It’s a “boring” budget, but someone’s got to talk about it

“Responsible”, “meaningless” and “just not good enough”, the government’s budget proposal is lots of things to lots of different interest groups

Anytime you make plans to spend 697 billion kroner, you're bound to get some advice, whether you want it or not. And there was certainly no shortage of reaction to the government’s 2014 budget proposal yesterday.

While comments fell out along predictable lines, once you drew off the rhetoric, a picture emerged of budget that overall was reasonable, if not a little on the disappointing side for its lack of controversy. Analysts greeted the proposal with collective calm.

The media
The consensus among the nation’s leading media outlets is that next year’s budget proposal lands solidly in the centre political spectrum and that enthusiasm for it on either side of the aisle would be hard to muster.

“A bit boring for those that love to debate,” wrote Jyllands-Posten newspaper in today’s editorial.

Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper, meanwhile, said it would be hard to distinguish this budget from those passed by the preceding government. “Looking at the budget you see that it is very close to what a Venstre-led coalition would have proposed.”

READ MORE: 2014 budget to focus on public-sector investment

Finn Sørensen: praise, but also criticism

Political parties
While the press may have found their enthusiasm lacking, political parties were quick to release their critique of the proposal. 

From the far right, Dansk Folkeparti (DF) called the budget “weak and lacking vision”, and claimed the government’s 1.6 percent growth forecast for next year was overestimated. DF said that that had they been in charge they would have lowered taxes and fees on energy consumption and placed more focus on the elderly.

“It seems to have become a ritual that whenever the government presents its economic strategy it lowers its growth forecast, while simultaneously promising that everything will be better next year,” DF finance spokesperson Rene Christensen wrote in a press release, who also made sure he got in a word about the party’s key issue, immigration.

“Immigration policies are a mess and the government obviously wants to use a lot of money on increasing immigration, while many of the elderly don’t get the proper care they need.”

At the other extreme, the far-left Enhedslisten, a government ally, a praised the budget for its focus on disadvantage children and youths, but claimed that the budget fails to deal with other important social issues.

“In regards to social issues the budget can only be seen as a disappointment,” social issues spokesperson for the party Finn Sørensen wrote in a press release. “The fight against poverty isn’t even mentioned. Neither is the situation of elderly, even though this is where the municipalities have made the biggest cuts. All in all, the budget is just not good enough.”

Ella Maria Bisschop-Larsen: send more green to green groups (Photo: Kristian Ørsted Pedersen)Special interest groups and think-tanks
Outside the halls of parliament, lobby groups said they were hoping the government would have spent more money on their particular special interest.

Nature conservancy Danmarks Naturfredningsforening argued the government was merely paying lip service to the environment, and found that the 800 million kroner set aside for environmental issues to be way under what was necessary.

“Upon first glance it seems as though the means seem to fall way short of achieving the government’s goals for nature and the environment,” wrote the association’s president Ella Maria Bisschop-Larsen. “There seems to be a tendency to view environmental issues as something we can do when we can afford it. This is an outdated way to think and the government must realise that taking environmental issues seriously is a prerequisite for a healthy society.”

Green is apparently the colour of money in Denmark too.

READ MORE: Government's green agenda gets failing marks

Among the more politically oriented interest groups, Arbejderbevægelsens Erhversråd (AE), a left-leaning economic think-tank AE was generally pleased with the proposed budget. That should come as little surprise, given its historic links to the PM’s Socialdemokraterne party. It was pleased to that the government would increase public investments, it just wanted them to spend even more, even though the budget is already 0.4 in the red.

“We're elated that public spending is being increased by 3 billion kroner,” AE chief Lars Andersen wrote in a statement. “But there is room to increase spending by a further 2 billion kroner without violating budget shortfall laws. That money should be used to subsidise Danish companies as that would increase growth and create jobs.”

Spoken like a true SocDem.

Hansen: meaningless and worthy of criticismThe libertarian think-tank Cepos predicted the budget would probably go unnoticed by the population at large (aside from the spending on schools, roads, hospitals, defence, etc), with the exception of those paying too much in taxes (which is everyone, in their mind).

“The budget won’t really mean anything and that is worth criticising,” Cepos chief economist Mads Lundby Hansen told DR. “The budget could have been used to encourage growth, by lowering taxes.”

Didn’t he say that last year?

If you think money talks, then you might want to listen to the economists at Nordea. Scandinavia's largest financial institution called the proposed budget “responsible”. They did, however, encourage the government to be careful not to expand spending too much, since the economy is slowly, but surely on the rebound. In a press release Helge Pedersen, head of economic research at the bank, pointed out that next year’s budget approached the 3 percent deficit to GDP ratio set by the EU as the limit for deficit spending. He said that the next year's deficit was no call for alarm.

“It ought not to be a source of grave concern for the markets, Denmark’s debt ratio remains solid and way under the EU’s 60 percent of GDP.” he wrote. “But the development shows that the government should in the future prioritise fiscal responsibility highly. Experience has taught us that financial markets can become tumultuous quickly. That would lead to rising interest rates and that is not what the economy needs right now.”