The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 1882. The Financial Statement.
Major Atkinson has now brought;
down his Budget Statement to the House, and there is not much difficulty in distinguishing the similarity between the present financial policy and that of preceding years, so far as its undefined principles ns to comprehensive features are concerned. There are some features in the policy, of course, which are there to please everybody, and perhaps when there is a weakness in the Treasurer’s proposals, it mostly consists of his being unable to grasp any fresh idea to propound a scheme of finance, which may extend further than from year to year. Now that the circumstances of the colony warrant a more comprehensive scheme of finance, we think the hand to mouth system of Major Atkinson can hardly be termed other than weak in regard to the proposals for the future. As a matter of fact, Major Atkinson does not profess to do more than place before the colony a “ plain, unvarnished tale ” of its finances for the time being, and does not attempt to dazzle his hearers with one of those brilliant but delusive expositions of finance by which Sir Julius Vogel made his Budget speeches famous. But while admitting the clearness and accuracy of the figures of the Colonial Treasurer, we think there was a splendid opportunity open to him on this occasion to propound a stroke of finance, and it is no excuse to resort to the old method of laying before the House a financial policy prepared for pressing emergencies. His figures show that there is a surplus of £215,000; that there is a steadily increasing revenue ; the condition of the colony and its people is very satisfactory in a monetary point of view, and the colonial credit excellent. Fully half a million of money a year is available for the prosecution of public works for a couple of years to come, and the excess of revenue over expenditure is larger than it has ever been before. Ministers have to faithfully carry out the wishes of the House in keeping the various departments of the public service under economical management. The Treasurer frankly admits that taxation is heavier than is really required for public wants, yet he thinks it should be kept on, for some years at any rate, to pay the interest on the new loan. Hospitals are to be placed as a charge on the consolidated fund. Taking the present position of affairs with that of 1579, when the Government took office, we find a vast difference. The actual expenditure for the past financial year was ii. 49,759 less than the estimated amount, while the revenue was Li 90,5205 20 in excess of the estimate of i revenue, showing clearly the improved position of the colony. The Customsrevenuehas increased by 1.125,107; depasturing licenses, .£56,852 ; stamps, £11,115; and miscellaneous receipts, £34,243. The two items of deficit are—railways, £25,266, and property tax, £19,025. When Sir John Hall’s Government went into office there was a deficiency of £900,000, and an annual expenditure of nearly £600,000 more than was received. Railways are now made to pay nearly the interest on : the cost of construction, and taking every department in the public service there is a healthy sign of progress, and the Financial Statement shows that the management of the public purge has been most successful. The Opposition have spoken against the Statement, and have characterised it as decidedly “childish,” but they had no proper organisation. The debate did more - good than harm to the Government, and, as a consequence, they have gained the sympathies of many new members. We must, however, record ■ our appreciation of Major Atkinson, for the way in which he has arranged, so concisely and clearly, the monetary position of the colony. According to Sir George Grey, any little boy could have made a better Statement, but we very much doubt whether the doughty knight of Kawau could have placed on a blackboard a more satisfactory Financial Statement after trying so long to prove, as he has tried, that “ two and two do not make four.” We have characterised the Statement as weak because there is no extension of finance beyond from year to year, and there are no measures introduced to relieve taxation, that bugbear, to the proper opening up of new and profitable industries, promoting production and improving our commerce. The question of keeping up taxation for the purpose of paying interest on the new loan of three millions is one, we think, that will meet with some opposition, especially when it is considered that the taxation is almost the same as when the colony was in its greatest difficulties. We hope that the new loan will not be authorised, because, according to the Treasurer’s own showing, he wants to get an excuse to absorb the surplus and to keep up taxation, in order to provide for the easy payment of interest. Still, we are bound to admit that Major Atkinson has presented a Statement which will be read at home and abroad with particular pleasure by those who feel interested in the financial position of New Zealand.