This is a big spending budget. All up: $50 billion. But the most important thing to know about it is that it hasn’t blown all that cash.
Grant Robertson has kept $20 billion in his back pocket and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what that’s for. Election time.
$20 billion is a huge election spend. It’s about six times more than an average budget would have in new spending.
That is the vision money, which explains why there is no vision in this budget.
It’s not a criticism. This budget does what it needs to do: it saves jobs, it retrains workers, it pumps money into health and infrastructure. It keeps the computer on, but it doesn’t ‘reset’ it.
But, remember, that is what was promised. In the lead up to this budget both the finance minister the PM consistently said this would reset New Zealand. It does nothing of the sort.
To be fair, they didn’t need to talk it up like that. Expecting detail like that was unreasonable in any case.
We are in the middle of the biggest economic crisis arguably in decades. We don’t yet know the full extent of the damage, and predictions are still all over the show.
For example, Australia’s Treasurer delayed his budget by five months saying it’s impossible to make sensible decisions right now. Same goes here.
That’s why this is the Extension budget: extension of the wage subsidy scheme, extension of the fees-free training scheme, extension of the time taken to spend all the dough.
This just extends existing ideas to buy time presumably so the Finance Minister can assess the carnage and think through what he needs to do with that $20 billion to start the actual reset. And we’re going to need that.
Because the other numbers in this budget – the shrinking GDP, soaring unemployment, ballooning debt – says we’re going to need some good, clear thinking and smart ideas to pull us through.