The Budget lockup retains a symbolic value these days, but little more than that. This is the government’s best annual opportunity to bury its usual screw-ups and regale the public with power-pointed examples of its vision, shrewd thrift and judicious generosity. This is the day when the official pageant of economic management is staged before a captive audience of media celebrities and seers of commerce. “The Treasury A Team” was also there yesterday, we were told.
In his role as M.C., Finance Minister Bill English did his best to make rank ideology sound like common sense, but the austerity rationales were wearing pretty thin this year. Talk to him – as someone tried in the Budget q & a yesterday – about the inadequate stock of social housing and the government’s apparent indifference to the scale of the housing problem and English replied – astonishingly – that we should be “thankful that government wasn’t building the houses” because, he went on that sort of “short term decision making” just isn’t what governments are good at. Coming from a John Banks this would have sounded like the propeller head nonsense it was. When expressed in Blinglish, it sounded merely like a rote reply that he didn’t really believe.
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