The Allan in me doesn't like spending money. Scottish blood seems a potent thing. It may only account for a quarter in me but even that much is enough to shorten the arms and lengthen the pockets.
For example, during lockdown it took me three days to commit to spending $80 on a Huffer raincoat. It was down from $150. Bargain I said to myself on day one. Bargain, I said to the office on day two. I got to the bit on the website where you put the credit card numbers in and thought better of it. After all, it's very dry in the office. How often do you actually get rained on? Day three it rained en route to work so I bought it.
I don't like spending my money and I like it even less when the Government spends my money.
But I'm going to come to Finance Minister Grant Robertson's defence on the $10 billion wage subsidy package. That was worthwhile spending.
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The scheme has drawn criticism this week for being "wasteful" and "poorly targeted", most notably from former Labour Party Finance Minister Sir Roger Douglas. Sir Roger has more than earned his right as an authority on anything related to the rescue of an economy. His argument is that - while certainly helping small businesses - it has also been used to "prop up corporate monoliths ... who should have been left to fend for themselves".
Sir Roger's criticism is valid. In fact, you can even use Robertson's own words from March 12 to criticise his scheme. Before announcing it, he dawdled while businesses begged for help. He told them to wait, the crisis needed "targeted investments around the country" not "knee-jerk reactions". But in the end, he must've thrown in the towel and decided un-targeted investments would do just fine.
I'll admit it's problematic to be propping up some business that will invariably fail as soon as the wage subsidy runs out. And it's a terrible look to have wealthy lawyers drawing the cash - even though they may qualify - then making it look even worse with their song and dance over paying it back. And it's not flash to hear of employers pocketing the money and firing the staff anyway.
But, can we really complain?
The point of the scheme was to save jobs. It's done that. Yes, some of those jobs may yet be lost anyway, within weeks or maybe later on when the recession truly bites. But at least those businesses got a chance to hold on, hibernate and give it a go.
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While the average punter might not understand the rules around a 30 per cent revenue drop which allows the fancy lawyers and the Julian Robertsons to qualify, the fact is low-level jobs might have been lost in those workplaces without the support.
Maybe a few more years under his belt as Finance Minister or a few years doing something of value in the private sector might've given Grant Robertson the necessary skills and experience to sharpen the package up. Maybe a few more days or weeks to think about it might've helped as well. But, the fact is, the time wasn't available, the response was a rush, and it was a one-in-100-years crisis.
But that was then and this is now. Anything from here on in will have to be more carefully considered. The longer this crisis drags on, the less tolerance the public will have for sloppiness, whether in un-targeted financial packages that are open to abuse, confusing rules that favour supermarkets over butchers, or the failure to do the basic paperwork necessary to ensure the lockdown was legal. That stuff needs to be tidied up.
After all, too many of us are getting lockdown-tetchy. And too many of us have Scottish blood.