In a Budget-related piece dated 26 May, Bernard Hickey wrote;
“As largely foreshadowed, English increased the Government’s spending allowance in Budget 2016 for the 2016/17 year to NZ$1.6 billion from NZ$1.0 billion to accommodate extra spending on health and education because of population growth, and includes money spent up front on child welfare reforms.”
Hickey’s suggestion that “English increased the Government’s spending allowance in Budget 2016 for the 2016/17 year to NZ$1.6 billion from NZ$1.0 billion to accommodate extra spending on health and education because of population growth“ seems at variance with the Finance Minister’s own denial that his Budget was predicated in any way on a per-capita basis.
On 28 May, on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, Bill English was interviewed by Lisa Owen;
English was at pains to reject per-capita calculations as a basis for his Budgetary considerations;
Lisa Owen: “… I just want to be clear on this, because if you look at the figures, let’s say for health, a variety of economists say that we needed about 700 million a year just to keep pace, yet health is getting about 570 million a year. You’ve frozen the schools’ operational budgets, so to be absolutely clear, per capita spending on health and education, it’s down, isn’t it?”
Bill English: “No. Look, I couldn’t say for sure whether it’s up or down. It’s probably about the same. The point I’m making is it’s the wrong measure. The measures that matter are the ones that are about focusing on getting results.”
Lisa Owen: “Shouldn’t you know whether it’s up or down in terms of spending per capita? Because that’s something that our viewers will want to know.”
Bill English: “It’s not a measure we apply… Now, per capita, I can’t tell you whether it’s up or down.”
To be fair on Hickey, he wrote his story prior to English’s comments, which were two days later.
At least now we all know that English does not factor-in per-capita data in his Budgetary calculations. He was categorical in his assertion.
No, he obviously uses more precise techniques…
Yet, English himself has readily admitted that yes, he does factor in population (aka “per capita”) in his Budgetary considerations;
“Strong population growth is both an indicator of New Zealand’s economic performance and a contributor to it,” English told the parliament in his Budget address. “For the first time in a generation, we have a net annual movement of people into New Zealand from Australia, rather than an exodus of Kiwis across the Tasman.” – Bill English, 26 May 2016
“Some spending previously earmarked for Budget 2017 has been brought forward, so net new operating spending in Budget 2016 has increased to $1.6 billion per year. This recognises pressures from higher population growth, and opportunities to invest in core public services and economic initiatives.” – Bill English, 26 May 2016
And the clincher;
“Spending pressures have changed since the last Budget – in part because higher-than-expected population growth has increased demand for public services… District Health Boards will receive $1.6 billion over four years to invest in services, meet population growth and deliver better results.” – Bill English, 26 May 2016
English’s own words reveal that he wilfully misled Lisa Owen on 28 May, on ‘The Nation‘. Unfortunately, fact-checking politicians who spin untruths is not easy, and requires quick-thinking and an encyclopedic memory.
Only in retrospect can we fact-check politicians’ statements and determine how honest they have been with the public.
As always, eternal vigilance is the duty of all citizens.
Interest.co.nz: Govt sees NZ$0.7 bln OBEGAL surplus in 2016/17
National.org.nz: Govt books show rising surpluses, falling debt (*1)
Scoop media: On The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Bill English (transcript)
Beehive.govt.nz: Budget Speech – Bill English
Previous related blogposts
*1: I have downloaded and retained a copy of the National Party webpage. In the past, National Party webpages tend to “disappear”, and are no longer searchable, making referencing and verification of quotes problematic. If this webpage disappears, English’s comments can still be verified to anyone requesting it. – Frank Macskasy
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