The ‘Yeah, right’ budget

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
19 May, 2023

New Zealand has just received its 2023 Budget.

Our Government has a clear predilection for spending. From infrastructure to education, cost-of-living relief to climate initiatives, the allocation of funds is once again substantial​. Incidentally, the Government’s outcomes often are not.

Still, the question arises, how will all this expenditure be financed? The answer: Higher taxes and increased borrowing.

The top tax rate currently stands at a hefty 39%​. Now, the Government is aligning tax on trusts with this figure​​.

Borrowing is being escalated, inflating our national debt to support their spending ambitions​​​. This is the paradigm of big tax, big spend.

Amidst these measures, the Government is attempting to reassure us with optimistic economic forecasts. They predict a rather rosy picture, in which inflation will drop to a mere 3.3% next year, and then decline further, to 2.5%, 2.3%, and 2.2% in the subsequent years​​.

With countries worldwide grappling with soaring inflation rates, the assertion that New Zealand will somehow buck this global trend is audacious. Or, to put it in words all Kiwis understand: Yeah, right.

The Government’s outlook for the burgeoning national debt is equally optimistic. They are set to borrow substantial amounts for infrastructure spending, including a significant $6 billion for a ‘national resilience plan’​​. Their ‘plan’ is to repay this mounting debt in due course, on the back of an impending economic boom.

Borrowing to fuel a spending spree, particularly at a time when interest rates are climbing, is a significant concern. We have seen the aftermath of such strategies in other countries, and the outcomes are seldom favourable.

To round it all off, the Government also believes that a return to strong growth is imminent. Yeah, right once again.

This ‘Yeah, right’ budget is a gamble. It hinges on the hope that everything will align perfectly. That inflation will conveniently fall. That the economy will grow robustly enough to manage and repay the debt. That prosperity will continue unabated. As I said, yeah, right.

For the collective welfare of New Zealand, we can only hope they are right. However, placing full confidence in this outcome, given the realities of the global economy, the precariousness of predictions, and the Government’s executive capability would be unwise.

This ‘Yeah, right’ budget is the Government’s last roll of the die before the 2023 election. And as everyone knows, you do not always roll a six.

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