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Andrew Dickens: Government promising more then it's going to spend

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Monday, 9 September 2019, 12:24PM
The thing about spending is that you’ve actually got to spend it, writes Andrew Dickens. (Photo / Getty)

With all the talkback about the year fees free this morning the underlying issue was spending.  More specifically, wasteful spending.

The first part of the Government billion dollar free tertiary fee programme was $340 million dollars on the Year One 2018 students.  Over the weekend we discovered that a third of the students in that cohort quit, which raised heckles.

But the fact remains that a third of first years always quit or fail or suffer circumstances that mean they leave study.  In fact less people left tertiary education last year that in 2017 before the policy came in.

The $340 million spent didn’t create more students.  Nor did it make the ones who did take up the offer stay.  So the real shame is that we spent $340 million dollars on nothing.  Though all the kids of 2018 who get their education for a third less are very thankful.  My son who started in uni in 2017 is not best pleased.

Spending also made the news with the allocation of $6 million to extend mental health services at 20 clinics around the country. I was less than impressed. In May $1.9 billion was allocated to mental health services. The government is currently figuring out how to spend that money. This was the first announcement.

Frankly $6 million to extend existing services is not worth a headline or a mention. It’s vastly underwhelming when a pot of $1.9 billion was put aside. And at the glacial speed this government takes to make concrete decisions you have to wonder if anything will be committed before next November.

It joins a lot of other vastly underwhelming spending promises. The Provincial Growth Fund has a budget of $1 billion a year to spend.  It’s not going to get anywhere near that before the next election.

Infrastructure spending on road was cut and in its place other promises. Money was then put aside for trams and trains and the Sky Bridge, all of which seems stagnant due to planning paralysis.

Last week we also learnt of home loan provisions created as part of KiwiBuild that have not been subscribed to at all. Another $400 million has been promised to KiwiBuild but when pressed last week Megan Woods had no detail and promised some before the end of the year.

Last night of the telly Paula Bennett called the extra spending of $6 million on mental health a fail. It’s not a complete fail because this is more than was spent before.

The thing about spending is that you’ve actually got to spend it. And that’s the fail.

There’s only one thing worse that promising something. It’s not delivering it. But then again, every dollar not spent is a dollar saved.

ON AIR: Total Recall

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