Hide - Vaulting Matilda March 4
ISSUE 15, March 4 2011
These are grim times for Canterbury, and indeed for New Zealand. Our second largest city is devastated and the people of Christchurch are enduring the hardest of times.
We are now forced to make hard choices, to focus intensely on only the highest priorities – we need to face reality.
Our starting point is not good. Our government has been borrowing a massive $300 million per week simply to keep afloat. That’s almost $200 per week for each and every Kiwi household.
And now we have Christchurch to rebuild.
However it’s not just government that overspends – as a nation we have built up overseas debt of $162 billion, 85% of GDP.
We have seen the economic and social turmoil in the most highly indebted European countries. The future has arrived for them. Those in deep trouble were the countries with the highest current account deficits, the highest levels of overseas debt and the highest levels of government debt. If you need to know what the future holds on our present track, just look at the so-called PIIGS: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain.
The reason we have so much wasteful, pointless and counterproductive government spending is that politicians have every incentive to spend more, and promise too much. As voters we encourage them.
The middle class want free childcare. Students want interest-free loans. Pensioners want pensions and gold cards. On and on it goes. Every interest group wants their own government department or agency. Helen Clark’s Labour government perfected the art of spending money on key interest groups to hold on to power at all cost.
We couldn’t afford that before the earthquakes and we absolutely cannot now. Government capital spending is going to increase as we rebuild Christchurch.
We must ensure now that the general good prevails over narrower self-interest. Government must live within a budget as tight as the budgets that ordinary households face.