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Last updated 05:00 21/08/2014

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Household disposable incomes rose 7.1 per cent last year, Notice this at your place, did you?

It's not a facetious question. It can be hard sometimes to recognise ourselves in the midst of statistics about us. They are seldom set out like maps with helpful wee arrowed signs on them saying "you are here".

Whether you received your share of that income rise is something you'll have your own view on. But there's the figure anyway and it's an impressive one. Be aware, for what it's worth, that the forecast increase for coming years is 4 per cent.

Treasury's pre-election fiscal update depicts a recovery weaker than the May budget forecast, but still a happening thing.

Treasury says the economy is "growing strongly" and expected to keep doing so. Rather than proclaiming "See? See?" the Government finds itself in cautionary mode. We're still tracking well but on slippery underfoot conditions.

For all its intimations of tax cuts to be announced after the election, National is characterising itself as a model of virtuous restraint compared to the billion-here billion-there Opposition spending plans.

Labour pledges to raise close on $5 billion more in revenue during the next four years, to which National retorts the cold reality would be higher taxes and debt, leaving the nation's finances arthritic when what's needed is yoga-supple flexibility to adapt to whatever fresh challenges may lie ahead.

That caution may resonate in the south, given the steep decline in export prices, especially dairy. But this comes off a strong position and is well within the cyclical norm, though it may have arrived impolitely early as far as the national budget is concerned. And our trading partners should still be able to afford our produce.

Other parties' spending intentions will inevitably be hectored by the Government for plausible evidence of where the money will come from. Labour's embrace of capital gains tax? The Greens' new top tax rate of 40 per cent on income over $140,000 to be redistributed to the poor? These are legitimate battlefield issues. Clean politics, if you like.

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- The Southland Times

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