The Ashburton Guardian. AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER THURSDAY, JUNE 17, 1880.
“ Economy and Retrenchment. ” These •words form the refrain of the Financial Statement, and they have also become a sort of watchword and rallying cry from the Land’s End to the John o’ Groats of the colony. Looking at what the Government now in office have done in the direction which these words indicate, he would be ungracious indeed who would not accord them a fair mead of praise. In fact they have done more than ever was attempted before, but as a set-off again it may be urged that the circumstances of the colony never before required so many turns of the screw as the state of affairs to-day render imperative. On the otherhand, with the estimates before us, and some time spent in looking over what they contain, it is palpable that far more could be done—and, wo fear, must bo done —before the colony is satisfied that economy and retrenchment have been carried to their utmost point. It is easy to find fault, easy to point out difficulties ; but a far different thing when, burdened with the responsibility of administration, one is called upon to act, remedy faults, and rectify errors. Still, those estimates show strange figures- The census gives us a population of 400,000 over, while column upon column of the 128 foolscap pages of the Estimates show amounts to be paid away as salaries lo Government officials, until,roughly totting up these sums we find that more than a million is thus annually disposed of. We say it is easy to find fault, but not so easy to suggest a remedy. Government tells us that they have already reduced the pay-sheet by £50,000, and they purpose a still further reduction. But on the face of it a million pounds paid away for the conduct of public business amongst a population not so great as some provincial cities in the old country is surely extraordinary, and much could yet be done in the way of retrenchment that has not been attempted by Government. We are fully aware that much hardship will be entailed if the pruning knife is ruthlessly inserted, and many public servants dispensed with ; but then,
again, economy and retrenchment are the cry, and without economy and retrenchment exorcised in a very great degree we must submit to additional taxation. Even with these virtues exercised as Government have exercised them, we must still face a property tax, a beer tax, and increased stamp duties. But is the country to be taxed simply because the Government do not care to bring the Civil Service within the limits that the circumstances of the colony can afford 1 When a man in business can no longer afford employment to a large staff of men, he does not keep them on, —however much he would wish to, —and pay them out of capita], simply because he knows they will encounter hardship if he discharges them. Were a large contingent of the public officers now in the service of the Government to he discharged, and sent out to seek a living from other masters, there would doubtless be hardship encountered by many of them. But bow much hardship has been encountered, and is now bring encountered, by hundreds at this moment, who have never enjoyed the sunshine of Governmental favor, nor pocketed a penny of Go vernment money. As soon as employment became scarce through the inability of employers to pay wages, hundreds were drifted off, to find a living as best they might. In how many instances Government pays salaries ranging from £6OO to £I,OOO a year, it would not take long to find out with the estimates before us, and we do not think it would be very difficult, if earnest and firm men set themselves the task, to say how many of these could be “ regretfully dispensed with owing to financial difficulties.” Salaries like these are not such as should bo paid at the present time, especially when additional taxation has to be resorted to to find the money to pay them with. If the colony cannot afford to pay the rate of wages, nor to employ the number of servants, that are paid out of the public funds, then clearly they ought to be dispensed with. It is all very web to raise the cry of the public service being impaired by a too free issuing of the walking ticket; but when such efficiency as we already enjoy is only secured at a cost to the taxpayers that they cannot afford, and can only meet by dipping further into not too well furnished pockets there ought to be some preparedness to risk the threatened inefficiency. We do not fear the advent of this inefficiency—there are too many competent men threatened with a relegation to the ranks of the unemployed for the threat to have any meaning, and Government servants know the state of financial affairs throughout the colony as well as other men do. The above remarks refer only to servants of the General Government, and when the host of officials employed by local bodies are taken into consideration some idea of the extent to which officialdom obtains in this overgoverned colony will then be obtained.
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