The Well-meaning budget

We are now a month away from our first Wellbeing budget, which is a great new concept dreamed up by the current government with their touchy-feely approach to everything.

Most of us understand that budgets need to be about the collection of tax revenue and the responsible spending and distribution of it. That is all a budget needs to be.

In the world of Jacinda Ardern though, everything is about perception… dressing up as a Muslim and discovering her inner Maori and performing a hongi with Prince William. It is all about the photo opportunity. Now, the most brand aware prime minister of all time has turned the annual budget into yet another virtue signalling exercise… but this time, beware, Jacinda. Some things simply cannot be turned into touchy-feely items because you want them to be. quote.

The Treasury has worked to affix monetary values to a raft of things ?from making new friends, to violent offences, to truancy. It’s supposed to measure the value or cost to society, that one person’s experience tallies up.

The data that sits behind this year’s Budget is intended to help the Government invest its money into the areas that will make people’s existence better.

All these abstract measurements will mean nothing, however, if the Government can’t communicate how it helps individual families day-to-day, week-to-week, pay cheque-to-pay cheque.

If it doesn’t manage that straight out of the gates, then there’s every risk this Budget could be consigned the way of the Treasury’s recent dabble into “Moon feelings”. 
That is to say, it would be a laughing stock if it wasn’t so vitally important to get right.

end quote.

Take it from me. It will be a laughing stock.

The main beneficiary of the touchy-feely Wellbeing budget is likely to be the mental health sector, and not before time. quote.

Should the Government ignore the mental health crisis for one year more, it will face an outcry. It will have failed, in its “year of delivery”, to deliver one of the biggest promises it made during the election campaign.

Now we’ve had almost two years in which the Government has done nothing, while it waited for an inquiry to be completed.

That happened last year and, by the time the Budget rolls round on May 30, the Government will have taken close to six months to develop its response. 
In the 18 months since it came to power, it has canned no fewer than 17 measures to improve access to wider mental health services, which were under development by the previous government. 

The Government will also have to have a package of initiatives for immediate action, lest it risk taking an entire parliamentary term to deliver a plan and nothing else.


end quote.

Sadly, that would not surprise me. Jacinda has much more important things to do, such as take a trip to Paris to try to control the internet, which will prove as useful an exercise as nailing jelly to a tree. There are no competent ministers left behind either, particularly not the incumbent Minister of Health.

There is one thing that really does concern me though, and this government, (particularly the virtue signalling photo opportunist that we call prime minister), is not paying enough attention to it.

The video below is from TVNZs Seven Sharp programme last Wednesday, with the ASB Good as Gold recipient of the week.

(I don’t normally watch this stuff, but it was on, and I saw it… and was shocked.)

The award was given to a cancer sufferer, which in itself was enough to make her a worthy recipient, but that is not what shocked me. What made me watch was this:

  • The recipient was a manager at Subway, Levin, so presumably is paid more than minimum wage.
  • She often worked double shifts to make ends meet.
  • She sometimes missed treatments because she needed to work for financial reasons.
  • She was about to have her car repossessed and her power cut off.
  • The $10,000 dollar award would be used to clear the above debts, pay off her credit card and stock up her pantry so that she didn’t have to live week to week.

Some of you will probably say that she is clearly a poor money manager and has only herself to blame, but I think we all know how easy it is to run up a credit card debt when you need something that you simply do not have the money to pay for at that time.

My point is that, if working New Zealanders struggle so badly, probably because of high rents, there is something fundamentally rotten in our society and our economic management, and this government, aiming to ‘bring kindness back’ is not addressing it.

And that rottenness is never going to be fixed by a touchy-feely budget next month.