“I said surface, not surplus”

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National have long been promising the people of New Zealand a return to surplus by the end of the 2014/15 financial year. But now Treasury are forecasting a half billion dollar deficit.

It’s the worst possible news for Finance Minister Bill English. But let’s be fair to English. Is any of this really his fault? And should we even be concerned?

Here are ten explanations, excuses or distractions Bill English might like to employ over the coming few days.

  1. This is only because of a drop in dairy prices. How could anyone possibly foresee that they would drop from historic highs?
  2. Did you think I said surplus? No, I said a return to the surface, not a surplus. I was referring to the vessels currently searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane MH370. I read somewhere that they were expecting to complete their underwater searches next year, at which point they would come back up to the surface. Maybe you ought to get your ears checked.
  3. I would point out that it’s only technically a deficit. Let’s not all get hung up on a few numbers on the wrong side of a ledger.
  4. Labour had nine long years to get the country back into surplus by 2014/15. Why don’t the media focus on the real culprits?
  5. We’re not afraid to make the tough calls. The fact that we have the courage to break such a fundamental election promise just proves we are absolutely the right party to lead New Zealand.
  6. We’ll be fine. Especially once we have passed urgent legislation extending the current financial year to December 2017.
  7. Numbers are so boooring. Why can’t we talk about something fun for once?
  8. What promise? There was no promise. The budget surplus thing was just an aspirational goal. Just like how we’d like the All Blacks to win the next World Cup. Good God, I’m only the Finance Minister. I can’t control how the All Blacks perform, can I?
  9. When I said 2014/15 I was just estimating. Like when you go to your mechanic and say “how much will it cost to fix my car?” and he says “three hundred bucks,” but he ends up charging six hundred bucks because he finds something else wrong with the car. And you pay the six hundred, even though he didn’t tell you something else was wrong until the job was finished.  I’m like the mechanic.
  10. Yes, we’ll get there in 2014/15 for sure. I am utterly confident of our meeting that target. I am of course using the Islamic calendar, and the year is currently 1436 AH. I’m sure we’ll get to surplus some time during the next five or six hundred years. And if we don’t I will resign. Yes, you can quote me on that.