The government's growth forecasts for the next five years are largely unchanged in its pre-election update from the May budget, though the latest bout of global jitters has thrown up a number of risks if the world economy goes pear-shaped.
The Treasury has kept its estimate the government's books will return to an operating surplus by 2015, even as gross domestic product grows more slowly than earlier expectations.
Finance Minister Bill English told a media briefing in Wellington that comes down to a clamp down on Crown expenditure, lower interest rates, and a pick-up in employment likely to reduce transfer payments by more, even as tax revenue fails to improve as fast as forecast.
"Government spending is just beginning to fall as a percentage of GDP, and our external liabilities, the most significant vulnerability, has fallen from 85 percent of GDP to 70 percent," English said. "By international standards it's still too high and it will take some time to get down to satisfactory levels."
The smoother track of Treasury's forecast will help allay fears last month's double downgrade of New Zealand's sovereign credit rating derailed the country's economic recovery, which has been putting a lot of stock in the delayed Christchurch rebuild effort.
This year's PREFU is a significant improvement on that delivered in 2008, when the phrase "A Decade of Deficits" entered the lexicon. The economy was already heading into recession at the time of the PREFU, and Audrey Young from the Herald had signalled back at the time of the 2008 Budget that all was not well; she wrote at the time:
The cupboard is almost bare and that is the way Michael Cullen planned the 2008 Budget.
He has delivered a Budget that offers a little of something for almost everyone but his biggest gift is to National - an election-year headache.
There is so little cash left to play with, $1.75 billion, that National will have little headroom to make attractive tax promises without saying what funding commitments Labour has made it will scrap.
That is what Michael Cullen promised and that is what he has delivered. The $1.75 billion isn't real either because $750 million of it was earmarked for health long ago.
Phil Goff's revealing comments this week showed that Labour is into legacy politics and this is a legacy Budget - a legacy to National. It will make it harder for National to win and if it does win, it will make it harder to govern.
Labour MP's constantly pepper Bill English with Questions for Oral Answer trying to emphasis what a prudent custodian of the public purse Dr Cullen had been. PREFU 2008 was Michael Cullen's parting shot to New Zealanders.
And whilst what English has presented to the electorate today isn't pretty by any stretch of the imagination, it shows an economy on track to return to surplus in the 2014-15 financial year.
The cost of rebuilding Christchurch is forecast to rise further; it's now expected to top $20 billion. That is a huge cost for New Zealand, but it is a cost that simply must be borne.
Let the 2011 election campaign begin, now that the books have been opened; Ruth Richardson's enduring legacy to New Zealand. Labour and the Greens need to be challenged on where the billions of dollars in unfunded policies already announced will come from, because there is simply no money for extravagant policies, promises and inducements.