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Economics and Public Policy

Accounting tricks behind the budget surplus

Government budgets are increasingly becoming more political documents. This has been particularly evident with the federal government’s pledge to return the budget to surplus. However, budget numbers are calculated pursuant to accounting principles and a number of accounting ‘tricks’ can be identified behind the $1.5 billion surplus number.

Moving of spending out of the 2012-13 budget year

Given its commitment to announcing a surplus, the government has had an incentive to move spending out of the 2012-13 budget year.

What is especially evident is the extent to which the government has made ‘policy decisions’ which have taken spending out of the 2012-13 year and brought it forward into the current financial year (ie year ending 30 June 2012).

Spin in the Victorian Government Budget

In the recently released Victorian government budget and in the accompanying Treasurer’s speech, the government made much of a fall in GST and stamp duty revenue, claiming ‘significant revenue write downs’ and a reduction of $7.6 billion over the forthcoming four year period 2012-13 to 2015-16.

This would suggest an actual expected decline in the total revenue amounts from past years and into future years.

However, close reading of the budget indicates that the reference to the decline relates to estimates made in late 2010.

In fact, the budget figures clearly show that government revenue has actually been increasing steadily since the time of those estimates and that this will continue to be the case.

Total revenue will increase by 3.2% for 2012-13 and then increase by an average of 4.4% for the following three years.

($million)

If you think the disability insurance scheme is not your problem, think again

AT THE moment there is no automatic right of access to disability support across the board in this country. If your child fell out of a tree tomorrow and sustained serious brain damage, what sort of help would you expect and hope for?

He or she would be entitled to care in a public hospital, but once discharged, you'd be largely on your own.

This article first appeared in The Age 26 April 2012.

Bounty on Pakistani will not pay off

(A version of this blog was published in The Australian on 11 April 2012)
 
Washington’s decision last week to post a US$10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a terrorist organization accused of being behind the Mumbai attack in 2008 which killed 166 people, will not help put US-Pakistan relations back on track. 
 
On the contrary, it will complicate matters further, both bilaterally and regionally. 
 
This award is on par as the one offered for the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Omar, who is said to be hiding in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan’s province in western Pakistan.
 

How people choose in volatile times

In a 2008 paper on neuroeconomics, Carnegie Mellon University economist George Loewenstein said: “Whereas psychologists tend to view humans as fallible and sometime even self-destructive, economists tend to view people as efficient maximisers of self-interest who make mistakes only when imperfectly informed about the consequences of their actions.” 

How to avoid being the runt of the tertiary education litter

We need competition in supply and funding of individuals not institutions Julia Gillard wisely remarked last month that competition with Asia could “make us the runt of the litter” in terms of our educational performance. This provocative remark should trigger urgent application to government policy, given that increasingly unlike much of Asia, ours is a state-owned tertiary model. Our university communities are not offered the diversity of choice as in the USA, or indeed as in our own secondary and primary schools. New technology and social networks allow leapfrog in terms of ways of sharing information. All universities could jump ahead by using such remote devices to augment teaching, writing and research frameworks across broader international markets. However Socratic face-to-face “tutorial” and live lecture modes remain vitally important – the “getting of wisdom” is too important to be on iPads or lonely PCs.

Opportunities and challenges ahead for Australia-Indonesia relations

At a time of unprecedented good bilateral relations with Indonesia, Australia is now looking to its future. Indonesia’s shift towards a more open democratic framework has allowed the previously troubled relationship to stabilise, but its future remains uncertain, especially over the medium to longer term.
The renewed focus on relations with Indonesia reflects its continuing critical value to Australian foreign policy. It is Australia’s largest near neighbour, the world’s largest Muslim country, a major regional diplomatic actor, the key transit point for Australian trade, travel and irregular migration and, again, a growing economic partner.
Australia policy thinkers are therefore looking at options for the longer term relationship. Among those considerations is increasing bilateral strategic engagement. More than any other aspect of the relationship, this is likely to generate controversy both within Australia and in Indonesia.

Forget your coins, we want change: begging should not be a crime

The criminal offence of begging should be abolished.

Criminalising begging is tantamount to criminalising poverty. It perpetuates, rather than alleviates, the marginalisation and disadvantage experienced by people who beg. It also violates the fundamental human rights of some of the most vulnerable in our society.

Poverty goes begging for change

On the streets of Geelong and Melbourne, and around the world, we often feel uncomfortable when people ask us for money.

It seems as though the number of people begging on our streets is increasing, and I'm sure many of us struggle to know how to respond to people we don't know asking us for money.

It would surprise many of us to learn that begging is a crime in Victoria, and that people can be imprisoned for up to two years if found guilty.

First (verbal) shots fired ahead of Timor-Leste’s presidential elections

The first (verbal) shots have been fired in Timor-Leste’s presidential elections, scheduled for 17 March. Among the announced candidates for the election are Fretilin’s president, Francisco ‘Lu-Olo’ Guterres and former commander of Timor-Leste’s armed forces (F-FDTL), Jose Maria Vasconcelos, better known as ‘Taur Matan Ruak’. Current president Jose Ramos-Horta has said he will announce whether he will stand for a second term as president in early February. The Timor-Leste presidency is, according to the constitution, a largely ceremonial position. However, Ramos-Horta and Xanana Gusmao before him have tested the constitutional limits of the office. In a speech to Fretilin village chiefs in Baucau recently, Taur Matan Ruak spoke strongly in favour of his candidacy for the presidency. Fretilin, he said, had not governed well as the first post-independence government.

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