Today’s Herald editorial – Use surplus for benefit of everyone – highlights a contradiction in the opposition response to the National Government finally, after seven years, achieving an actual surplus.
Across the aisle, opposition parties waved their wish-lists with new confidence, calling for the surplus to be spent on child poverty, more hospital operations, more pre-school education … you name it.
At the same time, they predicted the slender surplus would disappear as suddenly as it arrived.
Labour have long criticised National for following their surplus years under Helen Clark and Michael Cullen with a sequence of deficits.
Even now they lambast National because they say the surplus will be short lived due to tightening economic conditions and low inflation.
But Labour have opposed many measures aimed at keeping a tight rein on spending.
They have pushed for more spending.
As soon as the surplus was announced Labour MPs suggested how it could be spent many times over.
On one hand Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson was highly critical of the meagre surplus:
First surplus a blip on radar screen of debt
by Grant Robertson on October 14, 2015
Bill English’s first surplus is just one black drop in a sea of red, with New Zealanders still paying over $10m a day in interest payments, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says.
“The Finance Minister has finally found a surplus needle in his haystack of debt. Despite promising a ‘significant’ surplus, it’s just $414m. That’s less than 0.2 per cent of GDP – a rounding error, not a surplus.
“But the surplus show is over before it has begun. With the economy running out of steam, National’s promises of a string of surpluses are extremely unlikely to become reality. That’s poor financial management.
“National’s financial management will go down in history as one small surplus – at the peak of the economic cycle – out of nine Budget deficits.
And on the other hand, on the same day, he issued this complaint about the lack of spending required to achieve the surplus:
Nats sacrifice Kiwis’ health and education for surplus
by Grant Robertson on October 14, 2015
National’s drive for surplus has meant less investment in critical areas like health, education, housing and transport – yet John Key told Parliament today he wants the money for cycleways, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says.
“The Government’s belated surplus has been partly achieved by dropping spending by $235m in education, $97m on housing and community development, $52m in health and over $300m on transport and communications.
“These are critical areas. Too many students are failing NCEA, dilapidated state houses are making people sick, patients are waiting far too long in hospital emergency departments and regional roads and internet services are in desperate need of upgrades.
“It also appears that $444m has been taken out of the EQC claims budget. No one in Canterbury waiting for repairs or needing their repairs redone would think that money isn’t needed.
“The next time Kiwis find themselves waiting for an operation, getting sick in their home, worrying about their children’s performance at school, or nearly crashing on a dodgy road they can thank their lucky stars Bill English has a surplus and John Key has his cycleways,” Grant Robertson says.
This is Opposition opposing gone mad – criticising National for finally, only just achieving a surplus but hammering them for not spending more. For not spending a lot more.
On one hand he criticises years of deficits, but he wants to hand out heaps more money with his other.
The Herald wrote:
If the surplus in the final account for the year that ended on June 30 can be sustained in the current year and projected to continue, the best use of it would be to reduce debt more quickly. The next best use would be to resume the contributions to the NZ Super Fund that the Government suspended six years ago.
The level of debt and stopping contributions to the Super Fund have also been criticised by Labour.
If Robertson ever becomes Minister of Finance it will be interesting to see how he goes about balancing the books.