How exactly is it that New Zealand – a country that went into recession in early 2008, had a collapsed non-bank finance sector, didn’t have a mining boom, has a historically high dollar and had its second biggest city basically levelled by an earthquake – is on track to record a budget surplus as scheduled and on time in 2014-15? This question raises a second one: why is Australia not in this position?
I think we don’t give enough credit to the Government for the very challenging task they have had, where they had to both have an expansionary fiscal policy during the depths of the global recession, but also impose spending restraint so that the projected structural deficit would have a path towards becoming a surplus.
Australia has shown how easy it is to blow a projected surplus.
The odd thing about this is that Swan and his government perpetually cast themselves as victims: of a global downturn and an unappreciative public.
But in fact, a look across the Tasman shows Swan and Labor are victims only of their own appalling policy choices. Overall Kiwi growth is at about 3 per cent – NZ grew 1.5 per cent last quarter alone. Unemployment and welfare numbers are dropping, virtually every export sector, including manufacturing has been growing. Businesses everywhere are complaining they can’t get skilled labour.
The growth in Australia is hugely variable. Western Australia has been growing faster than China. Queensland has had strong growth. But the larger states of Victoria and New South Wales were actually contracting for a while.
The Gillard government is now in the ridiculous situation that despite revenue increases since 2010, historically high terms of trade, and relatively low unemployment, any surplus has been shunted away into the future. Comparatively, New Zealand, despite relatively poor growth until recently, no mining boom and an enormous earthquake, will complete a bigger surplus than expected, earlier than forecast.
Go New Zealand!