"So, you want some more money, too?" (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

From ambitious to zero budget: an A-Z guide for Budget 2018

With the budget just weeks away we’ve created a helpful (mostly) alphabetic introduction to the mysteries of the annual government Budget.

A

Ambitious

What every budget always is.

B

Books

In budget-speak, this exclusively refers to accounts, often in relation to the balancing thereof, and disappointingly never to potboiler novels.

C

Chewing gum

Michael Cullen’s 2005 budget was derided as the “chewing gum budget”, after promised tax relief was thought to be worth about a pack of gum. There’s always a race to attach a label to a budget, and sometimes, like chewing gum, they stick.

D

Deficit and debt

These two concepts are different in a crucial way. A deficit is how much more money is going out across a particular budget year; the debt is the total cumulative amount owed.

E

Expenditure

Budget-speak for ‘spending.’

F

Fiscal headroom

How much money you have access to if you need to start borrowing. “Fiscal” is a catch-all term for government tax and spending; compare “monetary policy”.

G

GDP

Gross domestic product. In effect, the total economic output of the country.

H

Health

The area of the Budget that can literally never get enough money to satisfy everyone.

I

Interest payments

If government debt gets too high, then the interest payments can be financially damaging.

J

Jam tomorrow

A phrase that gets used when budgets are more austere, with the promise of further spending in future years. Completely coincidentally, jam years tend to also be election years.

K

Keynesian economics

Named after John Milton Keynes, an economist who theorised that governments can and should spend to stimulate the economy, particularly in times of recession.

L

Lolly scramble

How the opposition will invariably describe a budget with lots of new spending, especially anything looking like a pork barrel, although obviously that doesn’t make a very appetising lolly.

M

Monetary policy

The overall strategy implemented by central banks, to target interest rates or the rate of inflation. Not directly within the purview of the budget.

N

NEETs

People who are not in education, employment or training, and a key target for spending from Shane Jones’ billion dollar regional economic development fund.

O

OBEGAL

Budget nerd heaven, this is operating balance, excluding gains and losses.

P

Pre-budget announcements

In the weeks leading up to Budget Day, governments these days always make various portfolio-specific announcements, which means greater attention for those decisions, and fewer surprises on the day itself. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, budget commitments get announced lots of times.

Q

Quantitative easing

A method by which (in simplified terms) the government increases the monetary supply in the economy through a central bank, often described as “printing money”. Widely used overseas, but tends not to be in New Zealand.

R

Robertson, Grant. The finance minister who will be delivering his first budget. There are many questions about how Robertson will handle the budget, including: will he follow recent tradition and celebrate by eating a pie?

S

Surplus

More important symbolically than in fiscal reality, but delivery of a surplus – in which there is more in the revenue column than the expenditure column, has become a defining measurement of the performance of finance ministers in the last decade.

T

Ties

No, really. The colour of a tie the finance minister wears while presenting a Budget supposedly sends a signal about how they want it to be interpreted. A bright colour means it’s a bold, big spending budget, a muted colour means the Budget will be austere and dignified. Or so the pundits say.

U

Underfunding

This word will be used a lot by Mr Robertson, as he makes the case that there hasn’t been enough spending by the previous government, which he needs to correct.  

V

Visualisations

These are generally the key ways that Budget spending is communicated on the day, given the complexity of the figures being thrown around.

W

Wellbeing

A measure the current government plans to introduce by the 2019 Budget to track how the country is performing socially, culturally and environmentally, rather than just economically.

X

Xat

It’s tax, but backwards. Next!

Y

Yes

The word the finance minister never says straight away when another minister asks them for some more money in the Budget

Z

Zero budget

A budget in which there is no increase in spending. Typically used when governments are desperate to pay down debt


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