‘Wellbeing Budget’ is nonsense

I don’t know about you, but I prefer budgets to be about things that can be measured, such as GDP, total tax take, social investment and the amount of actual dollars spent on government projects. This May, the government will present its first ‘Wellbeing Budget’, which it claims is groundbreaking in world terms. Little detail of how the ‘Wellbeing Budget’ will work has been available up to now, but finally, we have a glimpse of what it might look like. Let us just say that those who have looked closely at the proposals are seriously underwhelmed. quote.

Ever wondered what making a new friend is worth?
Treasury has done the maths on it and much more, but the National Party is accusing it and the Government of being “completely out of sync with what New Zealanders value”. end quote.

How on earth can you quantify something like that? There are so many variables, it is impossible. Furthermore, what exactly does this have to do with the annual budget, which is the allocation of government expenditure from tax revenue, along with the possible identification of extra revenue sources? Absolutely nothing. quote.

Treasury’s cost-benefit analysis model reveals a greater price has been put on making friends than avoiding a trip to the hospital and having contact with a neighbour is valued at more than twice that of avoiding diabetes.

End quote.

What absolute drivel. What if I already have lots of friends, but am close to the diabetes threshold? I know which would be more important to me. Friends are not much use if you are dead. quote.

Mr Robertson defended the wellbeing framework saying it reflected a wide range of matters and prioritised health, education, housing, environment, jobs and earnings.

But Ms Adams said it was not new to have budget priorities and the risk with the Wellbeing Budget was it would end up being little more than a rebranding exercise.

“Well I think they’re completely out of sync with the way New Zealanders feel about what they value.

“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,” she said.

RNZ end quote.

I would not class it as a rebranding exercise. That would be to give it more credit than it deserves. To call it nonsense is far more accurate. Because nonsense is exactly what it is.

Nobody can put an accurate measure on the value of making friends, because it will be worth something different to each individual. To a lonely person, it will be valuable. To an outgoing, social person, it may not mean much. Contact with neighbours can be valuable too, but can also be a downright nuisance. We have all heard about neighbours from hell. What exactly are they worth?

The government has claimed that the May budget will be a world first, as the Wellbeing Budget is something that no other government has ever tried to do. Now that some detail is coming out, I think we can understand why. This is just more feelgood stuff from a government that likes slogans and bumper stickers, but constantly fails to do the tough stuff, like build houses. New Zealand, and its Wellbeing Budget, which measures making friends more highly than important health issues, is going to be the laughing stock of the world.