13th December 2016
Finance Minister Bill English was sworn in as New Zealand’s 39th Prime Minister on 12 December, 2016. English found his way to the highest office in the land after his party, the majority National Party, voted him in at a special Caucus meeting.
English’s appointment came on the heels of John Key’s announcement that he intended on stepping down as prime minister. The decision, made just a week before English’s selection, came as a shock as Key was enjoying the height of his popularity.
In his final address to Parliament as Prime Minister Mr Key said that he enjoyed the attention but was looking forward to stepping away from the limelight.
I think I’ve fed off the public energy, the enthusiasm that’s often been displayed towards me, he said.
And I think truthfully I’m the kind of person that likes to be liked and most people are, but I’m particularly of that sort of nature so it’s suited me, he continued.
Mr English vowed to continue developing Mr Key’s legacy. He said he would seek to build on the international recognition earned by John Key for New Zealand’s increasingly distinctive place in the global community as a successful economy open to trade, open to investment, and immigration.
Many expected the appointment to go to English who turned out to be the only candidate for the job. English announced Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett as his deputy prime minister while minister of economic development, Steven Joyce, would replace him as finance minister. More cabinet changes are expected in the next few weeks.
As finance minister, English, 54, moved to privatise numerous state-owned energy companies along with Air New Zealand. He cut personal and corporate tax rates whist increasing the goods and services tax. In 2013 English voted against a same-sex marriage bill that eventually passed. As prime minister, English stated that he thought differently about the issue now and did not see gay marriage as a threat to anyone else’s marriage. He has also said that he would not pursue his own agenda as prime minister.
In 2003 Mr English oversaw a landslide defeat for the National Party at the hands of the Labour Party. He now is in charge of a robust New Zealand economy which Moody’s recently said it expected to remain one of the fastest growing of the triple-A economies.