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No concerns over savings

The government is not concerned that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund may be lulling New Zealanders into a false sense of security over retirement savings.

Wednesday, February 26th 2003, 6:51AM

by Rob Hosking

The latest Sovereign ‘Saver Pulse’ survey showed that an increasing number of New Zealanders believe the taxpayer will provide an adequate pension. The proportion has doubled over the past three years. Surveys by AMP have shown a similar trend since the Labour-led government began the fund.

However, Finance Minister Michael Cullen, responding to questions by United Future’s finance spokesman Gordon Copeland yesterday, said this trend is not a problem, although he did have some concerns that there are no more New Zealanders saving for their retirement than there were three years ago.

"The purpose of New Zealand Superannuation is to provide an adequate basic level of income in retirement," Dr Cullen told Parliament.

"I regard that as the basic duty of a Government in a civilised society. Attempts to scare people into saving have simply not worked over the last 12 to 13 years."

However, much of the remainder of Dr Cullen’s response to questions on the issue was personal attack.

When National’s finance spokesman Don Brash quoted Investment Savings and Insurance Association chief executive Vance Arkinstall’s concerns that the NZS Fund means people believe they don’t have to save for themselves, Dr Cullen accused Dr Brash of seeking high salary increases when he was governor of the Reserve Bank.

And when Green co-leader Rod Donald asked whether the New Zealand Superannuation Fund would lose as much money as the Government Superannuation Fund is at present, Dr Cullen commented that "not many people are able to use a parliamentary income to invest in a property-based superannuation scheme to benefit their political party".

He again reiterated that tax incentives for savings were out of the question but that there would be some relief for over-taxation of savings in this year’s Budget.

Go to SuperTalk (www.supertalk.co.nz) for more detailed superannuation news including:

  • The Saver Pulse survey
  • A transcript of superannuation questions asked in Parliament yesterday

Rob Hosking is a Wellington-based freelance writer specialising in political, economic and IT related issues.

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