The title this year goes to his deputy and Minister of Finance, Bill English, for three reasons.
He delivered on the target of getting into surplus in 2014-15; he has increased social welfare benefits for families with children beyond CPI adjustments for the first time in 43 years; and he is the driving force of a major and logical change in the way the public sector funds the provision of social services – the social investment approach which at its essence means paying more for policies that work and are shown to work.
Since 2011, English’s Budgets were forecasting a surplus in 2014-15.
He set the goal not only for fiscal discipline within Government but in his own words, as “a symbol for responsibility” for voters.
The only Budget in which it was not forecast was this year’s in May when falling dairy prices and low inflation affected the tax take and forced an adjustment to a $684 million deficit.
Andrew Little’s description of it as “one of the biggest political deceptions of our lifetime” was perhaps one of the greatest political lessons in hyperbole that he could have had.
Yep. A smart politician thinks ahead and ponders what if they do make surplus after all.
But Bill English’s social investment project is his biggest achievement.
It sounds so logical that you’d think it had always been done that way – paying for what is proven to work.
But it hasn’t always been. It now provides a clear incentive for the public sector to find out with greater clarity what works and what doesn’t.
If it becomes embedded, it will be a lasting change for good in the lives of the least fortunate.
It may do more to help the truly disadvantaged and at risk, than any previous Government.