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New Zealand PM defends state asset sales amid public disapproval

05-30-2011 13:45 BJT

WELLINGTON, May 30 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand Prime Minister John Key defended his plans for partial privatization of state assets after at least three polls showing public disapproval of the proposals.

Key told TVNZ's Breakfast program Monday that his ruling National Party, currently in power with three minor parties, would campaign on the "mixed-ownership model" asset sale plan during the November election.

His comments came after TVNZ One News Colmar Brunton Poll Sunday showed support for National down to 52 percent from 54 percent last month, while the main opposition Labour Party remained unchanged at 34 percent.

The state assets sales policy proposes the sale of up to 49 percent of state-owned energy companies Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, Genesis Energy and Solid Energy and reducing the government's 75-percent stake in the national carrier Air New Zealand.

Finance Minister Bill English announced in the Budget on May 19 that the sales would go ahead next year if the National Party wins the general election.

English said the sales would raise 5 billion to 7 billion NZ dollars (4.09 billion to 5.72 billion U.S. dollars), helping to turn around the country's record deficit of 16.7 billion NZ dollars and to return the country to a surplus by 2014-1015.

However, a New Zealand Herald-DigiPoll survey Friday showed a " large majority" of New Zealand voters voiced disapproval of the plan.

A nationwide survey of 1,154 people by polling firm HorizonPoll the day after the Budget was delivered found 51.9 percent of respondents would not give a mandate to go ahead with the energy company sales and 18.2 percent were still undecided, while 46.8 percent would not give a mandate to plans to reduce the government 's majority stake in Air New Zealand, and 23.1 percent were still undecided.

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