Pre-budget roundup

Written By: - Date published: 7:03 am, May 19th, 2011 - 25 comments
Categories: bill english, budget 2011, economy - Tags: ,

So, today is Budget day. The big stuff has all been pretty well signposted, tinkering with KiwiSaver, Working for Families, and student loan eligibility. The devil will be in the details of all the cuts that get made to try and limit the damage in health and education.

I was going to do a roundup of the best pre-budget punditry, but I find there isn’t much need to go beyond two excellent pieces by Gordon Campbell and Tim Watkin. Gordon Campbell writes:

On the lead-up to the Budget

Throughout his government’s first term, the role of Prime Minister John Key has been to be the bringer of good news, the guy who carries the ‘times are tough but the future is rosy’ message – while Finance Minister Bill English has been the bad news bearer, underlining the need to tighten our belts, for eternity.

Hopefully, both of them remember the last time that National launched an austerity Budget, and Ruth Richardson sent the economy into a near-death spiral. Evidently, Don Brash retains no memory of seeing “The Mother of All Budgets” before, and he’d like to play it again and see how it ends.

The Key vs English contrary impulses are set to collide on Thursday when the bad times are to be painted as being so dire as to justify cutbacks in some big ticket public schemes (Kiwisaver, Working for Families) and require further job losses among public servants – but without snuffing out the recovery that Key keeps telling us is just around the bend and beyond the hill once the combo of high commodity prices, Rugby World Cup spending and insurance money for the Christchurch rebuild begins to work its magic.

Interesting that none of the elements of the magic combo are any of National’s doing.

Key is used to decking the same objects in wildly different garb, depending on context. Routinely, the level of government debt is touted in overseas contexts by Key as one of the jewels in the crown of the New Zealand economy at only 34% of GDP while – domestically – the same figure is portrayed as a scandal that needs be pared back below 30% as soon as possible.

In essence, Thursday’s Budget will be a collision between ideology – its always a good time to shrink central government and try to drown it in the bath – and a reality that doesn’t square convincingly with the austerity message. …

On one level the changes [to KiwiSaver] are likely to entail a 180 degree reversal of the cuts to employer contributions that the same government recently introduced. How can this zigzag possibly be rationalised? Simultaneously, Key hinted at this week’s press conference that employers may be able to treat Kiwisaver contributions as being at least partially in lieu of wage increases to employees. In other words, the changes are shuffling the shells under which the government is hiding a shrinking number of beans.

And from Tim Watkin:

It’s the end of the world, and I feel fine

So, in two days time Bill English will announce that we have the largest deficit EVER by a New Zealand government. All round the world folk have seen stories of how our deficit will be $15-17 billion. Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Certainly, no-one will want to sit back and admire such a deficit. Both National and Labour are inclined to lead the breast-beating, for opposite political reasons. National wants to justify cuts to government spending, Labour wants to damn the government for its economic mismanagement.

So the message has been that our economy is in dire straits and drastic action (cuts or a change of government, depending on who’s spinning) is required.

But is it really that bad? We’ve got our biggest population ever and we’ve just been through – or we’re arguably still at the tail end of – one of the largest economic crises the world has known. So you’d expect the government to have spent more. …

Thing is, we’re not. Like Greece, that is. The government debt has never been a problem; indeed it hit historic lows under Michael Cullen. We bottomed out in 2008 with a public debt that was just 20% of GDP. (There are several sources for this, each slightly different. But here are the OECD figures as one example).

Watkin then looks at historical government debt, finding it as high as 248% of GDP in 1933, and remaining up to 95% as late as 1951.

So yes, it [debt] has climbed again. But that borrowing has kept the economy ticking over, which is what a responsible government with a low debt should do in tough times. It has stimulated a flat economy and carried the private sector. …

As I’ve written before, much of the supposed National-led government stimulus was in fact started under Labour; that which wasn’t was essentially some roads and the extra tax cuts. And those tax cuts were just about the most scatter-gun, favour-the-rich form of stimulus any government could have chosen.

My worry now is that the government seems to be signalling that its stimulus days are over. John Key’s pre-Budget speech left the impression that the government’s heavy lifting is done and it now reckons it’s time to stop spending and let the private sector take over. The PM repeatedly mocked Cullen’s stewardship during the 2000s and praised the growth and economic management of the 1990s.

We can all remember the unemployment, wage stagnation and cuts to public services that passed for “growth” in the ’90s, not to mention the lack of savings and higher public debt. And I’m not yet convinced that the economy is healthy enough to take the strain. It seems risky to me to whip the crutches away so soon. …

I think Watkin is giving the Nats a bit too much credit. How much has tax cuts to the rich really “stimulated” the economy? The money could have been much better spent.

Anyway, in a few hours, Bill English gets to deliver his third budget. Let’s hope, for the good of the country, that it is his last!

25 comments on “Pre-budget roundup”

  1. joe bloggs 1

    You’re way behind the times R0B.

    David Cunliffe’s already polled the electorate on how the budget has affected them, and a resounding 88% of voters pointed out the budget left them better off.

    • Can't fool me 1.1

      Bah! That poll was hijacked by the douchebags from Kiwiblog.

      • joe bloggs 1.1.1

        Clearly the right have far more douchebags than the left – that’s consistent with the political pollsters who have National streets ahead of Labour, but a rather unkind way to refer to the majority of the electorate…

        The raving lefty fan club that frequents this site had every opportunity to load the worse off vote to counteract the effects of the Penguin’s voters. Or don’t you have enough supporters to rally?

        As for Labour lame explanation – it was a computer glitch???!!! Oh spare us the agony of such a pathetic excuse!

    • Colonial Viper 1.2

      and a resounding 88% of voters pointed out the budget left them better off.

      That is clearly a poll of the rich Chinese vote, who indeed have been left better off by the NAT budget.

      • Jim Nald 1.2.1

        Better off at the expense of their children and grandchildren.
        Oh, and at this rate under Nats, there’s no future in NZ.
        They had better be putting aside money now –
        to spend on flying to Oz to visit their children and baby-sit their grandchildren there.

        • Colonial Viper 1.2.1.1

          I think the older generation who can will also consider moving to Australia – not just because the next generation has already gone there, but because they can afford decent public healthcare over there and decently paid professional clinicians. Have already been reading cases of that.

          And why would our future talented young study in NZ if student loans are not interest free any more? Might as well go study at an Australian university for the same rates as an Australian local, and enjoy a wider range of more specialised courses, better teaching facilities and better technology.

          NZ = Mexico of the South Pacific. Working hard on pushing New Zealanders across the ditch.

  2. PeteG 2

    How much has tax cuts to the rich really “stimulated” the economy?

    How much has tax cuts prevented a worse recession?
    How much of the tax cuts have gone towards reducing private debt?

    • RobC 2.1

      Back to the old tricks of answering a question with more questions, the first being a hypothetical one at that, one that cannot be answered.

      What was it again? Oh that’s right, pissing in the wind. 😀

      • PeteG 2.1.1

        Just responding to your old trick, making a claim that no one knows the answer to.

        Labour legs must be getting very wet.

    • Colonial Viper 2.2

      You’re absolutely right of course, more tax cuts means more borrowing from China. More borrowing from China means that we have to pay the Chinese more and more of an income stream of interest payments, which helps their economy.

      So our tax cuts, helps prevent the Chinese economy going into recession, because we get to send more ad more money over to them.

      You’re so fucking smart.

      How much of the tax cuts have gone towards reducing private debt?

      That’s handy. The rich pricks who got the most from the tax cuts, get to pay off their million dollar mansions even faster by pushing through cuts to public services.

      You really are a genius, chump.

      • joe bloggs 2.2.1

        I take my hat off to you CV – you really have mastered the politics of envy!

    • ZeeBop 2.3

      >How much has tax cuts to the rich really “stimulated” the economy?

      How much has tax cuts prevented a worse recession?
      How much of the tax cuts have gone towards reducing private debt?

      Farmers, NZ, sells lots of primary product overseas. Milk, logs, etc.
      Those profits need to be returned, remitted, and so there must be
      someone on the other side of that currency trade.

      Step in the debtors, the debtor borrows money at a higher rate
      (the risk premium) and pays in NZ dollars. So in walks the
      currency trader who takes those NZ dollars and gives them to
      farmers, exporters. And in the foreign country takes the
      farming profits in US$ and gives it to the lender as his interest.

      The tax cuts had very little, or negative effect, for most people in NZ.
      They went overwhelmingly to the top earners and will be paid for by
      service cuts to most people in NZ if National is returned in Nov.

      Now the problem. Globally the west has borrowed because of monetary
      reform of Conservatives parties, who saw decades of cheap oil and
      knew the economy would have to grow and so needed lubricating
      (easier credit). But Conservatives then told themselves not to look
      at what comes next (except to there most loyal richest contributors).
      Oil peaking and then trailing off.

      So basically the west has huge debts, and governments claiming they
      can export their way out of the crisis. And the east has huge calls on
      value that they don’t want to give up (become poorer again), that
      would harm their own exports if they started importing western goods,
      and now the icing on the cake, there isn’t enough resources globally
      to furnish their call on value if they did call it. And hell, the west can
      pay it back anyway. (well unless it paid back in some services rather
      than goods and why its astonishing how governments are letting a
      few media mogals hold back the media revolution, utube on steroids,
      broadband, tens of thousands of channels, massive decentralization
      of attention to a myriad of sources).

      So that’s the NZ economy, and the global crisis. So now to answer
      the questions. Did tax cut avert recession? No, spending rising
      would have temporarily helped relieved the recession. Tax cuts merely
      gave foreign banks more breathing room, and forced kiwis to
      cut back and start saving if they could, extending the recession
      (National figured kiwis would not change their habits and start
      saving or cutting back).

      Tax cuts merely extended the time that private debt could be rolled
      over. Eventually the snake in the global fiscal imbalance has to be
      faced. NZ could be hit hard when energy inputs to farming become
      prohibitively expensive, exposed as it is to the global market and
      ease to which foreign domiciled can own NZ, without a National
      concern to the future freedom, economic and social of kiwis.

      Independence.

      A CGT would mean kiwis would expand the home economy,
      draw back expats, and start a massive revival in NZ, as capital
      gain would be harder won and so worth holding on to rather
      than selling to the world cheap.

      Oh, and National suk.

  3. Herodotus 3

    “… All round the world folk have seen stories of how our deficit will be $15-17 billion…”
    I am still confused. We borrow $300m lately increased to $380m/week. Now about 1/2 is to cover refinancing (as stated o a few posts here). So then we are just extending/rolling over our debt profile, the remaining $130m/week is to cover cash deficiencies. Now $130*52 = about $8b. I am aware of increases/decreases of investments (I take giving world wide markets these to be gains) So where is this other $8b being sourced from?

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      You can’t be expecting NAT numbers to make sense here, when their main goal is to manufacture a crisis to justify their enriching of the already wealthy.

    • RobC 3.2

      Herodotus, my understanding is the operating deficit is in the order of $16 billion.

      However, the Govt also has investments/assets. I believe (mainly thanks to the Cullen fund) the actual red ink is somewhere around $10 billion for the year.

      • Herodotus 3.2.1

        From my rough numbers I get about a $10b cash deficit which should be reduced by gains of investments NZSF Cullen etc. There is additional refinancing as EQC has to withdraw monies lent to govt and the govt has to go offshore to replace this. So as you and I have a similar viewpoint where is the other $6-$8b gone? This is not Africa,the Americas or the Middle East where monies get depositied into Switzerland ;-).
        So again if we have a deficit of $15b and we are borrowing $8b to cover the cash issues where are the missing monies??????

        • Herodotus 3.2.1.1

          This link has helped solve part of my problem, but why has the $6b Chch EQ in the accounts, from what I am aware the only cost nationally has been EQC payouts to the 1st quake, and I am 100% positive that $6b has not been paid out, so in that case we could have in the future operating surpluses but still requiring to borrow as we fund the Chch rebuild. That wuld be a great headline. Surplus but borrowings increase.
          Nice to see something easily understood and conveying a message simlpy. Well done David 🙂
          http://blog.labour.org.nz/index.php/2011/05/19/budget-faq-6-why-the-debt-hole/comment-page-1/#comment-177387

  4. hobbit 4

    “How much has tax cuts to the rich really “stimulated” the economy? The money could have been much better spent.”

    It’s. Not. Your. Money.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      That’s correct. It’s not your money. It’s. Our. Money. Money which belongs to the public, to the common wealth of New Zealanders. By stealing it, you are stealing from all of us, and from the country.

      • Jim Nald 4.1.1

        And our future generations.
        The ones who are left here and not already in Oz or another country.

    • south paw 4.2

      How ironic hobbit’s statement is when you consider rich pricks like Eric Watson, Mark Hotchin and the others whose self enriching activities don’t end up in the headlines.

      • joe bloggs 4.2.1

        Not forgetting Phil Goff, Cunliffe, Mallard, Hodgson, Dyson, and all the other Labour hacks – all of them leaching decent six figure salaries off the sweat of the workers.

        If your bosses are true ideologues they should take pay cuts and earn $30k a year.

  5. Anthony 5

    Tax cuts could have been stimulatory (to the retail sector anyway) if they went to the part of the population that actually has to spend them. They were upside down.

    National do live in upside down land though.

  6. RobC 6

    Rob, you missed the best line from Campbell’s piece:

    “Treasury forecasts – which have about the same predictive accuracy as your daily horoscope” 😀

  7. randal 7

    dont diss the treasury forecasts. they are made to assist the manques and parvenus extract every last penny they can before they get booted out.

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    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    1 week ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    1 week ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    1 week ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    1 week ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • New Fisk
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Ardern attempts to vaccinate Clarke Gayford live on television to prove that it’s safe
    Gayford, pictured here on The Project, before things got wildly out of control. A bold public relations move by the Government to encourage parents to vaccinate their children has gone horribly wrong. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on tonight’s episode of Three’s The Project, where the plan was for her ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Has Mr. Whippy gone too far by parking on our front lawns?
    Mr. Whippy’s business model has driven it down a dark road of intimidation. Residents in major centres around the country are becoming disgruntled by the increasingly aggressive actions of purported ice cream company Mr. Whippy, who have taken to parking on people’s front lawns and doorsteps in a desperate attempt ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Cleaning up the water
    Today the government released its Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, aimed at cleaning up our lakes and rivers. Its actually quite good. There will be protection for wetlands, better standards for swimming spots, a requirement for continuous improvement, and better standards for wastewater and stormwater. But most importantly, there's a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Fronting up
    Today I appeared before the Environment Committee to give an oral submission on the Zero Carbon Bill. Over 1,500 people have asked to appear in person, so they've divided into subcommittees and are off touring the country, giving people a five minute slot each. The other submitters were a mixed ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
    Anti-fluoride activists have some wealthy backers – they are erecting billboards misrepresenting the Canadian study on many New Zealand cities – and local authorities are ordering their removal because of their scaremongering. Many New Zealanders ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Democracy – I Don’t Think So
    So, those who “know best” have again done their worst. While constantly claiming to be the guardians of democracy and the constitution, and respecters of the 2016 referendum result, diehard Remainers (who have never brought themselves to believe that their advice could have been rejected) have striven might and main ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago

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