Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Taking the government at their word

Over on Kiwiblog, DPF accuses me of dishonesty over my post on National's planned across the board spending cuts. His reason?

don’t know if he is deliberately misrepresenting the situation, or genuinely does not know the difference between identifying potential savings/cuts and automatically cutting them.
Neither. Instead, I'm taking the government at their word. In case anyone has forgotten, National - and DPF, and the sewer-dwellers now howling their agreement with his slur - spent the last nine years screaming about a "bloated" state sector, the "growth of bureaucracy", and of the need to end "a decade of excess" and cut "low-quality spending". Their response to the recession has focussed on highlighting the need to control debt - but not by forgoing tax cuts to the rich, you understand - which means spending cuts. Against this background, when their Minister of Finance issues a document demanding departments "identify the spending that delivers the lowest value for money", the natural conclusion is that they will follow through and actually cut it. Any other conclusion would simply be perverse.

That doesn't mean I expect departmental budgets to drop by the identified 5% or 10% - that will depend on how they reallocate funding to National's new projects (roads instead of road safety, for example). The full picture will become apparent in the Budget and from post-Budget OIA's. But I am at least giving National the benefit of assuming that they are not simply engaging in this as an expensive academic exercise. Which is apparently more credit than their official web cheerleader is willing to grant them.