Education claim not supported

Associate Professor Brian Roper. Photo: ODT files
Associate Professor Brian Roper. Photo: ODT files
Following the 2017 election, this Government proclaimed its desire to be a transformative government. Less ambitiously, the theme of Budget 2023 is "Support for Today, Building for Tomorrow".

In reality, with respect to economic management and its policy-making in areas such as education, health, housing, welfare, employment relations and taxation, this Government has been far from transformative.

Politically, the Hipkins-led Labour Government is closer to the right-wing economic, social and tax policies of New Zealand’s Fourth Labour Government from 1984 to 1990 than it is to the left-wing "we are many, they are few" policies of the British Labour Party when it was led by Jeremy Corbyn from 2015 to 2020.

For example, in Budget 2023 tertiary education hardly gets a mention apart from apprenticeships. Labour presided over deep cuts to funding of tertiary education providers in 2022 and 2023, allowing for inflation which peaked at 7.3% in June 2022 combined with the 1.7% and 2.75% caps placed on tuition fee rises for those years.

In Budget 2023 it claims to be providing "an increase of 5.3% for tertiary tuition and training subsidies ... to support providers to manage increases in delivery costs".

But this claim is not supported by the figures provided Treasury in its Economic and Fiscal Update 2023. Excluding some additional funding for student loans and allowances, tuition nominal funding for providers is forecast to increase by $71 million or 2.2% of the total from 2023 to 2024.

With Treasury optimistically forecasting inflation to be 3.3% in 2024, this amounts to yet another cut in real terms.

This will hardly warm the hearts of the staff and students facing cuts to jobs and degrees at the five of eight New Zealand universities now experiencing financial difficulties as a result of chronic government underfunding spanning the past decade.

• Brian Roper is an associate professor of politics at the University of Otago.