New Zealand is continuing to make great strides towards building a stronger, more prosperous country – a country where we can have a great lifestyle and earn a good income that compares well with the rest of the world.
That progress is due to the hard work and positive attitude of New Zealanders. It's also because of the stability, cohesion, and confidence that's come from eight years of strong and stable government. We've turned an $18.4 billion deficit in 2011 into growing surpluses during the last two years.
Economic growth is now at 3.6 per cent, putting us in the top four performing Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Nationally, unemployment has dropped to 4.9 per cent, the lowest since the Global Financial Crisis. Regional unemployment has also dropped.
New Zealand's good performance is also being recognised beyond our shores. We top the Legatum Institute's 2016 Global Prosperity Index, up from fourth last year. The index notes New Zealand's ability to turn its wealth into prosperity, ranking us top in how much prosperity a country delivers, given its wealth.
The index ranks 149 countries for their performance across eight categories. This year New Zealand ranked first for economic quality, first for social capital, second for business environment, second for governance, and third for personal freedom.
These kinds of reports and our strong economic results highlight the Government's commitment to creating the economic conditions for businesses to prosper and create more and higher-paying jobs for New Zealanders and the Bay continues to benefit from this commitment.
This week, I'm thinking of those affected by the earthquakes that struck New Zealand last week. The Government is already getting on top of the situation and work is continuing to remedy key infrastructure damaged by the quakes in affected regions. Because of the strong economic position New Zealand finds itself in, we are well placed to deal with the post-quake recovery. I look forward to seeing more progress being made in these regions post-quakes.