Mike's Minute: Adding to government debt is bad economics

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Dec 2019, 9:59AM

Mike's Minute: Adding to government debt is bad economics

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Dec 2019, 9:59AM

COMMENT

Nineteen billion dollars of debt is an eye watering amount of money. It blows net core Crown debt to over 21 percent of GDP.

The $19 billion grows the economy $10 billion, that's if the estimates are right. And you would be more than within your rights to question the estimates.

And so Grant Robertson had his day in the sun. It's a massive spend up. And here's why it's political as much as economic, the detail doesn't come until the middle of next year.

Why? Because it's election year, so he's set aside many days of announcements to re-announce what he announced yesterday.

Growth is slowing, we will go into deficit, and when we are not in deceit, the surpluses over four years will be less than what the surpluses were over two years before they spent all the money in the first place, thus leading them to need to borrow.

There is roading. That is good because we like roads, we use roads, and roads pay dividends.

But there is the ideologically weird stuff like the decarbonisation of the public estate. There's a couple of hundred million for that, whatever it is. I doubt the payback on that is as good as a road.

By the way, this is all on top of the budget that threw huge money at things like mental health. And also, the Provincial Growth Fund which thus far has produced about 600 full time jobs at a cost of about half a million dollars a job.

And that is the trouble with the "let's spend our way out of the slow down". Not only is the money someone else's, it's being thrown about in a way that isn't paying dividends. Social infrastructure is unquantifiable, and this is what they seem obsessed with.

We are somehow magically all supposed to feel better, there should be wellbeing in the air. But there isn't, and wellbeing doesn't pay the bills. The government is like the people who argue GDP isn't worth counting, and it's no way to measure an economy or growth.

When in reality it's the only way. Money is simple, you either have it or you don't. Growth is simple, you either have it or you don't.

And without money and growth you have nothing. You don't build things, employ anyone, start anything, or expand anything.

To be fair, we can afford it, and we are in good shape. But we are in good shape because we got our act together and learned to pay our way.

So what the spend up represents is a change of direction, and we join too many other countries adding a pile of debt to the next generation to fund our lack of ability to pay for today's requirements.

Money might be cheap, but it's still not our money, and that's bad economics.