Sunday 2 June 2019

Around the budget traps

Budget lock-up on Thursday was fun. I didn't get to ask Minister Robertson whether he still had confidence in his Treasury Secretary, but it probably would have been rude to ask. 

A few bits from me on it over at the Spinoff, our Insights Newsletter, and over in the Stuff newspapers - I think it ran in both the Dom and the Press on Friday. They reversed the headline, but s'all good.

The end of my Dom piece:
Treasury often undertakes this kind of programme evaluation work, or at least assists in overseeing it. But Treasury's core economic and analytical capabilities have been seriously eroded under its secretary, Gabriel Makhlouf.

Treasury was awarded $5m a year over the next four years to "deliver core functions and the wellbeing approach". Rebuilding Treasury to be able to deliver the evaluation capabilities necessary for achieving Robertson's vision may be a bigger job than that.

It would have perhaps been the wrong day to ask the minister of finance whether he has any confidence in Treasury's capability to deliver. I have doubts.

Programme evaluation has always been the poor cousin to programme announcements. When voters too easily infer a government's depth of caring by the quantity of its spending, rather than the outcomes that spending achieves, that outcome is not surprising.

I hope the wellbeing approach yet proves to be something more than that. It may otherwise be difficult to distinguish from business as usual.

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