New Zealand’s Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, recently announced details of the nation's first “Wellbeing Budget”: this national budget includes investment and success measures to pursue issues including mental health, child poverty, indegenous rights, sustainability, improved education and healthcare, and the digital age. The five priorities set out in the Budget are:
- Taking Mental Health Seriously – Supporting mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders, with a special focus on under 24-year-olds
- Improving Child Wellbeing – Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, including addressing family violence
- Supporting Māori and Pasifika Aspirations – Lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities
- Building a Productive Nation – Supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation, social and economic opportunities
- Transforming the Economy – Creating opportunities for productive businesses, regions, iwi and others to transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy.
To track progress toward these goals, New Zealand will use 61 indicators including broader measures of success like the health of finances, natural resources, people and communities.
The Government is of the opinion that a powerful economy is not an accurate indicator of welfare. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that GDP alone “does not guarantee improvement to living standards”. The new budget is thus designed to keep in mind all those that are left behind in the race towards economic growth.
This new budget makes New Zealand the first western country to produce an entire budget based on wellbeing priorities. Traditional indicators of growth, such as national income and GDP, are not reflective of social and economic inequalities. The well-being budget’s goals include work towards the betterment of historically disadvantaged indegenous communities and tackling poverty which will inevitably lead to a more equal society. If managed properly, the budget will not only produce more happy citizens, but will also increase the overall productivity of the workforce.
A significant goal of the budget deals with sustainability and includes facets like climate change, sustainable land use and freshwater usage. This goal is especially important in today’s trying times.
Although the budget is a game-changing innovation for New Zealand, will it lead to any consequential transformations? Will New Zealand follow the lead of Bhutan that could not translate the introduction of its Happiness Index into real growth, or will it rise further up in the wellbeing ratings?