Government commits to setting up an independent fiscal institution to provide non-partisan costings of political parties’ policies 

The Government has committed to establishing an independent body to provide the public with non-partisan costings of political parties’ policies and assessments of government forecasts.

A Green Party initiative, Associate Finance Minister James Shaw says: “That way we can reduce political point-scoring and attempts to create unreasonable doubt about a party’s policy figures.

“That will mean better debate about the ideas being put forward.”

Much of the 2017 election debate was marred by National and Labour disagreeing over the existence of an “$11 billion fiscal hole” in Labour’s books.

“This independent fiscal institution (IFI) would crunch the numbers on political parties’ election policies in a credible and consistent way,” Shaw says.

IFIs have existed in many OECD countries for a number of decades and 26 of the 35 OECD countries now have one.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says, “We are keen to hear people’s views about the possible functions the new institution might undertake and how it could be established.”

A public consultation process will begin in August.

ASB economists say the creation of an IFI “may well be the lasting legacy of Budget 2018".

The New Zealand Initiative think tank supports the scheme, having advocated for one in a 2014 report.

One of the report writers, Bryce Wilkinson, says: “An independent Office of Parliament could be useful beyond evaluating fiscal policy proposals during general election campaigns."

He says an IFI could be helpful in “monitoring and reporting on the degree to which a government’s plans were responding to longer-term fiscal pressures”.

“It would also check the degree to which government agencies were rigorously assessing the value for money in government spending. Such a council could also usefully service Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee.”

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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31 Comments

I wonder what bad things the coalition of sore losers (CoSL) will have to say about this?

I guess it's a waste of money having to prevent their lies? A real "kick in the guts" for the "hard working taxpayer"?

I can’t really see the point of costing things that will likely end up as broken promises e.g. a home for everyone aka Kiwiblunder.

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That was fairly weak. Try harder.

Right from the horses mouth i.e. the Labour Party manifesto

Build 100,000 affordable homes across the country

Labour’s KiwiBuild programme will build 100,000 high quality, affordable homes over 10 years, with 50% of them in Auckland. Standalone houses in Auckland will cost $500,000 to $600,000, with apartments and townhouses under $500,000. Outside Auckland, houses will range from $300,000 to $500,000.

I rest my case. It’s clear who is talking porkies and/or oozing excrement to repeat a phrase coined earlier this week. You can stick to the party line but I think you’ve been had. The emperor has no clothes.

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I'll happily join you in holding them to account, the prices need to be lower, and so does immigration.

Sadly the only other option on the table is National and they think the ideal house price is north a million.

thats the problem, national still wont admit there is an issue so hence wont come up with any solutions apart from buying motels.
and yes labour do need to be pushed on building and immigration (which they have back tracked on big time)

That's the crux of it. Even if Labour after three years has tried solutions and failed, young Kiwis will probably still be ahead of where they would have been under a National Granny State who only continues to deny problems exist.

Evidently we get the politicians we deserve with that perspective. Promise the world, deliver little and still get your vote (probably always have). As the cliche goes, life is not a rehearsal, and FHB have been conned to believe they would be provided with homes at reasonable prices. They will be pensioners without homes at this rate. As Steinbeck wrote, “Will there be rabbits George?”

Promise the world, deliver little and still get your vote

Describes what I got with John Key, I guess, yeah. Made a change to hold them accountable after having their chance to keep their promises, and not doing so.

National attempted RMA reform - the primary thing they could do to make housing cheaper without getting heavy handed (and un-democratic) over forcing local govt to perform better to help reduce costs. They were stymied by Labour and NZF and Greens and so were unable to get any reform through.

Meanwhile Auckland Council has been Labour controlled (Len Brown and Phil Goff) for the last 8 years, overseeing the rise of the whole housing crisis there, they have control over the district plan etc and have closest responsibility for the evolving clusterfuck that is Auckland's overpriced housing with their high regulatory burdens imposed and restricted land supplies adding 100k's to cost of building new houses (thereby setting price floor).

The 'rock-star' economy of National's last two terms saw house build rate rise continuously from 1000/month in 2011 to 3000/month in 2017, a 15% compounding rise per year, that if continued would have outpaced the (broken) kiwibuild promise of extra 800/month within 2 years. 3000/month is enough to keep pace with immigration at average 2.4 occupancy.

With their admission of inability to deliver anywhere near their promised build rates it appears that the Coaliton is not going to improve the situation at all, and compared to national's trajectory on house build rates it rather appears that the situation is going to be worse.

National attempted RMA reform - the primary thing they could do to make housing cheaper without getting heavy handed (and un-democratic) over forcing local govt to perform better to help reduce costs. They were stymied by Labour and NZF and Greens and so were unable to get any reform through.

National had a four-headed majority coalition they didn't manage well enough to get the RMA reform through. They can't blame that on the opposition.

Why can't they? National supported the latest Labour led TTP policy. If Labour thought the RMA support would help wider NZ, why didn't they do the same?

because the dissolving the RMA was a pretext and an excuse to turn NZ into a cesspit for the profit for some. Fortunately it looked like enough NZers rejected that that it got no where.

because the dissolving the RMA was a pretext and an excuse to turn NZ into a cesspit for the profit for some. Fortunately it looked like enough NZers rejected that that it got no where.

This is a complete about face from your recent proclamations that the role of the opposition is to prevent the government from progressing its policies. Might be worth investing in a rotating office chair to save some energy.

The RMA didnt impact this (housing) in any significant way IMHO. Please provide some evidence?

The problem with housing is to rectify it someone(s) has to pick up the bill or lose shed loads of $s to get it done and no one wanted to be the losers.

When all is said and done the coalition is at least trying. Vote back in National 2 years from now and it will be back to doing nothing for 3 years.

BL, it would be nice if your posts were focused on issues rather than other commenters

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I think its quite a good idea, total transparency across all parties.

Good, will help naive and unrealistic 'idealistic' parties get their policies properly costed before presenting them to public, so that perhaps reality an temper their zeal. Should also bring economic policies into closer alignment across the political spectrum and improve the quality of governments formed.

Probably one instance where subsidising political parties is worth it.

Yeah they could apply it to byelections too and we could see how much extra charges will be put on drivers to pay for ACTs $20 billion dollar motorway plan. No less than two new motorways carving down the north shore and crossing the harbour. If you think National and Labours recent fuel tax increases were heavy well you ain't seen nothing yet.

Do you have a link so I can read about this?

Stephen Berry is well known to be unhinged.

What the Greater Auckland opinion piece failed to mention is how we will fund the completion of the motorway network.

By raising the age of entitlement for National Superannuation up to 67 by 2032, we will save $58 billion over twenty years. This amount will be siphoned off into an Auckland Transport fund and used to pay for the contrsuction.

Greater Auckland suggested our motorway plan would cost $29 billion, which is HALF of the provision we are making.

We will also cancel Labour's fuel tax plans and reverse all fuel taxes increased under the previous National government.Electronic Road Pricing will be introduced, using pre-paid cards placed on vehicle dashboards which will be debited as people pass through gantrieson major arterial routes or highways. The amount will vary depending on congestion; creating incentives for people and businesses to adapt to using their vehicles during quieter times. The charges currently in place will be displayed on the gantries and a transport app which gives people as much information as possible to help them plan their journeys.

As you can see, the motorway building plan isn't just expenditure neutral; there will be billions of dollars in change left over. ERP and a much lower fuel tax can then be used to fund maintenance as each section is completed.

What's more, as a strong believer in private property rights, we will endeavour to ensure as few residential properties as possible are impacted as our Northcote crossing proposal will prove when we release it near the end of the month.

An enormous amount of planning and detail has gone into this proposal and, unlike Labour's budget figures, the math adds up.

I've been door-knocking in the Northcote electorate daily and I am yet to meet a single voter on Onewa Rd who opposes our Northcote crossing plan.

So you mean Steven "I do math gud" Joyce was lying this hole time.
http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/election/2017/09/steven-joyce-standing-by-...

Let's no forget that there's no housing crisis. Clearly there's no need for Kiwibuild according to National.
https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/68621964/No-housing-crisis-in-Auc...

The government plans to borrow an extra $10 billion over the next 3 years - that sounds awfully close to a $11 billion hole. So if this independent body does get set up then Labour would have to admit that there was a $10 billion hole in the calculations.

Only if they've been smoking what Steven Joyce was smoking prior to the election.

Great move by the government, well done

It sounds like a good idea. It would be interesting to know if it has worked in the countries that have tried it.

These things are just so easy to stack in your favour. Two questions arise:
Who decides who sits on this council?
What is the career risk for the people on the council and how will they respond to this?

Agreed and leaving aside all the partisan yapping going on here, that is the crux of this column. And agreed that the composition will need to be neutral and balanced. If you can find academics like that, then that will be fine. Always thought that Joyce’s billions of $’s hole attack was a pale imitation of Keating destroying John Howard. Of course not only was Keating devastatingly clever and destructive, he was right!