Damien Grant: Blueprint ready, bravery lacking

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Don Brash deserves more support for his economic ideas. Photo / Janna Dixon
Don Brash deserves more support for his economic ideas. Photo / Janna Dixon

Under John Key, government debt has jumped from $30 billion to $70 billion. That is $17,000 per taxpayer.

To be fair, the world economy imploded and Christchurch followed in short order. Running a balanced budget in those circumstances would have been reckless, but we now face a problem - how to get back to surplus?

National has promised to balance the books sooner than Labour, but sadly this is a pretty low benchmark.

Phil Goff, the carousel horse of New Zealand politics (socialist, Roger-gnome, socialist, Minister of Free Trade, socialist again), has proposed a narrow, transaction-based capital gains tax that excludes the family home. This tax will be worthless for raising revenue for at least a generation and any money raised will go to pay the benefits of low-income workers displaced when the minimum wage is increased.

Goff is still a Roger-gnome wolf in a fair-trade, organic sheep's outfit.

Given a chance, we'd see the carousel swing back to 1987 with a vengeance. If he wins, let's hope so.

There are only three ways to get back to surplus. Tax more, spend less or expand the economy. Reducing marginal tax rates and paying for this with a rise in GST was politically brave, as is the asset sales plan Key has announced. But it is not enough.

The last government dramatically increased spending and this Government has done precious little to address this. National's only stated policy on reducing spending is to delay capital investment.

The rising cost of pensions, Working for Families, interest-free student loans, etc, are drags on the economy National is not going to address. That leaves us with raising growth and National's cupboard is bare. Their policies have many fine words but no substance.

This may be politically astute, as Key has recently discovered keeping your mouth shut is sometimes smarter than saying what you really think.

However, there is a concise, accessible and comprehensive blueprint for economic growth and the Government has already paid for two-thirds of it: the 2025 Taskforce. It was written by Don Brash, former Labour MP David Caygill, labour economist Judith Sloan and Roger Kerr's successor at the Business Roundtable, economist Dr Bryce Wilkinson.

The ideas range from the big (liquidating the Cullen Fund to repay debt) to the mundane (congestion charges for large cities). Many of the prescriptions are politically difficult, but there are no quick fixes to raising economic growth.

The Greeks and Italians waited too long and are having solutions imposed on them. We are heading in the same direction. Brash is stating what needs to be done. He deserves more support, both from the electorate and from the Act candidate for Epsom.

- Herald on Sunday

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