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New Zealand Government promises world-first ‘wellbeing’ budget

New Zealand Government promises world-first ‘wellbeing’ budget
May 15, 2019

Child poverty, domestic violence and mental health will be the priorities in a world-first ‘wellbeing budget’, set to be announced by New Zealand Finance Minister Grant Robertson, with the nation declaring itself the first in the world to measure success by its people’s wellbeing.

Minister Robertson yesterday advised that that despite New Zealand’s ‘rockstar’ economy many New Zealanders were being left behind, with home ownership at a 60-year low, the suicide rate climbing and homelessness and food aid grants on the rise.

According to predictions by the International Monetary Fund, the New Zealand economy is expected to grow at around 2.5 % in 2019 and 2.9% in 2020.

However, Minister Robertson emphasised many New Zealanders were not benefitting in their daily lives.

Although comparable countries such as the United Kingdom have begun to measure the national rate of wellbeing, New Zealand is the first western country to design its entire budget around wellbeing priorities and instruct its ministries to design policies to improve wellbeing.

Minister Robertson stated “we had - and have - GDP growth rates that many other countries around the world envied, but for many New Zealanders, this GDP growth had not translated into higher living standards or better opportunities.”

With New Zealand’s 2019 budget to be handed down on 30th May, Minister Robertson advised “for me, wellbeing means people living lives of purpose, balance and meaning to them, and having the capabilities to do so.

“This gap between rhetoric and reality, between haves and have-nots, between the elites and the people, has been exploited by populists around the globe.”

He cited a cultural rehabilitation program for Māori high-security prisoners, aimed at reducing high rates of recidivism and reoffending, as the kind of project that would be prioritised in the budget.

The opposition National party has criticised the coming budget as being out of touch with the country’s values, saying that what New Zealanders really needed to improve their lives was better infrastructure and public services.

Earlier in the year, the National party’s spokeswoman on finance, Amy Adams stated “according to this framework the Government’s put in place, making a new friend is almost twice as valuable as not having to go to the emergency department.

“Or getting on better with your neighbours is twice as valuable as avoiding diabetes – I just think it starts to become a nonsense,”

The Kingdom of Bhutan kickstarted the global wellbeing focus with the introduction of the Gross National Happiness Index in 2008, measuring things such as psychological health, living standards, community vitality and environmental and cultural resilience to inform government policy making.

However, despite the index, the country remains a ‘least developed country’ and the unemployment rate is rising. Bhutan also ranks 96 spots below the world’s happiest country, Finland, as defined by the UN in its annual World Happiness Report.

Image: The former Wanderlust yoga event.

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