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Quake-hit N.Z. faces 'largest-ever' deficit

by Staff Writers
Wellington (AFP) May 10, 2011
New Zealand is set to post its worst-ever deficit this year, as the country faces a mammoth bill from two major earthquakes in Christchurch, Finance Minister Bill English said Tuesday.

Speaking after the IMF estimated the Christchurch tremors would have a greater impact on New Zealand's economy than the recent Japanese disaster on Tokyo's finances, English said the country had to cut its debt burden.

He said the government's operating deficit for the 12 months to June 30 would be up to NZ$17.0 billion ($13.5 billion), almost doubling the NZ$9.0 billion recorded in the year to mid-2010.

"It will be somewhere around NZ$16.0 billion to NZ$17.0 billion, which will be the largest deficit New Zealand's had," English told reporters.

The deficit includes earthquake rebuilding costs, which the IMF estimates will reach NZ$15 billion and account for 7.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

English said New Zealand's annual budget on May 19 would "set a credible path back to budget surplus", although he refused to specify when the government aimed to be back in the black.

He said New Zealand, which has a population of about 4.4 million, was effectively borrowing NZ$300 million in new debt a week and the figure needed to be brought down to help pay for earthquake recovery.

"It's essential the government gets its own finances in order as quickly as possible, so it can join households and businesses in lifting national savings and reducing New Zealand's vulnerability to foreign lenders," he said.

New Zealand's second largest city Christchurch was devastated by a 6.3-magnitude quake in February, which claimed 181 lives and followed a more powerful but less destructive 7.0 quake in September.

The IMF on Monday estimated the quakes would have a greater impact on New Zealand, relative to GDP, than Japan's 1995 Kobe quake and Chile's huge quake last year.

It also predicted the burden on New Zealand's economy was set to be proportionally higher than the March 11 earthquake and tsunami on Japan.

"While the scale of damage from the recent Japan earthquake is still uncertain, it is likely to be less than the Canterbury earthquakes as a percent of GDP," IMF economists said.

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NZealand quake cost heavier than Japan's: IMF
Washington (AFP) May 9, 2011
The earthquakes that struck New Zealand in September and February will eat up about 7.5 percent its GDP, more than the cost of the recent disaster in Japan on Tokyo's economy, the IMF said Monday. The International Monetary Fund estimated that rebuilding after the Christchurch quakes will cost about 15 billion New Zealand dollars ($11.9 billion), a heavier burden on the national economy than ... read more

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