Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Emperor Key has no clothes - and no ideas

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Why is John Key, left, applauding Finance Minister Bill English for his Budget? Photo / Mark Mitchell
Why is John Key, left, applauding Finance Minister Bill English for his Budget? Photo / Mark Mitchell

Do you get the sense that the Budget forecast figures are just made up? On Thursday, the Government excitedly predicted that 170,000 jobs would miraculously appear, wiping out unemployment.

It said economic growth would increase by a whopping 4 per cent, even though we haven't had that sort of growth since Jim Bolger was prime minister. And, apparently, all workers are to look forward to a 4 per cent pay hike next year.

There isn't any plan to make this happen - but if we really wish it so, it will.

None of these predictions, and other Budget goodies, are happening before the election. We have to wait with bated breath for four years - suspiciously timed after a supposed second term of a National-led Government.

In the meantime we are to fawn over emperor John Key's new clothing, telling him what an economic genius he is and how amazing that in four years our country will be the envy of the world with a growing dynamic economy, full employment and every worker receiving good wages.

That there isn't any plan to achieve this doesn't faze Emperor John, who would have us pretend that if we really believe it will happen, it will.

Apparently, the free market is a wonderful thing. All we have to do is cut taxes for the rich, slash public services and, hey presto, nirvana. I would have thought cutting revenue means less money to do things with, and sacking public servants increases the jobless queues.

Quite frankly the Budget is a cynical "do nothing" document to quiet the rabble before the election. It tinkers with everything and delivers nothing.

This Budget doesn't address the elephant in the room. The only way this country will stop the inevitable decline from the First World to the Third World is to have an economic intervention strategy.

The only real plan for jobs and economic growth is the rebuilding of Christchurch. Very socialist indeed. No nonsense about the free market here. Huge public resources are being mobilised.

The whole economy should be mobilised in the same way to fix our economy and get the unemployed into work.

Our survival is based on exports yet there is nothing in the Budget about this. Frankly, private enterprise managers aren't up to it and the sooner we have state involvement in economic planning the better.

It's absurd that a quarter of our exports are milk products from Fonterra, our only major success story. It has taken a long-term view because it is a co-operative owned by the people in its industry, not by a bunch of financiers trying to make a quick buck. Private moneyed hucksters have wrecked almost all of our major exporters.

Remember the Apple and Pear Board? What about the forests? Our trees are overseas owned and are cut into logs that are driven straight to the wharves by a few exploited sub-contract drivers. If we took a longer view, we would build secondary industries around our wood, creating tens of thousands of jobs.

Remember when we sold off Telecom for a song? The overseas shareholders have made their investment back many times over. What did we get? A predator monopoly that artificially kept prices up for two decades that now leaves the state to pay for the new internet infrastructure it should have built.

I'm not even including the Aussie banks that ship billions of our money offshore each year. I could go on. Just tell me what the benefit is of selling off our public utilities to foreigners?

Now Key tells us we can flog off our power companies and our national carrier, Air New Zealand - that is until their new owners mess them up, forcing us to buy them back again at a loss. Don't even get me started on the railways.

While we all twitter on about the minor stuff in the Budget, our politicians from both main parties ignore the real problem.

Repeat after me loudly - the emperor isn't wearing any clothes.

- Herald on Sunday

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