OECD points to sensible fiscal policy, not ‘budget crisis’

Despite the “don’t cut hard” headlines, the message from the OECD’s Economic Outlook, published overnight, is positive for the Australian economy, and once again demonstrates how Treasurer Joe Hockey’s “budget crisis” is a myth.

In particular, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development sees the economy in a considerably healthier state than Hockey tried to portray in December, when he released the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. The OECD forecasts 2.6% growth in calendar year 2014 and 2.9% in calendar 2015. That’s far closer to the forecasts made independently of any politicians by the Departments of Treasury and Finance in the Pre-election Fiscal and Economic Outlook document, prepared in August last year, than MYEFO: PEFO had growth at 2.5% for 2013-14 and 3% for 2014-15, but Hockey downgraded that to 2.5% and 2.5% in MYEFO, which along with his big downward revisions to nominal GDP, substantially increased the forecast budget deficit for next year. The September and December quarter GDP numbers, in fact, suggest the economy is travelling much closer to 3% than 2.5%, which might explain why, as at February, the budget deficit was tracking $3 billion below expectations for the first eight months of the year.

The OECD sticks to the official government story on the budget deficit, reflecting the fact that its forecasts are based on consultation with Treasury. Even so, it forecasts a significant fall in the budget deficit in fiscal balance terms from -2.5% this year to -1.4% in calendar 2015, which is about the average of the MYEFO forecasts for the relevant fiscal years. But that is still less than half the average fiscal balance deficit of the OECD, 3.2%, in 2015 — despite the OECD predicting that growth in developed countries will lift significantly next year.

And by the way, despite its consultations with Treasury, the OECD showed an interesting and unusual degree of independence when it pointed that Hockey’s decision to hand $8.8 billion dollars to the Reserve Bank to help the RBA boost up its reserve fund has contributed to the projected budget deficit (and the total federal government debt, of course). That’s the sort of independent analysis you don’t mind seeing from groups like the OECD.

And while the government mulls a debt levy and whether to incur the political damage of breaking a promise to support a tax rise that will be defeated in the Senate and not deliver a cent in extra revenue, other actions by Joe Hockey continue to confound the “budget crisis” line. We’ve repeatedly pointed out that any fiscal “crisis” is being made considerably worse by Hockey dumping the mining tax, the carbon price and Labor’s proposed tax on high superannuant incomes and its closure of the novated lease loophole. But last week the government was trying, amid the messaging carnage of the deficit levy and the Commission of Audit, to flog the line that the proceeds of asset sales could be directed to Tony Abbott’s quest to be “the Infrastructure Prime Minister” (as if little children decades hence will, upon hearing Abbott’s name, turn and nod to each other: “he was the Infrastructure Prime Minister”.) If there’s a real budget crisis, the proceeds of asset sales would go straight to paying down the debt Hockey seeks to portray as out of control thanks to Labor’s profligacy.

If you want to see an example of how that works in reality, look at public housing construction.”

It was on infrastructure, by the way, that Tony Shepherd’s Commission of Audit displayed the sort of good sense that was entirely absent from the rest of that document, in effect saying the Commonwealth’s role should be limited to funding projects that would yield considerable benefits but would not otherwise go ahead, and that user pays should be fundamental to infrastructure financing, including not just building new roads, but user pricing for all vehicles everywhere. Bravo, Tony and Co. — pity no politician will touch that.

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Categories: Economy, Federal

7 Responses

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  1. Foolish Hockey, he made the fatal mistake of reading his own press releases on the woeful state of Australia’s economy.

    He repeatedly berated the former government for landing the nation in Debtors’ Prison &, at some point, it appears he lost sight of reality & actually fell for his own nonsense. Now it’s stuck like s**t to a blanket and there’s no chance for a dignified retreat.

    by zut alors on May 7, 2014 at 2:07 pm

  2. My favourite quote from Sloppy in the last two years was that “… labor was leaving the economy a smoking ruin”.

    by AR on May 7, 2014 at 2:19 pm

  3. With any luck, Hockey will be sensible next Tuesday” and, with any luck I will win OzLotto; both eventualities unlikely.
    The Libs cannot help themselves. Get in on a scare campaign (or create one), then screw the workers and underprivileged to help their mates up the totem pole by whatever means available.
    Welsome to what was a fair society.

    by MJPC on May 7, 2014 at 3:51 pm

  4. Surely no-one would be surprised. The mendacious, empty, slogans-for-bogans strategy that worked so well in getting phony Tony elected, will be seen in future to have characterised the entire disastrous Abbott government. What we see here is sloganomics.

    by EmuBob on May 7, 2014 at 8:14 pm

  5. In the medium to long term, the blame game (its all Labor’s fault) will be seen for what it is - nonsense! Hopefully everyone ‘gets it’ before the next election.
    We cannot afford two terms of this ‘wreck the joint’ government.

    by CML on May 8, 2014 at 1:48 am

  6. Guaranteed if things don’t turn out half as bad as the MYEFO outlook, Joe and co. will spruik what a great job the government’s done to avert “the crisis”. Of course, if it all backfires and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as BK & GD suggest…
    One thing’s for sure, the more radical the budget, the harder it will be to blame the previous govt if the economy does go south. It’ll be a case of, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.”

    by Tyger Tyger on May 8, 2014 at 2:39 am

  7. A pregnant pause, for Toady and Joe Shonkey’s over-egged “Magic Puddin’ Club”.

    by klewso on May 9, 2014 at 10:07 am

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