Who is he?
Bill English has served as deputy prime minister and finance minister of New Zealand since 2008. He has been a member of Parliament for the National Party since 1990. English became the National Party’s leader in 2001 and led it in opposition until he was replaced by Don Brash in 2003. When Prime Minister John Key led the National Party to victory in 2008, he became second-in-command.
Why is he in the news?
English was appointed to his third term as deputy prime minister and finance minister following National’s resounding victory in September elections. He started his term with a trip to Washington in mid-October for the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, during which he also met with finance ministers from the Group of 20 (G20) nations, of which New Zealand is not a member. Nonetheless, English is expected to accompany Prime Minister Key to the November 15-16 G20 summit in Brisbane, where New Zealand will be the special guest of host Australia.
What should we expect from him?
The National Party’s previous two terms in government were marked by budget cuts and the controversial sale of up to 49 percent of some state-owned enterprises. But with its convincing victory in September, the government will be seeking to consolidate its economic reforms and English will be looked to as a steady hand to help meet National’s promise to deliver budget surpluses.
New Zealand’s economic outlook is not without challenges, as reflected in a falling New Zealand dollar. Prime Minister Key’s announcement of a “goldilocks” value for the currency of around 65 cents is encouraging to exporters, but will increase the cost of living for New Zealanders. Maintaining growth will therefore remain a key priority of the National-led government and English in particular.