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Charting a Prudent Course: The Imperative to Realign Victoria’s Mounting Debt and Social Priorities

 Charting a Prudent Course: The Imperative to Realign Victoria’s Mounting Debt and Social Priorities

Former Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett, has laid down a gauntlet, urging incumbent Premier Daniel Andrews to steer the state away from what he describes as ‘out-of-control’ debt. With the burden of Victoria’s financial obligations rapidly nearing the $200 billion mark, there is an undeniable urgency to scrutinise the trajectory of public expenditure. Yet, in addressing this looming economic challenge, it’s essential that the Andrews government does not lose sight of the pillars that make a society great – education, healthcare, and law enforcement. The stakes are high, particularly for the younger generations who stand to inherit not just a set of numbers but the very fabric of their future community.

Let’s begin by examining the colossal figure – almost $200 billion. Such an astronomical sum invites immediate alarm and places an onus on the government to provide justifications, especially when the resources could be allocated to critical sectors like education, healthcare, and law enforcement. Debt, in itself, is not necessarily a scourge; indeed, many prosperous nations function with substantial national debts. The key lies in how that debt is managed and, crucially, what it is spent on.

It’s equally important to scrutinise the quality of public expenditure. Debt accrued for the sake of critical infrastructure that benefits society has a different value than debt incurred for short-term political gains. In other words, it’s not just about cutting spending but ensuring that whatever spending occurs is truly necessary and beneficial for the long-term well-being of Victorians.

Left - Daniel Andrews | Right - Jeff Kennett
Left – Daniel Andrews | Right – Jeff Kennett

In the realms of education and healthcare, investment is a double-edged sword. On one hand, underfunding these critical sectors can have long-lasting detrimental effects. A poorly educated youth is ill-prepared for the competitive global job market, while inadequate healthcare can lead to a less productive society plagued with preventable diseases. On the other hand, throwing money at these sectors without effective governance and accountability is equally perilous. Investments must be judicious, aimed at long-term benefits, and transparently managed to ensure that every dollar achieves its intended impact.

The sphere of law enforcement brings its set of complexities. At a time when discussions about ‘defunding the police’ reverberate globally, what does responsible investment look like? While it’s indisputable that a well-funded police force is vital for maintaining law and order, the focus should perhaps be on smarter investment-technology, training, and community engagement-rather than merely expanding the force in numbers.

Jeff Kennett’s warning should not be perceived as a call for austerity but as a clarion call for financial prudence and socio-political foresight. It is an invitation to re-examine fiscal policies through the lens of social responsibility. It beckons a balanced approach, one that does not pit financial responsibility against social imperatives but sees the two as intrinsically linked facets of good governance.

For the younger generation, the implications are profound. The financial decisions made today will resonate far into the future, affecting their quality of life, social mobility, and even their capacity to dream and achieve. Saddling them with unsustainable debt is akin to mortgaging their future, stripping them of the resources they will eventually need to address challenges we can’t even yet foresee.

In conclusion, while the alarm over Victoria’s escalating debt is valid, the response must be nuanced, measured, and intensely focused on social well-being. Yes, the debt figures are staggering, but let’s not forget that numbers, in the end, are a reflection of priorities. It’s time to align those priorities in a way that upholds not just economic viability but the very tenets of a fair and equitable society. The path forward will undoubtedly involve difficult decisions, but if navigated wisely, it could lead to a future where fiscal responsibility and social commitment walk hand in hand.

Amit Batra

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