Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Pollies should give spreadsheets with pledges

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-10-25

Apart from the wisdom of the A$30 billion tax cuts over the next few years promised by both major parties, I’m skeptical about whether they will actually be delivered.  Perhaps another way of informing voters of such matters is required.

The pledges (not necessarily just tax cuts) depend on a number of factors describing capacity to pay and possible changes to the need.  Both of these are modelled from forecasts by departments of Treasury and/or Finance, themselves dependent on forecasts of economists.

Forecasts of revenue by Treasury have been widely inaccurate during the Howard years (generally underestimating but there’s no reason why the next years estimates might be significant overestimations), and general economic forecasts vary widely between bulls and bears.

Making matters worse, in general, if there is a downturn (often due to factors outside Australia), revenue will go down while the need of citizens increases.

So, rather than give absolute figures and timelines, it would be better if politicians gave their models to the economic journalists, who could give their analyses to the public, such as "the X billion tax cut depends on GDP growth of Y%, which is unlikely".  Of course, different journalists would give different analyses, but that is pretty much how the public deals with most economic and political matters.

Of course, the model could be quite simple, even just a single OpenOffice (or MS-Excel spreadsheet), which could be downloaded by electors who could push the assumptions up and down, running their own "what ifs", judging the probability that the pledge would be kept, and then factoring this into their voting choice.

But that would allow voters to be too well informed, so I doubt the politicians will ever do that.


One Response to “Pollies should give spreadsheets with pledges”

  1. […] "Pollies should give spreadsheets with pledges" (2007-10-15) discusses a specific example of the ideas in this post. Posted in Australia, Ethics, Governance, Politics. […]

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