A change in the way New Zealand measures its success is an imperative part of this year’s Wellbeing Budget.
Nearly 500 people crowded into St Peter’s on Willis on Thursday night to hear more about the government’s plan for this year’s budget at Ngā Kōrero: Measuring Well-being: Budget 2019.
Last year the government announced it would be focusing on wellbeing with an evidence-based framework for this year’s and future budgets.
Minister of Finance Grant Robertson, BERL executive director and chief economist Ganesh Nana, Transparency International New Zealand chair and economic strategist Suzanne Snively and wellbeing expert and economist from Kōtātā Insight, Conal Smith, spoke about how to effectively measure wellbeing and their hopes for the future at the event.
Robertson said while GDP is a useful indicator it is a “totally, utterly, insufficient measure for deciding upon what constitutes success”.
“GDP is an inadequate measure of our success and our health as a nation.
“We want to move towards a more inter-generational approach that seeks to maintain and grow our living standards over time.
“We put the idea of long-term wellbeing at the heart of everything that we do. It’s about our priorities, our outcomes, it’s about the different indicators that we use, it’s about the legislation that we have.
This will be backed up by data including a project by Stats NZ and Treasury called Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand.
Nana spoke about the benefits of changing the focus for the “oil tanker that is the New Zealand’s public sector policy framework bureaucracy that has been steadily steaming in one direction and literally probably turn it around 180 degrees…but unfortunately…it’s not going fast enough”.
“A lot of New Zealanders can’t wait that long to get wellbeing front and centre of the New Zealand policy environment.
“We’ve lost the focus, we knew a long time ago that dollars was only a proxy and it didn’t actually measure a whole lot of things that were important.”
Snively, during her speech, said that having the event held on Valentine’s Day was fitting because focusing on wellbeing could provide the best Valentine of all, peace on earth, if adopted by everyone including businesses.
Some factors that will impact the strength of the government’s wellbeing budget are immediately setting measurable targets that are readily available and having private sector involvement.
Smith said the wellbeing measurement will change the marginal quality of spending decisions which will incrementally improve lives.
“This is a really big deal, if we can lift the quality of that spend and align it better, even marginally, to people’s wellbeing for a sustained period…this accumulates to a huge impact on people’s wellbeing.”
Following the speeches, members of the audience were given the opportunity to ask questions, including Wellington lawyer Dani French who queried why government wasn’t starting with children as an investment and focus for future wellbeing.
Education should be a priority because young people need the best start to enable future societal wellbeing for everyone and this will hopefully be a large focus when the budget comes out, she said.
Robertson responded that wellbeing of children is part of one of the budget’s priorities, as it should be.
The Wellbeing Budget, which will be delivered on May 30, will use the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework to inform government priorities and decisions.
Banner: Transparency International New Zealand chair and economic strategist Suzanne Snively at the podium with the other speakers listening. Photo/Ruby Harfield