The government’s Budget was delivered yesterday. I’ll post a few more analytical thoughts later, but this post is just a few scattered observations on individual measures:
- Another $10m for the SuperGold card public transport subsidies. Really?
- A new tax on international travel. I wonder if the government looked at the possibility of levying these costs on, for example, the apple and kiwifruit industries, for whose benefit most of the biosecurity apparatus seems to exist? Are those industries really economic?
- Scrapping the $1000 sign-on bonus for Kiwisaver is a good move, and perhaps next year they could scrap the $500 tax credit, and then abolish the scheme altogether (as a statutory provision). At present, there is no evidence that Kiwisaver has raised the national savings rate at all and for people with both Kiwisaver accounts and mortgages the effective after-tax returns on funds held in Kiwisaver accounts must be pretty low (mortgages are repaid out of after-tax earnings, and tax is paid on earnings on Kiwisaver funds). A more thoroughgoing review of capital income taxation, with a view to lowering it, would be a better step.
- Radio New Zealand often doesn’t find very sympathetic people for its interviews. As I was making lunches for my children this morning, I heard a benefit recipient complaining that the $25 benefit increase would only pay for buying a couple of school lunches for his kids. That didn’t sound quite right: On the one hand, if he really isn’t giving his kids lunches now, the increase must surely make a considerable difference. And on the other hand, I’m pretty sure that the total cost of my three kids’ school lunches for a week, home baking included, is less than $25. Incidentally, the Dom-Post reports that the benefit increases are around 8 per cent. That is not small – real GDP per capita has increased by only that much since June 2005.
- And does the government really have its priorities right when we still fritter money away on a Retirement Commissioner, a Children’s Commissioner, a Ministry for Women, a Ministry of Tourism, and a Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs. I could go on: why are we funding a Reserve Bank museum (in what would be prime Wellington café space) or a “state of the nation” report answering the question “Who are NZ’s ethnic communities?” And that is before we ask more serious questions about $400 million more to Kiwirail, and lots more to UFB (to which I have a jaundiced view after asking a senior minister at a forum some years ago why there had been no cost-benefit analysis of government spending in this area, to which he responded that one was not necessary because he knew the answer).
- One hopes (surely?) that the reference in a press release to “up to $52 million” to replace a wharf on the Chatham Islands was a typo. Then again, we are giving away money to a spa operator in Rotorua, so perhaps not.