Prime Minister John Key said the Budget was better to be boring than to be “excitingly terrible”. He is half right. It was a terrible budget. I did not have terribly high hopes for it, but in many respects it seems like a Budget that was very deliberately written to inflict further fiscal grief on sections of Government that are already suffering dreadfully. But there was nothing terribly exciting.
The Opposition did their job today, closing ranks and launching a sustained attack on the 8th Fiscal Budget of the fifth National led Government. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters called it the “Get Stuffed Budget”. Labour leader Andrew Little called it “pretty mediocre”. Even United Future leader Peter Dunne, who has been better remembered over the last few years for supporting Mr Key’s Government, called it boring.
Some of the priorities were right, but the most critical ones were not addressed and some that should not have even made the starting gun, were included, such as regional roading at a time when public transport and the merchant marine need assistance. The expenditure’s I had in mind were comparatively modest too.
My focus on the health system was intended to address two major problems:
- The very long waiting list of people needing major surgery, such as knee, hip and organ replacements
- The mental health crisis that has exploded, and which may in part be responsible for some of the more violent crimes involving people who have committed offences that can be linked back to their state of mental well being
To fund that I was thinking $500 million to get as many people off the waiting lists as possible – $96 million is positive, but still leaves a large number of people behind. Due to the Christchurch earthquakes causing long term stress issues, putting $200 million over 3 years to initiatives dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would not have been out of place.
Setting aside $1 billion over a couple of years for improving and increasing Housing New Zealand’s stock should have been a priority. However the Government continues to believe no crisis exists, despite $200 million being allocated for social housing.
Perhaps though one good thing that came of the Budget was a further increase in the amount that smokers would have to pay for their tobacco products. However, for the sake of making sure it does not encourage an underground industry that promotes more powerful substances, involves the black market and is connected with criminal activity, smoking should not become illegal. And to that end, further increases to the price beyond what are proposed, should not occur.
All in all it was a not very original Budget. National is clearly saving for a 2017 spend up or a round of tax cuts.