Friday, May 29, 2009

The Budget

Bill English’s budget has been called bleak and bland. True, it’s both. In some respects it’s better than I expected, much less slash and burn than predicted. Health does reasonably well while education is steady as it goes with a needed school programme of new and repair buildings which will provide jobs for those in that trade. Tertiary institutions are the losers while private schools get extra assistance. The latter have always done better under National. Private tertiary providers were closing before the budget – a sign of the times. Early childhood remains the Cinderella of the sector as Labour initiatives in this area are cut back.

Cullen was lucky. English is not. But he ought to give thanks that Cullen ran surpluses rather than deficits. Otherwise we would have been in a heap more trouble. Some critics say this budget is prudent. Cullen’s certainly were. Except the last when he was bullied into a tax cut. The world recession situation gives the government the perfect excuse not to honour its promised tax cuts. And Labour cannot criticise this move too loudly or it in turn will be portrayed as profligate.

Cullen had hoped to wrap up the superannuation debate with his fund. But without government payments for the next eleven years the fund could be in trouble just at the time the peak of the baby-boomers reach retirement age. Watch this space.

Basically this is a status quo budget. It seems to me this recession is going to lead to large structural changes. Where and how I haven’t the wit to see. But I sense a shift. Economy, education, health, superannuation, unemplyment, social welfare, tax, law and order, the list is endless. All will change, some more than others. The process could be rough.

Labour failed to address the growing poverty gap in our society. This budget similarly overlooks the issue. Of course, it’s not just happening here. It’s endemic in the contemporary world.

Gloomy pundits talk of future wars being fought over resources, race, status and ideology. They could be right. But I have a glimmer of an idea that class might be an overlooked factor. Something could occur like the French Revolution, a mass explosion of anger at exploitation and hunger. That particular event let the tiger of nationalism lose to prowl the planet. Historians of the future might point out how little attention English’s budget gave to defence.

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