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Fiscal consolidation is visible from the food packs we economists are served in the budget lock-up. In the pre-Covid-19 conspicuous consumption years we had a buffet of lamb chops, chicken, meat-balls, fruit salads, a variety of soft drinks and cake for dessert. That has now been replaced by a cheese sandwich, yogurt, a chicken wrap, orange juice and a Lunch Bar. There are cuts, but not all the unnecessary perks are gone — there is still chicken; there is still room to restructure the menu for a constrained budget.

The medium-term budget policy statement showed similar characteristics, the most important being that social spending has been prioritised and protected, while some perks have been reduced. If growth and revenue do not improve, there is room to reduce the quality and quantity of the spending not in line with the fiscal purse. Politicians and policymakers must map their trade-offs and implement reforms that boost economic growth to maintain or improve the perks f...

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