About the $7.5 billion surplus

Written By: - Date published: 8:43 am, October 9th, 2019 - 37 comments
Categories: grant robertson, labour, national, Politics, same old national, Steven Joyce, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, uncategorized - Tags:

Stephen Joyce should hang his head in shame and no longer pollute the public discourse with his views.  Because what he claimed was going to be an $11.7 billion deficit turned out this year to be a $7.5 billion surplus.  Not to mention the $5.5 billion surplus from last year. The combined surplus for the two years at least is greater than Joyce’s claimed deficit.

Remember this from October 2017 from Radio New Zealand?

National’s finance spokesman Steven Joyce is sticking to his guns about Labour not having enough money to carry out its promised programme.

Before the election, Mr Joyce claimed Labour had an $11 billion hole in its budget after it had mistakenly not accounted for rolling out operational allowances year on year, despite a series of economists saying he was wrong.

Speaking to Morning Report today, Mr Joyce said he hoped he was wrong about the $11 billion calculation, but he feared time would prove him right.

He said the new government was already promising more money than it had.

“Grant Robertson has a major problem – he’s like that guy who is going away on holiday and trying to fit three suitcases worth of stuff into one suitcase. That’s his problem.

“It’s not just that, it’s really important for New Zealand. It’s not about a ‘he said/she said’, I don’t care if I’m proven right or wrong. In fact, I’d rather be proven wrong, because then New Zealand’s expenditure would be under control. But sadly, I have a sneaking suspicion I will be proven right over time.”

Joyce’s preference has occurred.

Someone should tell Joyce and National that his and their fears were wrong and their scaremongering while politically effective was the worst sort of politicking.

Reed Fleming has tried.

https://twitter.com/reedfleming/status/1181391329248460800
https://twitter.com/reedfleming/status/1181393649579384833
https://twitter.com/reedfleming/status/1181394177495449600

In an ideal world what should National do now? How about praise the Government for paying down debt while at the same time starting the rebuild work on our crumbling infrastructure?

But Bridges is trying the same sort of tactic that Joyce engaged in.  Blow smoke and throw around excrement and see how much of it sticks.

Of course the situation is not as simple as it seems. A lot of the surplus has to do with the revaluation of Kiwirail. I wonder if there is a link to Auckland’s light rail proposal.

And there are a number of areas that require investment. Benefit levels, crumbling infrastructure, getting New Zealand ready to become carbon neutral to mention a few.

But the incident should, in a perfect world, end for ever the claim that National is somehow a better manager of the economy than Labour is.

37 comments on “About the $7.5 billion surplus ”

  1. ianmac 1

    Giles on Morning Report did try to get Bridges to admit errors (lies?) in his tirade against the surplus but typically Bridges just shouted over Giles.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018716855

    • Tiger Mountain 1.1

      Giles did well. Not many at RNZ would say to Bridges that he had a “facile” argument–does he want continued employment one might ask given how the station has been toadying to National lately…

    • Wensleydale 1.2

      Bridges trotted out the old "hard-working Kiwi tax-payers" line on the telly yesterday, while claiming Robertson was being a miserable skinflint with the cash box. Honestly, every time I hear that jabbering sock-puppet use that phrase I want to throw things at the TV. He's such a disingenuous arsehole. The general consensus of opinion among people questioned on the street seemed to be "No, we don't want a tax cut. We want the government to fix all the shit that doesn't work properly any more." You know… like housing, hospitals, schools, etc. But no, Simon insists on telling us the government is hoarding all your money. What would you rather have, New Zealand? Enough houses, or an extra $50? Take all the time you need.

  2. UncookedSelachimorpha 2

    Alternatively, a surplus means you 'taxed too much' or 'didn't spend enough'. It is not an indicator of financial prowess or effective government. The media and political discourse on this is infantile.

    Unfortunately both parties (and the public and media) are fully engaged in the narative that surplus / deficit are equivalent to the same thing in your household budget. Not true at all and any party that starts to point that out would be doing the nation a huge favour. You can choose to treat government finances in this misleading way for ideological reasons, but there is no other justification.

    There is not a government bank account that fills / empties and thus permits government spending or not. Unlike a household, the government can create / destroy NZD. That is not to say that the government can spend in an unlimited fashion – there are economic factors to consider – but "running out of money" isn't one of them.

    As Siobhan put so well, a "surplus" when you have terrible unmet need in poverty and homelessness – can indicate gross mismanagement and be something of a social catastrophe.

    • Dukeofurl 2.1

      yes you are right. But they need to discuss the cash deficit numbers as well , they are there, but 'buried'

      The Cash deficit is $0.7 bill.

      Australia has the same issue but magnified . Their Treasury only talks about the Federal Cash Accounts while the Finance Ministry who handles the departmental accounting side only talks about Accrual Accounts.

      • Ric 2.1.1

        What would be some of the bigger items that make the large accrual surplus so different to the small cash deficit ?

    • Adrian Thornton 2.2

      @UncookedSelachimorpha +1, I believe that it was National under Key that really embedded this trend in comparing state finances with household finances, and of course in a very cynical way….real shame Labour is following the same trend.

      • Nic the NZer 2.2.1

        This idea was well embedded before Key. It goes right back to at least the 1984 Labour government.

        • Adrian Thornton 2.2.1.1

          Thanks, that sounds familiar now you say it, and it doesn't surprise me, I think I am still trying to block out the memory of that 1984 Labour government.

          • Dukeofurl 2.2.1.1.1

            Your memory is wrong about 1984.

            The accrual accounting didnt come in till 1992 , NZ being the first country to do so

            https://www.victoria.ac.nz/sacl/about/events/past-events-temporary/past-conferences/6ahic/publications/Buhr_plenary_paper.pdf

            Its a bit old now from 2010 but relevant now

            "The adherence to a cash basis of accounting was also understandable when one considers that government budgets and the authority to spend, i.e. government appropriations, were on a cash basis. Indeed, the move to accrual financial statements has meant a move to accrual budgeting and in some cases the use of accrual appropriations."

            Thats why I still look at the cash based as being highly relevant because thats what the approval to spend is still largely done by in the annual budget.

            Now the waters are muudied even more as the asset/valuation figures are all mixed up with various 'surpluses' , ie the Kiwirail revaluation

            • Nic the NZer 2.2.1.1.1.1

              My recollection is correct. The false analogy between government and household budgets did begin during Rogernomics, if it wasn't applied earlier.

              • UncookedSelachimorpha

                Reagan, Thatcher, the right-wing all around the world went crazy on it. Don't think it was a particularly NZ thing.

                An excuse to cut spending on the majority and reduce the contribution from the wealthy, as it turned out.

            • UncookedSelachimorpha 2.2.1.1.1.2

              "…. I still look at the cash based as being highly relevant because thats what the approval to spend is still largely done by in the annual budget. "

              The whole point is – why is that the basis of approval to spend?? There is no doubt a cash balance – but the reason why that balance is used the way it is, to control spending and to judge fiscal performance of governments – is driven by ideology and not by any obvious logic. The government has unlimited access to its own currency.

    • Abba Lerner 2.3

      Unlike a household, the government can create / destroy NZD

      If the govt can create NZDs and use it for govt spending. That raises an interesting question, what is the purpose of taxation?

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 2.3.1

        Good question. Tax still has a purpose. For examples (from my limited understanding):

        – Tax forces people to acquire and value NZD (it enforces the value of the state currency). You can only pay your tax in NZD, not bitcoin, not AUD, not gold etc etc

        – A tool for redistribution of resources (if progressive)

        – A tool for withdrawing money from the economy where necessary (as can cutting spending)

  3. Chris 3

    "The combined surplus for the two years at least is greater than Joyce’s claimed deficit."

    Wee bit of an understatement there I feel.

  4. Chris 4

    "But the incident should, in a perfect world, end for ever the claim that National is somehow a better manager of the economy than Labour is."

    And because it's not a perfect world something – in fact a lot – needs to be done to dispel the myth. Now could be a good time for those efforts to begin.

    • westiechick 4.1

      I just cannot understand how the myth persists. We survived the GFC quite well because we were not exposed to international debt because Michael Cullen had paid it down while being taunted by the nats about being parsimonious when they thought it was time for tax cuts. The relatively pain free GFC experience was then credited by the media to Bill "Pineapple Pizza" English as an example of his skilful economic management. Irony much.

      • Nic the NZer 4.1.1

        The surplus, deficit and debt position of the government is completely irrelevant to the governments ability to spend or deal with a financial crisis.

        That is why its so highly contended in politics. There is no possibility of actual screwing up, but if you can make it work politically your side gets to implement its preferred budget policy under the cover of budget responsibility.

    • gsays 4.2

      "But the incident should, in a perfect world, end for ever the claim that National is somehow a better manager of the economy than Labour is."

      The $7.5B surplus also puts paid to my mothers refrain that the Labour Party is the party of the working man.

      • Dukeofurl 4.2.1

        Your mothers refrain is still correct , on a 'household budget' basis the spending and income is about even.

      • Adrian Thornton 4.2.2

        Your mother obviously hasn't gone to many Labour Party hall meetings lately (well not the ones I have been too) you can usually count the actual "working men" in attendance on one hand…plenty of comfortable boomers though..which lines up nicely with the demographic of the bench of the Labour party, so no surprises there I guess.

        • Wensleydale 4.2.2.1

          Probably because working men (and women) are too shagged after a day's hard graft to bother attending Labour Party meetings. They just want a hot meal and a warm bed.

          • UncookedSelachimorpha 4.2.2.1.1

            Probably just having a quick break before going to their second – or third – job.

        • the other pat 4.2.2.2

          oh how Simion Bridges of you

      • Chris 4.2.3

        "The $7.5B surplus also puts paid to my mothers refrain that the Labour Party is the party of the working man."

        …although not a party for the unemployed.

  5. belladonna 5

    Why was my post on Labour's broken promise to fix resthomes deleted?

  6. Tiger Mountain 6

    “Stevie’s Hole” was always spurious, though certainly did its job for the filthy Nats, via knocking a few vital percent off the trending Labour vote during the 2017 campaign.

    Mr Bridges tax cuts will equate to less tax take, and reduced Govt. services one way or another. That is not a pathway to the higher wage economy which the current Govt is trying to implement.

  7. belladonna 7

    Dukeofurl you obviously dont read the reports on rest homes where elderly and sick people have unbelievably bad treatment, the food is diabolical to the extent that the Nurses Union are investigating and Labour could use some of their 7billion surplus and sort it out like they promised. You obviously have little empathy for the elderly, do you have shares in this industry? It's a disgrace,

  8. Ken 8

    11billion dollar hole burnt in Joyce's pants when they caught fire?

  9. Grant not Robertson 9

    Well three cheers for NictheNZer again, such a refreshing change to see at least one other person in NZ isn’t in thrall to M Friedman and all that monetarist claptrap.

  10. Enough is Enough 10

    "But the incident should, in a perfect world, end for ever the claim that National is somehow a better manager of the economy than Labour is"

    I am not sure I follow your logic. Any government can produce a surplus. You simply reduce spending and increase taxation. A surplus on its own does not prove anything at all.

    The US economy has been booming over the past two years on the back of a massive federal deficit. The New Zealand economy is fairly sluggish at the moment on the back of a fairy substantial surplus.

    I would prefer to see the surplus being used to stimulate the economy, rather than being used by the economically illiterate to compare themselves to the Torys.

    • Nic the NZer 10.1

      Actually its not always possible to create a surplus. There is a feedback loop between govt spending and taxation related to how well the economy is doing. Sometimes (look at Greece around 2010) the cuts to govt spending also shrink the economy and govt revenue and the deficit widens (not shrinks or becomes surplus). So not only is it not always possible, sometimes its a terrible idea to even try.

    • Pat 10.2

      when examining the US economy it is important to remember it is the worlds reserve currency and ultimate safe haven

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