Yes, I know. Here comes the accountant in all her boring glory. But, try to bear with me on this, because it is important. It demonstrates yet another way in which the government is fudging the numbers, trying to make things look better than they really are.

However, if you are having trouble sleeping, it might be a good idea to bookmark this article until 1.00 am. I promise, it will be much better than chamomile tea or sleeping pills.

The pressures of the Government’s multibillion-dollar wave of Covid-19 economic support have prompted a change in the way Treasury calculates some of its key indicators.

Treasury is responsible for running the numbers on two key indicators of government spending, the cyclically adjusted balance (CAB) and the structural balance.

Don’t drop off to sleep quite yet. The importance of this is that these two indicators help economists to look at where we are in the economic cycle and to split off one-off expenses designed to keep the economy going in times of crisis. It identifies abnormal spending away from ‘normal’ spending, if you like.

We could probably forgive them if this were due to a massive spend on the health service, including new hospitals, more ICU beds, more doctors and nurses but we all know now that no money has gone into boosting the health service. Far from it.

At the onset of the pandemic, the initial Covid support package and CRRF spending had been excluded from the structural balance.

However, the kind of spending coming out of the Covid fund changed this.

A lot of the Covid fund was spent on already-existing lines of government spending, meaning it was difficult to work out what was one-off economic stimulus, and what was a longer-term increase to a line of spending.

“… because a large quantity of CRRF spending was allocated to existing appropriations, we are no longer able to specifically identify it in the Crown accounts,” the Treasury paper said.

Spending on the Covid fund has caused headaches across Government. The Auditor–General, the Parliamentary spending watchdog, looked into the Government’s Covid-19 spending, and – for a number of reasons – found it was “unable to readily or conclusively determine how much expenditure the Government has decided to approve for the Covid-19 response so far”.

This was mainly due to it being difficult to disentangle Covid-related spending from ordinary spending that just happened to rise or fall in response to Covid.

The Auditor-General recommended the Government provide “regular, easy-to-access report summarising how much of the Covid-19 funding has been allocated, how much of the available funding remains unallocated, the actual amount of spending to date on main initiatives and, ultimately, what has been achieved”.

NZ Herald

Good luck with that. This is just a part of the pattern of the most opaque government in our history. If they can hide things from the people and cover them up, they will. If they get caught out, they can always rely on their bought-and-paid-for media to run cover for them; to find a puff piece about Neve, or something about the ‘first bloke’. They are held to account by no one.

All of this may not seem important but making changes to the way things are reported muddies the waters of government reporting – which is exactly what this government wants.

In fact, this government is doing what all socialist governments do and that is to spend a gigantic amount of other people’s money. When they run out of it, they print more, with the blessing of a very acquiescent Reserve Bank governor. But by spending some of the freshly-printed funds on non-COVID matters, the government is being sneaky, veiling its blown-out normal spending by pretending it has been spent on the pandemic.

What else would you expect of the ‘most open and transparent government’ of all time?


Ex-pat from the north of England, living in NZ since the 1980s, I consider myself a Kiwi through and through, but sometimes, particularly at the moment with Brexit, I hear the call from home. I believe...