Sep 21, 2011

Ask the economists: is Wayne Swan the world’s best treasurer?

Is Wayne Swan the world's most effective money manager? Euromoney has crowned him, but Crikey put the questions to our own economists for their assessment.

He may not get the guernsey of Australia’s most engaging politician, but Wayne Swan’s fiscal policies have received recognition from a long-time leading global magazine in finance and banking. Euromoney named Swan as its 2011 Financial Minister of the Year, due to “careful stewardship of Australia’s finances … during and since the global financial crisis”.

Swan follows Paul Keating as only the second Australian to win the award, which he will receive on Sunday at a reception in Washington. But is Swan really the world’s greatest financial minister? We put it to some of Australia’s key economists to explain whether or not he was rightfully named as No.1.

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30 thoughts on “Ask the economists: is Wayne Swan the world’s best treasurer?

  1. gregb

    No prizes for guessing which newspaper Michael Knox reads.

  2. Barbara Boyle

    Gee, Crikey,this article’s opening salvo has me wondering: Who would gain the guernsey for Australia’s most engaging politicion?

  3. Damien

    Michael Knox: “the government responsible for Australia’s recovery from the recession is the best government in the world, the government of China.” Just don’t stop taking the tablets so suddenly next time, Michael.

    Eslake’s right. You have to wonder about the competition for this award, given that Europe and the US – and several other developed places are in the financial cr*pper.

  4. Peter Evans

    Doesn’t Michael Knox enjoying sounding like a tool! Cost overruns! Name them! A 3% complaints rate! Knox – go back into the nutty Abbott-esque alternative universe you came from and don’t come back.

  5. Chess C

    This is hilarious. Wayne “Goose” Swan the world’s best treasurer?
    Those who really deserve credit for the non-basket case status of the Australian economy:
    (1) The employees in the Department of Treasury – for doing a relatively good job despite their incompetent leader.
    (2) Wayne Swan’s predecessors – Paul Keating and Peter Costello. The former for making courageous reforms, the latter for being fiscally disciplined. When Goose came to the job, he was handed the best fiscal position of any country in the OECD.
    (3) China
    And before we get too self-congratulatory about being the world’s best economy, let’s see how the current storm clouds play out (the bursting of the household/private debt bubble and the punishingly high Australian dollar.) With Goose in charge, I’m sure we have nothing to fear.

  6. Jim Reiher

    Knox could not really have said that could he? Economists know that a stimulus package to generate economic activity has to be money spent fast, and money spent locally that keeps having further spending as a result of it. It does not have to be money spent efficiently! Surely he would not expose his political bias that badly would he!?

    Chess C – if things go bad, Swan would be blamed by you, … right? Not treasury, not Costello and Keating, … just “current Labor”. You want your cake and you want to eat it too!

    Swan is a terrific Australian, well deserving of the award (as leader of a team as noted above). Not the most charismatic character, but a solid, sensible, and caring polly. More of ’em I say!

  7. Bill Hilliger

    Whilst he couldn’t claim the full kudos, as with all things ministerial in government there is the reliance on the team from the Department Finance. Wayne Swan had the position of accepting or not accepting advice from the Department and any other source of advice when making his decisions. Likewise because of his actions during the GFC, Australia did come out of it relatively well. Swan deserves the credit, why? Because, if all had gone pear shaped he would have worn the blame. At the time there was a hue and cry of “megaphone proportions” about the stimulus package from the opposition and the media – this alone would justify Wayne Swan credit for the good economic management. One does wonder (seeing it did work) whether opposition to the stimulus package from the LNP Jerimiahs would by now also have us in recession. They never did put forward a tangible alternative approach other – than say “we would not have gone into debt.” they would have slashed and burned; lots of people unemployed and the unhappiness register would have gone off the scale. Finally, yes, if it wasn’t for China we would be in a very different position. Lastly, lucky us!

  8. Chess C

    @Jim – no. I do blame Costello for the household/private debt bubble. It was under his stewardship of the economy that it occurred, spurred on by the housing bubble which was kick-started by his first home buyer’s grant.
    Wayne Swan has been lucky. He hasn’t had to do anything yet. He inherited a treasury flush with cash, and the afore mentioned bubble hasn’t burst (yet). When it does, no it won’t be his fault. But he will be judged on how he responds to it. And personally, I doubt he will be up to the challenge.

  9. Whistleblower

    I cannot believe that this economic illiterate who is only in the position because of ALP factional politics could be recognised in such a manner. He inherited the budget in surplus and has run up record deficits without the capacity to repay borrowings without substantial increases in taxation. Whilst the Australian economy may be receiving a ringing endorsement, it is because of its relative strength compared to other continuing failures in Europe and the United States that makes Australia stand out.

    This is the Treasurer who has presided over pink batts the NBN the BER, RSPT, MRRT, Rudd ‘s ETS, the subsequent Gillard backflip on Carbon Tax, massive political porkbarrelling to buy votes and an inability to answer even basic economic questions off his own bat. In addition he played Brutus in Rudd’s execution by Gillard and the factions. If I had a Euromoney subscription I would cancel it.

    I hope he has somebody from Treasury write his acceptance speech, because he would be lucky to be put 10 sensible words together giving advice to other G20 countries without six meaningless cliches. I can only assume that the competitive field must have been absolutely appalling for Swan to be the top candidate. As the Treasurer presiding over record deficits he is in no position to lecture others on poor economic management.

  10. Whistleblower

    Message for the moderator. I know deep down the bowels of Crikey there is a human monitoring the computer aided system of flagging comments for moderation.

    I have reviewed my post and I cannot determine what is/are the naughty word/s. Is it the descriptor “economic illiterate”, or perhaps “Rudd’s execution” which has caused the dreaded word scanner to react.

    Perhaps you could publish the list of “naughty words” embedded in your piece of intelligence software on the same basis that people are asking Conroy to disclose his secret list of prescribed identifiers for proposal for censoring internet URLs. This will help me avoid the embarrassment of regular moderation annotations on my post subject to potential censorship.

    This is not the first time I have asked for this list to be published. I hope this time the list is published.

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