient demand mean that health care markets do not behave like other markets and there can be no guarantee that best value for money is being extracted from health budgets. While health care reforms in the past have attempted to improve incentives for efficient health market behaviour, over the past decade or so, large boosts to hospital wages and primary care subsidies have most likely failed to elicit commensurate gains in either the quantity or quality of output. Another concern is the sustainability of the health care service delivery model in the face of rising demands and looming health care workforce shortages. As a high immigration country, with large and poor minorities, New Zealand is striving to promote equality of health outcomes, improved access to care and more efficient management of chronic conditions, the big clinical challenge of an ageing society. Efforts are also underway to rationalise the hospital sector to assure its clinical viability. To achieve these important goals, there is still a need to improve efficiency incentives and information, clarify institutional roles, and enhance the attraction of New Zealand as a place in which to live and practise medicine.
How to obtain this publication
The complete edition of the Economic survey of New Zealand is available from:
The Policy Brief (pdf format) can be downloaded in English. It contains the OECD assessment and recommendations.
For further information please contact the New Zealand Desk at the OECD Economics Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The OECD Secretariat's report was prepared by Alexandra Bibbee and Yvan Guillemette under the supervision of Peter Jarrett. Research assistance was provided by Françoise Correia.