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Economic focus for government in 2013

Parliament has begun sitting for the year with Prime Minister John Key outlining the government's priorities for 2013 in a speech focusing heavily on the economy.

Painting an optimistic picture of a continued emergence from the global financial crisis, Mr Key says trade is expected to grow, unemployment is forecast to fall and the ongoing Christchurch rebuild will help stimulate growth and jobs.

He says the government's books are still on track for a return to surplus in 2014/15, with a modest surplus of $66 million forecast - but getting there will mean keeping the purse strings tight for years to come as the global economy could affect revenue.

"We do not know for certain what 2013 will bring, but it will no doubt be another challenging year," Mr Key said.

"But the country is on the right track."

He reiterated that there will be no new capital spending in this May's budget, or in the next three, if National remains in government. New capital spending will be funded from reprioritising existing funds, along with the proceeds of the government's asset sales, which he says will be a "shot in the arm" for the local economy.

The government intends to offer Mighty River Power shares in the first half of this year, subject to the Supreme Court's decision on the Maori water rights claim, and it wants to offer shares in another power company later in the year.

Mr Key also signalled the government will restart contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, but did not give a timeframe.

Other key areas of focus for the government are trade negotiations, including reaching the outline of an agreement for the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, and legislation changes for labour, charter schools and the Resource Management Act.