The Government revealed a $1.8 billion surplus and hinted at possible tax cuts. The surplus is the product of increased income and limiting spending. Bill English explained how the surplus will "increase options" for the Government but the reality is that it has mostly been achieved by restricting options for too many and delaying important expenditure. Rather than saving money in a useful way the arbitrary limits on spending in crucial areas will result in increasing future costs and unnecessary suffering, the examples are numerous:
- Schools have found that their operation grants have not increased with inflation and the OECD has found expenditure per student puts us well below the average.
- Special needs education funding has been reduced affecting many thousands of children and more cuts are planned.
- Housing New Zealand's underinvestment in property maintenance is estimated at $1.5 billion and the corporation has difficulty operating at all on a restricted budget.
- Pharmac has been underfunded to the extent that our expenditure per person in NZ is well below Australia and the number of commonly available treatments for cancer there are unavailable here.
- Mental health services have not been funded at a level to meet demand, with tragic consequences.
- DHB funding has not kept up with inflation, and our growing and aging population. Most DHBs will experience large deficits.
- Many essential services like Relationships Aotearoa have collapsed because of severe underfunding.
- The accommodation supplement hasn't kept up with rapidly increasing rents, forcing many families out of their homes.
- There has been deliberate underspends in many areas where cutting costs have no justification. Considering Christchurch is still well short of a full recovery, Cera's $106 million underspend is almost criminal.
- The severe cuts to DoC's funding has meant a loss to the Department of $368 million over the past 8 years.
- Stretched police, lower staffing ratios to population and the closing of community stations has contributed to an explosion in crime.
- The National Government's drive for "Better Public Services", or "more for less" hasn't delivered the claimed improvements and instead report after report reveal poor performances and over-worked staff.
- The real crisis of our time is climate change and the Government has invested close to nothing on seriously trying to reduce our emissions.
So Bill has delivered a budget surplus and future tax cuts are being held like a shining carrot in front of voters ahead of the 2017 elections. Any tax cuts will be paid for through reduced services and the increased suffering. According to Judith Collins the poor are to blame for their circumstances and the rich deserve their privileges (her candid thoughts reveal her government's lack of empathy for our struggling communities).