Economist consensus - there's no $11.7b hole in Labour's budget

Ahead of Monday's Leaders Debate, National dropped a huge allegation - that Labour had made an error in its costings, leaving a gaping $11.7b hole in its planned spending.

Labour has strongly denied this, but National's not letting it go. They repeated on Tuesday there is an $11.7b fiscal hole, altering their wording to say, "Labour either have their budget allowances wrong or they've simply left out billions and billions of dollars of government spending in future years from their plan."

If Labour's calculated its fiscals incorrectly, leaving the gaping hole, that could seriously damage its economic credibility.

If Labour's correct and the numbers add up, National could be left explaining exactly where that claim came from.

An attempt to damage Labour's economic credibility could end up seriously backfiring on National.

Economist consensus - there's no $11.7b hole in Labour's budget
Photo credit: Newshub.

Here's what the economists say:

Dr Ganesh Nana, BERL Executive Director, says the numbers make sense and the "alleged hole is a fiction arising from a disagreement over definitions".

Verdict: There is no hole

ANZ Chief Economist Cameron Bagrie

“There's no hole. But they don't have a lot of money to play with in the 2019 and 2020 budgets. They've basically computed up front to what they are going to do for three years. That's fine but the wheels of government still need to turn and be funded."

Verdict: There is no hole

Bernard Hickey, Newsroom Pro economics journalist

"There is no hole in Labour's fiscal plan. It's just a political argument about cost inflation and spending priorities." 

Verdict: There is no hole

Former NZIER economist Shamubeel Eaqub: There isn't an $11.7b hole from what I can see."

Verdict: There is no hole

Keith Ng, Public Address/Spinoff economics and data journalist: "There is no missing money. The money is accounted for. I suspect there's some shenanigans around why Labour did it this way (to make the health/education/etc lines look bigger, basically), but it's literally a question of whether you put the numbers on row 239 or row 228 in the spreadsheet."

Verdict: There is no hole

Sam Warburton, Research Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative:

"National appears to have looked at one line (the "operating allowance") in Labour's budget without looking at the other 16 lines in the Budget. If they had, they would have seen extra money has been allocated to those lines such as Health, Education, Social Welfare and Housing.

“It looks like National's mistake came from only looking at the operating allowance and expecting to see a greater amount of flexibility for future expenditure, eg inflation. Labour has effectively said 'we'll book in some of that future expenditure now'. Whether providing that certainty to Health and Education now is best or keeping things more flexible in case of unknown future demand or events is best is a judgement call. But there is no $12 billion hole.”

Verdict: There is no $11.7b hole

Mac McKenna, Taxpayers Union economist, says the lobby group has found National is partially correct.

Verdict: There is a hole, just might not be $11.7b

Dr Vernon Small, Fairfax Political Reporter

"What we have here is a small unallocated spending pot and poor word choice by Labour and a huge over-reach for a political hit by National".

Verdict: There is no hole

Brian Fallow, Economic Columnist, NZ Herald

"In terms of the argument, Robertson is right, and Joyce is wrong. [...]The money isn’t missing", he said on RNZ.

Verdict: There is no hole

Newshub.

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