Jane Clifton wrote in her column in The Listener:
“It has been a couple of decades since any Budget truly surprised anyone. All the measures are carefully explained in advance – as they should be – and only the fiscal details, again, containing few surprises are kept secret . . . by Budget day, there are only two questions of any real novelty: what colour tie will the Finance Minister wear and will there be sausage rolls?”
She got it right. Today’s Budget held few surprises – increased spending for education and health, necessary support for Canterbury earthquake recovery, much needed, but pretty restrained, changes to Kiwisaver, student loans and Working for Families, some partial sale of assets . . .
There was no sign of the usual election-year lolly scramble but there was good news. The Budget will return to surplus in 2014/15 – a year sooner than forecast in December.
This is a significant achievement given the impact of February’s earthquake since the forecast was made. We’ll all benefit from the reduced need for Government borrowing and the lift in national savings.
We’ll also benefit from the escape from a credit rating downgrade:
Standard&Poor’s has made no change to New Zealand’s credit rating and says the Government must achieve its fiscal targets for its external position to improve.
Last November the credit rating company placed the outlook for New Zealand’s AA plus rating on a negative outlook.
Today it said that the contents of the Government’s 2012 budget were “consistent with the assumptions that feed into our sovereign ratings on New Zealand”.
Finance Minister Bill English said:
Budget 2011 builds a strong platform for jobs and growth, sets a credible path back to surplus by 2014/15 and helps increase national savings . . .
“This is a responsible and balanced budget for the times,” Mr English says. “It ensures New Zealand will build faster growth based on savings and exports, so New Zealanders have the jobs and higher incomes they deserve.”
It will not surprise regular readers that I agree with that.
As for the tie – I couldn’t see it on the radio and I don’t know whether there were sausage rolls.