Dissecting government budget purely from the perspective of ethnic communities is not always an easy task at hand.
Simply because ethnic communities are least expected to form an opinion about the government of the day, on the basis of its fiscal performance, and thereby not incentivising the government to deliver something exclusively for them.
Lest it sounds patronising to many, it is to be submitted that majority in ethnic communities, like everywhere else, does form opinions on the basis of “feel good” factor – it is to say how it feels to them about the government of the day reaching out to them.
In this regard, Grant Robertson has delivered a feel-good budget, to the extent that it appears boring to many observers.
However that would potentially not stop ethnic communities from further warming up to the Labour-NZ First government, because it’s not the reality, but the perception of reality that eventually matters.
Anyway, if health sector is the biggest winner with around $3.2 billion spending, that includes $750 million for most urgent repairs for hospital buildings, then who would complain.
Similarly, the offer for the free doctor visit to under 14-year olds, as opposed to the current 13-year-olds would not be unwelcome for anyone in ethnic communities.
It is only that ethnic communities tend to get alarmed with the loud voices of excessive public sector spending potentially affecting the general well-being of the economy, which has not been a case this time.
To that extent, grant Robertson has succeeded in not losing any voters within ethnic communities due to any major announcement.
That is the general taste of this budget for the wider New Zealand anyway. The voters who had voted for the government in last October are still with them, and those who were at the middle ground, are still not detested, with any major policy announcement in the budget.
Probably this is the strategy, and rightly though, that the Ardern-Robertson seems to be pursuing so far – hold the barrel till 2020 before unleashing some extra spending.
Luckily, the Government is on track to spend an extra $24b over the next four years, with a forecasted incoming of an additional $20b in revenue over the same period, to support the above strategy.
However, what could immediately sway opinions within ethnic communities is the influx in law and order and first home buying – being safe, being able to earn a dignified living and owning their first home- is often the most cherished goal for which they migrate to New Zealand at the first place.
In that respect, though there is nothing much for the first home buyers and small business owners, the extra spending in corrections and police is bound to be seen with confidence within the ethnic communities.
Spending on prisons will go over $1 billion for the first time and Corrections has got the funding for pop-up prison units to house an extra 600 prisoners.
There will be an expectation that at least, some offenders who regularly threaten the lives of dairy owners and small business owners will find their way to these additional prison spaces.
Any investment in police, even if minuscule of $300 million generates a lot of confidence in the ethnic communities, purely because it gives them a sense of fewer ram-raids and aggravated assaults at their workplaces and retail outlets.
The funding in Budget 2018 will enable the recruitment of 920 new officers and 240 support staff, which is in addition to the 880 officers and 245 support staff announced in Budget 2017.
Will this eventually lead to overcome and reverse the recent spurt in the incidents of ram-raids and aggravated robberies, especially since the last couple of years remains to be seen?
However, for now, the Ardern-Robertson budget has been able to create a feel-good factor for the ethnic communities.