Treasury CEO: economy strong despite gloom

Treasury chief executive Gabriel Makhlouf speaks at the Queenstown Catalyst Trust event. Photo: Daisy Hudson
Treasury chief executive Gabriel Makhlouf speaks at the Queenstown Catalyst Trust event. Photo: Daisy Hudson
New Zealand's Treasury boss has cast doubt on the impact of surveys showing falling business confidence, saying the economy is in good shape.

Chief executive Gabriel Makhlouf said while the surveys could not be ignored, they were just that - surveys.

He was speaking at a Catalyst Trust event in Queenstown on Tuesday night.

Business confidence has been a hot topic in recent weeks, sparking plenty of political back and forth after surveys showed it had slumped to levels not seen since the global financial crisis.

A recent ANZ Business Outlook survey found business confidence had dropped five points, to ''a net 50% of respondents reporting they expect general business conditions to deteriorate in the year ahead'', ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner said.

Last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern fronted the business community about the issue, and announced a new advisory council to be chaired by Air New Zealand boss Christopher Luxon.

But Mr Makhlouf told the Queenstown audience consumer confidence was up, and tax revenue was half a billion dollars higher than forecast.

''The horizon is pretty accommodating, on balance. Although our forecast may show GDP is a bit softer, some of our underlying things are still pretty strong.''

He also spoke about the changing nature of jobs, saying in the future people were more likely to have entire career changes, rather than job changes.

That was due to the rapid advances in technology and artificial intelligence, he said, as well as longer life-spans.

''People born today will live 20 years longer than people born 100 years ago.

''The key point there is our working life is almost going to double.''

He said Treasury ''[worries] a bit about whether the education system is ready and able to meet that challenge''.

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