Finance Minister Bill English says the economic challenges facing the world are not going to go away for a generation.
He told the National Party's annual conference at the Sky City Convention Centre in Auckland on Saturday that the economic challenges facing New Zealand remained large.
"The global economic situation is like a dark cloud on the horizon and it's not going to go away possibly for a generation - certainly for 15 or 20 years."
He said the core problem was huge debt, which was "growing still larger".
A post-war economic model in which politicians borrowed a lot of money to buy votes was ending because the world would no longer lend money to them.
The focus was on Europe.
"But just to illustrate the kind of challenge that will take a generation to resolve, if you look at the US government, an economy in better shape than Europe, their books when you strip away the zeros are like a family who are earning $23,000 a year and spending $36,000 a year. That's all you need to know about the US government books."
Even as the US economy recovered it still had large problems to deal with, he said.