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Bill English's seventh Budget is a give-and-take Budget.
Given ever tighter fiscal circumstances made worse by tax revenue falling short of forecasts, the Finance Minister has had to be at his creative best -- and worst -- to find savings to get new projects up and running.
The centre-piece is a $790 million child hardship package. In order to make that bundle of initiatives more than just a gesture towards addressing child poverty, English has had to find savings elsewhere.
So out goes the $1000 kick-start payment contributed by the Government when people sign up for KiwiSaver. In comes a new border clearance levy of up to $16 on each passenger either arriving in New Zealand or departing these shores.
The first move sends a terrible message in undermining the need for New Zealanders to put their money into productive investments instead of seeking easy returns in the property market which when it crashes in Auckland -- as it inevitably must -- could cause serious damage to growth prospects across the country.
The passenger levy must have been disinterred from the Treasury's vault. It is a concept dredged up from a distant past when you had to fill in a form just to cross the road. Its only success will be in provoking mass irritation amongst the travelling public. It should be dropped from a great height -- along with the idiot who suggested it.
English is also culpable, thus joining the roll of dishonour comprised of finance ministers who have used levies to hide a tax rise.
Or -- more accurately in English's case -- to fund a tax cut.
If ever there was a smoke and mirrors Budget, it is this one.
- John Armstrong of the New Zealand Herald