Politics | Budget

Don't expect many surprises in Budget 2023 - Roskruge

Māori economist Matt Roskruge isn't expecting today's Budget to be a great lolly scramble by the Labour government and says there won't be any major surprises in it.

"You may have heard them downplay it, 'it's going to be no-frills', 'it's going to be a budget budget', 'it's going to be boring'. There will be some surprises, it is an election year and I'm hearing some pretty interesting things for education but I'm curbing my enthusiasm for now," he told before this morning's lockup in Parliament.

After significant wins in 2021 and 2022 for Māori, with more than $1b targeted at Māori last year alone, Roskruge is worried Budget 2023 may not be as good.

"It doesn't sound like there's an awful lot of targeted spend on Maori priorities. When I've talked to Māori staff around the ministries, they seem pretty glum.

"It's really interesting to see whether they keep following through on that or whether the Māori caucus has really struggled to get our priorities funded this time around."

Infrastructure replacement

Cyclone Gabrielle will play a significant role when Grant Robertson announces his sixth budget as Finance Minister, Roskruge says. And with high inflation and cost of living crisis, he sees the government not having much room to move.

"Because of the inflation, they can't spend too much money because it's just going to drive up inflation more. So most of the talk seems to be around attempts to bring prices down or to make things cheaper for Kiwis.

"There has already been about a billion dollars announced for infrastructure spending. It would be good to see a real solid commitment from the government to not just rebuilding those bridges and roads and all the other things that have been severely damaged but trying to future-proof them as well."

Health the big question

Health, education, justice and crime prevention are also areas he will watch with interest.

"Hopefully we see a couple of big commitments. I'd really like to see more targeted ringfence spending on mental health. When you look at crime, antisocial behaviour, and suicides, mental health is a real problem at the moment.

"Businesses might be a little bit grumpy. They might be looking for more support still coming out of Covid and all the disasters.

"Who knows with health? That's a real big question mark. It might get looked after but equally, it could go the other way.

"Police and justice are really struggling at the moment to do their jobs. And I haven't heard anything about support for them there either. But we'll wait and see."