Budget 2016: Analysis


Was it, as Bill English claims, a "healthy" and "ambitious" budget? Here's a selection of budget analysis from unions, commentators and opposition politicians who might beg to differ:

Glenn Barclay, PSA National Secretary

“This is an uninspired Budget which promises little comfort for our members – who are straining to delivery good quality services while funding and staffing levels lag behind. New Zealanders needed a firm commitment to public services in this government, and they did not receive it.  There are isolated pockets of extra funding for staffing costs in Child Youth and Family, Customs and the Police.  But overall, funding does not keep pace with inflation and the growth in our population – which means our members will have to work magic to maintain good quality services.”

 

Rob Salmond, Labour pollster at Public Address

“Using the Treasury’s own forecasts for health spending, population, and inflation, and found that by 2020 real health spending per person will be about $300 lower (in 2016 dollars) than today.  Even accounting for their much trumpeted $2.2 billion package, you’ll be getting less healthcare than today if National gets its way. It’s a 10% health cut for every person in New Zealand, over the next four years.”

 

Geoff Simmons, Morgan Foundation

“This year’s budget takes boring to a whole new level. It contains the bare minimum to keep the media wolves at the door and to set the Government up for election year.”

 

Max Rashbrooke, author

“The best label for this year’s announcement by Bill English might be the ‘Bare Minimum Budget’. It does the bare minimum to defuse potential political damage in a range of areas – homelessness and health are prime among them – but almost nothing to address the country’s most deep-rooted, systemic social problems. Indeed the Budget hints that these problems may get worse ..

“The focus on growth – mentioned ten times in the Finance Minister’s speech – but not on inequality (which is not mentioned once) shows that the government essentially holds to the ‘trickle-down’ line from the 1980s, which is that you don’t need policies for distribution: all you need to do is generate growth and assume that it will somehow end up in the hands of people in poverty. Sadly experience tells us that that’s not how it works.”

 

Richard Wagstaff, CTU President

“All working people deserve a health system they can count on and an education system which grows young minds to be the best they can be. Working people expect to contribute towards the cost of these, and many other crucial public services, with their taxes.  Where are the solutions? The aspirations? The vision? Bill English and his Government are so focused on reducing government expenditure that they have lost sight of the increasingly urgent need to make improvements to working people’s lives now.”

 

Ganesh Nana, BERL economist

“The Minister rightly points to the 200,000 more in jobs over the last 3 years, and the forecast additional 170,000 in jobs over the period to 2020.  Further, with the average annual wage rising to a forecast $63,000, there is much to applaud.  But, with such a positive story in terms of output measures, are we seeing similar improvements in outcomes – living standards, wellbeing, ora?”

 

James Shaw, Green Party leader

“Today the Government could have used its considerable powers to start solving the big challenges facing New Zealand. To leave a legacy, not just a length of tenure.  But it has chosen not to.  This Government does as little as possible, instead of all it can.  Budget 2016, as with every other for the last eight years, tries to make the Government look as if it is changing things for the better, when all it is doing is preserving the status quo.”

 

Thorsten Engel, Partner, Deloitte

“While the Minister of Health has done well to negotiate a $400 million budget increase to the healthcare sector in Budget 2016, the new spend only addresses symptoms and is not tackling core problems .. Over half of the new money is to be spent increasing the numbers of doctors and nurses.  But we are simply throwing more workforce at the problem instead of tackling system inefficiencies and imbalances in the sector.”

 

Andrew Little, Labour Party leader

“This Budget is just a patchwork of ad hocery, a piecemeal package of measures that won’t fix even one of the major problems facing New Zealand, including an out of control housing crisis which the Government wilfully denies. It lacks vision and shows that after eight years in power, National has lost touch.   What was needed today was a clear plan to build thousands of affordable homes, lift wages and fix our creaking public services. Instead we have a Government still focused on those at the top while most New Zealand families miss out.”

 

Gordon Campbell, Scoop commentator

"Budgies, so their Wikipedia page says, are popular pets around the world due to their small size, low cost, and ability to mimic human speech. Which is a reasonably good description of Finance Minister Bill English's eighth Budget. Especially when it comes to the mimicry bit about providing an adequate response to this country’s social and developmental needs."