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OPINION: Robbing the paper boys to pay the Bills

Friday 25 May 2012 1:29 p.m.

It's an underwhelming budget from a largely underwhelming Finance Minister - and that's just how he wants it

It's an underwhelming budget from a largely underwhelming Finance Minister - and that's just how he wants it

By Political Editor Duncan Garner

It's the penny-pinching, paper boy Budget.

A million here, a million there. No one walks away from this budget without getting hit in some way.

No matter how small - we've all gone backwards. Even the fancy guys with the planes get hit. All two of them. I bet Sir Peter Jackson is struggling to cope.

But it's the removal of the tax rebate for the paper boys and girls that looks particularly nasty.

Bill English saves about $16 million from cutting the rebate from the 68,000 paper boys and girls around the country. It's a pittance. It's mean-spirited. We need to teach our kids the value of work and the value of money.

Already some of these kids have been in touch with us. They are seriously peeved. As one said to me, when the cheque arrived it was the best day of his life. We need to encourage these kids - not smack them.

Apart from letting the air out of the tyres of the paper boys, it's an underwhelming budget from a largely underwhelming Finance Minister - and that's just how he wants it.

There's nothing big and bold from English - unless you count the $160 million for a new science and innovation institute at some stage in the future.

He doesn't want people talking about this Budget next week - I bet Labour will not shut up about it.

He's promised 154,000 jobs over the next four years, most economists wonder if that will really happen. It's bullish to say the least. Economic growth for the next year is expected to be 2.6 percent.

But last year they said it would 4 percent. It's been pegged back. The world is melting down. To get to 2.6 percent we will need Christchurch being rebuilt at a faster pace than last year.

Activity there is not what the Government had hoped. It's why the deficit is smaller at $8.4 billion - money set aside to rebuild Christchurch hasn't been spent.

So that's the best-case scenario really. The downside scenario is uglier and very possible given Europe. Then we'd face a $25 billion hole in the economy, $8 billion less revenue, higher interest rates and high unemployment.

So Budget 2012 is over - a mean little document that takes a bit from all of us - without hurting any of us in a terminal way. No one will need medication and thank god for that because don't forget the trip to the chemist will cost more too.

It's not slash and burn. It's not big. It's not bold. It's not creative. But it is perhaps quite cunning and clever. Because National is trimming and inching its way to a tiny little surplus which is entirely vulnerable and means absolutely zero.

And that's symbolic of this budget. A zero.

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