Pity Bill English.
The super fund effectively frozen. Tax cuts pushed out till after the next election or beyond. Hardly a triumphant first Budget. But neither is it a black Budget - which we might have expected in the current gloom. This was always going to be the "rock and a hard place" budget. And politically, English has got it about right.
Budget 2009 may not be a Black Budget, but it's certainly a grey one. Or maybe beige, for it is a rather colourless affair.
Bill English's first effort as Finance Minister is billed as "The Road to Recovery'' - but it's a long, slow, and rocky road indeed.
Political correspondent John Armstrong:
Medicine time? Well, not quite yet. But it is coming soon enough.
Bill English has dished up a budget which is a bitter pill wrapped in sugar-coating.
He has managed to scrape together enough cash to deliver more in the way of short-term sweeteners than had been expected, boosting spending on such things as hospitals, early childhood education, research and development and even a Prime Minister's Science Prize.
Enjoy it while you can. Because there may be some jam after all today but its bread and water tomorrow and thereafter. English has judged that after nine years of a Labour spend-up it was asking too much for the populace to go cold turkey but the message is clear: it is belt-tightening time.
Economics editor Brian Fallow:
It is a Budget which makes the medium term outlook look better at the expense of both the short term and the long term.
If it does what it takes to avert a credit rating downgrade it is hard to quarrel with that.
But in terms of the immediate problem of a deep recession and mounting unemployment it is about as stimulatory as a glass of tepid water.
Budget 2009 is all about moderation. Bill English and John Key wanted to moderate the effects of the worst recession since the 1930s. They wanted to respond with moderation to those calling for deeper cuts. They have been moderate with the fiscal knife.
By choosing to abandon the tax cuts and the NZ Super fund contributions they have chosen the path of least resistance. They have chosen the pain of taking away things that were promised but not yet delivered, rather than taking away things already in our hands. It's the politically sensible thing to do in an MMP political system.
It is also essentially a pragmatic decision and reflects the pragmatism of both Key and English.
By deciding to spend an extra NZ$5.8 billion on education, health, justice, roads and broadband over the next three years the government has decided it is better off borrowing the money and spending it to boost the economy rather than simply having a smaller deficit and much lower debt in the distant future.
But is it the right thing to do?
The implications of Budget 2009 are very unattractive for the longer term, particularly if the global economy remains in recession or worse for the next couple of years, as I think it will.
More follows later, once we have done some REAL work!