Apr 19, 2008

MFAT Funding Increase

Murray McCully posts on this yesterday. We are sure he won't mind us quoting in full

This week’s announcement of a $621 million boost to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade budget leaves an important question to be answered. The funding package is essentially the same proposition put on the table last year and deferred for further study. Even in the healthier economic climate of 2007 the bid raised eyebrows over its scale and questionable justification. In the straitening economic times of 2008, with middle New Zealand households under pressure to meet increased mortgage, petrol, and food costs, new government expenditure on such a scale, especially on bureaucrats, will be a hard sell.
Papers released relating to last year’s bid make it clear that both the Treasury and the State Services Commission had serious doubts about the proposals and opposed the expenditure. So the question that now needs to be answered is just what sort of case was presented by the Minister and his Ministry to win Dr Cullen’s approval? Did they furnish detailed reports showing clear evidence of New Zealand’s trade or security interests being compromised by a lack of resources, and present such a compelling case that Dr Cullen simply couldn’t say no? Or did Mr Peters simply tell Dr Cullen that approving the bid in order to provide the material for a bit of Election Year swagger was part of the price of doing coalition business?
The proof, of course, will lie in the paperwork, all of which will now be required to be disclosed to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee when it examines the estimates immediately following the May 22 Budget. National Leader John Key has made it clear that an incoming National Government will cap the number of bureaucrats at the current 36,000 with any increases in any department being met by reductions in another. It is against that background that the MFAT increases will be examined. And what might have looked like effective ministerial advocacy last year could appear more like insensitive and unjustified empire-building this year. The paperwork will tell the story.