Brian Fallow on the economy

Brian Fallow is the Herald's Economics Editor

Brian Fallow: The housekeeper of all Budgets

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If Ruth Richardson delivered the Mother of All Budgets, this is the housekeeper of all budgets.

Drab. And not much sign of a growth agenda.

The Budget is contractionary. Fiscal policy will subtract from demand and from growth not just next year but for the next four years.

That is despite another downward revision - to plausible, consensus rates - in the Treasury forecasts for economic growth next year and the year after.

And it is despite the fact that the recovery so far has been weak, unemployment is stubbornly high, the world economy is going through a soft patch and export prices - one of the things we have had going for us - have been falling for a year.

The Government is shutting down the fiscal irrigation in the hope that enough rain will fall to keep the paddocks green and the economy growing.

That is risky, but it clearly thinks the bigger risk is to continue to pile up debt at the rate it has been.

So it is all about a fiscal tightening from a deficit of 4 per cent of GDP this year to a surplus in 2014/15 - except that at a scant $200 million it is way, way within the margin of error.

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