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Ed Said - Budget 2017



We all do it in some form or other. No, it’s not over-eating or drinking, too many Easter eggs or driving too fast or having had one too many. It’s making a budget. All of us at some point come to the realisation of what we have in our pockets is the total amount we have at our disposal.

I can remember as a youngster in the post WW2 years when farmers would gather round the radio to hear what handouts the government of the day was going to give them. Those were, of course, the years when a very young New Zealand economy could only improve and the farmer was seen, collectively, as the backbone of the country. So, while work was long and hard, the man on the land received considerable incentives.

That was under a National government. A Labour government then, as now, leant more towards the worker, child allowance of 15 shillings ($1.50) for each child and retaining jobs. Work was plentiful generally but Trade Unions put pressure on any government for better conditions and invoked strikes, some crippling, if demands weren’t met.

Of course there was no minimum wage back then. You may have accepted a job for 5 shillings (50c) an hour. If you wanted more you looked around for one which paid better or, after a year or so, your boss may increase it by 10-20c. Such was life.

The Minister of Finance, Steven Joyce, has announced that Budget 2017 will be delivered on Thursday, May 25. Today individuals don’t seem to benefit at all. The benefits go to sectors – education, health, the arts and so forth. Thus the recent increase for care workers can be seen as something of the triumph it certainly is, but to get a 50 percent pay rise from $16 per hour to $22 per hour is costing ‘the country’ $2 billion and won’t necessarily improve the quality of care. On the other hand, midwives have been offered a 2 percent raise. No relativity at all.The government certainly doesn’t have that in its pocket so where does it come from?

Even if we don’t sit down and do a budget for the next year or even six months, we have a fair idea what our annual income is going to be, what our outgoings will be in terms of mortgage repayments, insurance, living expenses, power and vehicle running expenses. However we rarely, if ever, consider the implications of a car accident, work accident, job loss, flood damage or crippling illness to any member of the family. In the majority of cases we hope we can ‘make it through ok’. That’s not a criticism, it’s a fact.

The government, on the other hand, has a bottomless pit of money from which it can draw for any eventuality. Did they budget for the Christchurch earthquakes, the Kaikoura earthquakes, the Christchurch fires or the recent flooding in various parts of the country? Of course not, yet they are, fortunately, able to organise billions of dollars to assist in recovery of homes, roads and businesses as well as a $2 billion pay increase for carers.

This is election year. The National government is still riding high in the polls with Bill English not really given enough time to muck things up prior to the September elections, but rather throw enough lollies out judiciously in the right directions to retain a winning majority.

As usual the circus will begin again with opposition parties slating every clause the Budget has to offer, though in the end no individuals will necessarily be any better or worse off on May 26 than on May 24, and life will proceed as per normal.


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