New Zealand government is planning to spend billions of dollars to rebuild their rotting hospitals, schools and other infrastructure as the country’s economy continues to grow at a healthy clip.
The liberal government on Thursday announced its first budget plan since winning national elections last year, reports Reuters.
The newly formed government has ditched tax cuts that were planned by the previous conservative government and put more money into health, education, public housing and foreign aid.
The government predicts it will continue to run a small operating surplus. But the big increase in infrastructure spending isn't fully included in those figures and means the nation will actually add to its debt for at least a few more years.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said their government would take sustained investment over many years to adequately rebuild the health and education systems.
The health operating budget will increase by $2.2 billion over the next four years as more money is spent on mental health services and making doctor visits cheaper for many people.
The budget also includes plans to increase the number of teachers and police officers and to build new public housing at the rate of 1,600 homes per year to help ease a homelessness problem.
Money is also set aside to plant hundreds of millions of trees as part of a plan to go green and reduce the nation's net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
The government also said it planned to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent over the next 15 years by placing certain low-risk offenders back into the community.
Treasury forecasts indicate the country’s economy will continue to grow at an annual rate of about 3.0 per cent over the next few years and that unemployment will ease from its current level of 4.4 per cent to about 4.1 per cent.
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges said the government had broken many of its election promises and was spending money offshore on foreign aid and new embassies that could be better spent at home.
"Borrowing more and taxing more in strong economic conditions makes no sense and risks undoing all the hard work New Zealanders have done over the last few years," Bridges said.