An excellent initiative from the Greens

Metiria Turei announced:

The Green Party has announced a policy to bring more clarity into the political system today, in Co-leader Metiria Turei’s State of the Nation Speech.

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei proposed the formation of the Policy Costings Unit (PCU), which would operate independently to cost the policy of political parties.

“New Zealanders deserve more transparency from their politicians so that they can better engage in the political system,” said Mrs Turei.

“That’s why the Green Party is proposing the establishment of the PCU, to provide independent costings for the policies proposed by political parties.

“The PCU would be an independent unit within the Treasury and available to all parliamentary parties. It would help cut through the noise of political party promises and deliver New Zealanders unbiased information.

This is an excellent idea, and something I have long advocated.

Politicians often release uncosted policies that would require massive take hikes to fund.

It is because of this, that the Taxpayers Union spent a lot of money hiring a top economist to cost the policies of major parties at the last election. We called it a bribe-o-meter. We found that that in 2014 the cost of policies proposed was:

  • National $1.4 billion
  • Labour $5.81 billion
  • $6.54 billion
  • NZ First – impossible o calculate

Since the election I have kept a running total of demands for more spending by politicians, media and lobby groups. Since the 2015 Budget there has been an extra $11.7 billion in new annual spending demanded. This would require a top tax rate pf 87%!

So an agency to cost parties policies is an excellent idea. It would allow parties to get expert advice on the cost of a proposed policy and the public to them understand how much their taxes will have to increase by, to fund those policies.

My only quibble is that I would have the agency attached to one of the parliamentary agencies, so it is like the Congressional Budget Office in the US. Having it in the Treasury may open the Treasury up to (even more) partisan attacks if a party doesn’t like the costing.

I’m staggered National has rejected this proposal. They should be supporting it strongly. It would be a welcome step towards greater fiscal transparency and a better informed voting public.

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