Peter Williams: Finance Minister fumbles the figures

Opinion 24/05/2019

By Peter Williams, Magic Mornings host.

An incident from Parliament’s Question Time was brought to my attention yesterday, which I thought was very enlightening.

It’s regarding the Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson, the man in charge of the government’s money.

The man you would think would know a few basic facts like the size of the New Zealand economy.

Anyway, on Wednesday of this week, Grant Robertson is asked a question by Paul Goldsmith, the National Party MP.

The question goes like this:

To the nearest billion dollars, what is an additional 1 percent GDP growth worth to New Zealand?

Now to answer that, you need to know the size - approximately - of the New Zealand GDP.

This was Grant Robertson’s reply.

I believe it's about $800 million.

Paul Goldsmith just wants to confirm that answer, so he says - according to Hansard - 800 million, with a question mark at the end.

Robertson replies, 'about that'.

Goldsmith now knows he has the Finance Minister on the ropes.

He says - does he think that the people of New Zealand would expect their Minister of Finance to know that 1 percent of GDP is about $3 billion, and that's the amount of money that we've missed out on given the sharp decline in growth in the past year?

So think about that exchange.

The Finance Minister doesn’t seem to know that the size of the New Zealand GDP is about 300 billion dollars.


 

But if Robertson knew the correct answer, he could have done a quick calculation and come up with the right answer to the question asked by Goldsmith.

Instead he plucked some number out of the air, and said 800 million.

That would imply the New Zealand GDP is only 80 billion, which is out by only the mere matter of 125 billion.

This from the Minister of Finance, the week before the budget.

Surely a week above all others when he must be in control of the most basic facts about our economy. And he doesn’t know the size of the country’s GDP.

That is just shameful - and frankly - very, very worrying.

Peter Williams is host of Magic Mornings.

*Note: An earlier version of this piece included the following: "Actually it’s around 205 billion. For what it’s worth, I think Goldsmith had the wrong answer too. One percent is 2 billion, not three billion." New Zealand GDP is valued at 293 billion according to stats NZ found here.