Thursday, May 22, 2014

How selfish can we get?

I was very disappointed with the latest Australian budget. One of Australia's most prominent economists John Quiggin called it a "moral failure".

My first concern is that the Government deceptively claimed that funding cuts are necessary because economic disaster looms because of continuing budget deficits. Look at Greece! However, this is purely a scare tactic because it is not an appropriate comparison since Australia's deficits and debts are much smaller than European countries that are in trouble. Second, the cuts in areas unpopular with conservatives [welfare, health, education, foreign aid] were accompanied by spending increases in defence, "border protection",  and middle class welfare such as the paid parental leave scheme...
Maybe a coherent case can be made for making some of these cuts but it should be done with integrity and logical consistency.

My second disappointment was not just the cut in foreign aid, but the significant policy shift that foreign aid should not be about alleviating poverty but advancing Australia's commercial and strategic interests. How selfish can we get? This shift is similar to one made recently by the Canadian government and the problems are described here.

On a less serious scale, what was worse than the 3 per cent cut in funding for the Australian Research Council [from whom I get most of my research funding] was the declaration that it was an "efficiency levy"! Politicians don't seem to have the courage to call a spade a spade.

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