Opposition mocks 'worthless' budget

No surprises in zero budget

No surprises in zero budget

Opposition parties are mocking the budget, laughing at economic growth projections and accusing the government of doing nothing to stem the exodus of skilled workers to Australia.

They reacted on Thursday to Finance Minister Bill English's second consecutive zero budget with condemnation of National's economic policies and predictions New Zealand would slide further into debt as exports continue to weaken.

There was nothing that surprised them in the government's fourth budget, a cautious, fiscally neutral presentation that balances $4.4 billion of new spending by saving $3b and raising $1.4b in new revenue.

It has a deficit of $8.4b next year, lower than had been expected, and Mr English says the books will balance in 2014/15 with a small $197 million surplus.

Tax loopholes are being closed that have allowed mostly wealthy people to deduct costs for holiday homes, boats and planes.

Farmers are going to be denied "unintended tax breaks" by changes to livestock valuation rules.

Nearly all the new spending has been previously announced, with one new item being $385m for research, science and innovation.

"This truly is a zero budget - zero growth, zero hope and zero aspiration," Labour leader David Shearer told parliament.

"They promised a brighter future. What we've got is a departure lounge budget - the worst growth in 50 years, more than 50,000 Kiwis fleeing to Australia and a 50 per cent increase in unemployment."

Greens co-leader Russel Norman says the budget doesn't deliver any of the fundamental economic changes the country needs.

"The government is more focused on political management than economic management," he said.

"The budget is a failure for the economy and a failure for our people."

NZ First leader Winston Peters is describing it as a back-to-the-future budget.

"It's mean-spirited, nasty, and the government is caught in a time warp," he said.

"This is the work of a fiscal fiend, it will see New Zealand slide backwards at an alarming rate as jobs disappear along with our manufacturing and exporting base."

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira sees the budget as a redistribution of wealth to the rich.

"It zeros in on the poor and the dispossessed, there are 500,000 people in this country living on the minimum wage," he said.

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) says the government is following the same failed logic that is being rejected in Europe.

"This budget poses a real risk of sending us back into recession," said CTU economist Bill Rosenberg.

"The forecasts include falling export income ... you just can't have austerity and growth at the same time."

The business sector considers it responsible and positive.

"New Zealand business increasingly finds competitiveness is dependent on innovation, and funding announced for science and innovation initiatives will be well received," said BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly.

"Despite being presented as a zero budget, this year's spending has been well focused on areas helpful for future growth."

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