For quite a few years it has been the common plaint of the average punter that there is "not much in the Budget."

For once, the average punter is right. Unless you are a smoker. In which case either give up pronto or start talking to your bank manager about an overdraft to fund your habit.

Bill English's fourth Budget is probably his most forgettable.

It is certainly his dullest. Try as one might, it is hard to get excited about changing livestock valuation rules to prevent farmers getting an unintended tax break.

Advertisement

The Finance Minister will not be unhappy with such assessments.

He promised boring. We got boring. Perhaps for the first time, the string of pre-Budget announcements - usually restricted to less attention-grabbing areas of Government activity - may have eclipsed what was unveiled on the big day.

It is, however, a responsible Budget - and thus a Budget for very uncertain times.

Some might say too responsible. To reach the Holy Grail of Budget surplus by the end of the 2014-15 year, English has had to rein in Government spending to such an extent that it risks contracting the economy just when it poised to grow.

English's chances of hitting the target still hinge on Treasury forecasts - a wing and a prayer, in other words. And a strong tail wind to boot.

The target has become all-consuming. Its value now resides in it being a disciplining factor on the Government - and one which has a high degree of public support.

But a fiscal surplus is not a growth strategy.

While the Budget does allocate more money to science and innovation, the restraint on spending has meant the Government is unable to make the kind of quantum leap in industry assistance that would have justified the amalgamation of several Government departments into the new "super" economic development ministry.

And it looks like there will not be much cash next year either. Or the year after. And that leaves National vulnerable.