The Ashburton Guardian. Magna et Veritas et Prævalebit. FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 1890. STATE RETRENCHMENT.
The wholesale manner m which the Government Estimates are being cut down speaks eloquently on behalf of the spirit of economy which animates members of the House. The retrenchment that is being effected also displays, not only the powerlessness of Ministers to carry their Estimates, but their utter incapacity to effect savings m the public service by means of judicious pruning. Ministers, while professing to be willing to reduce I public expenditure by .£50,000, are fighting tooth and nail to prevent this being done. The House, however, is effecting retrenchment m spite of the Government, and the thanks of the country are due to the Opposition for setting to work earnestly m this direction. The Skinflints, for a time, worked with the Opposition m the effort to cut down superfluous expenditure, but several of their number found that the Opposition were too thoroughly m earnest m the matter, and that their motto was to cut down large and not small salaries. When six of the Skinflints had their eyes opened to this fact, they immediately entered into a compromise with Government, and returned to their allegiance. The consequence of this reconciliation, at a critical juncture, is that a number of extravagant items being allowed to pass, because the persons affected are friends of the Skinflints or the Ministry. The Agent-General's department may be taken as a case m point. Had the Skinflints been m earnest m the matter of retrenchment the sum of .£5230 (the cost of this department) could have been reduced by at least one-half, instead of by a paltry £500, and other equally glaring extravagances could have been pruned down. One member on the Government side of the House urged that if the Agent-General's salary of £1250 per annum and the Consulting Engineer's salary of £800 were reduced the finger of scorn would be pointed at the colony m diplomatic circles m England. This argument seems to have been a clincher, as the items were passed as submitted, excepting £500 to be docked off the rank and file. The Agent-General and the Consulting Engineer Avill therefore continue to keep up appearances abroad, while taxpayers pinch and scrape to provide the wherewithal .it home. The colony mny, with impunity, reduce the salary of the Governor, but it would be little short of sacrilege to lay hands on the emoluments of an Agent-General v.iiose principal function appears to be to make after-dinner speeches at a banquet. In the case of the Governor, if we mistake not, when the emoluments were reduced, the diplomatists at Home, who, it is said, would sneer at the colony for reducing the AgentGeneral's department, sent us a G-over- j nor with a higher social and political status than any of his predecessors, and it is probable these same common-sense individuals would applaud instead of condemning the colony for cutting its garment according to the cloth. But whether they would or would not approve of retrenchment m any particular direction, does not really matter. It is the colony that has to find the money to pay with, and colonists are the best judges of what they can afford. But this much can be learned from Avh.at lias taken place m Committee of Supply, and that is that further retrenchment of a wholesale character is now almost impossible, owing to the insincerity of professed economists, who are prepared to sacrifice the finances of the country rather than vote against their party.