New Zealand's Well-being Budget Will Care for the Most Vulnerable

The groundbreaking new budget prioritizes taking care of people instead of focusing on economic growth.

Jun 8, 2019

New Zealand is known as a very progressive country, and now it has the budget to prove it. The new center-left government has unveiled the world's first budget that puts caring for its citizens' well-being first.

Most country's budgets are set up for the economical running of a country and are typically very dry documents and focus on the economy. New Zealand has broken this mold.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden spoke about "doing things differently" at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in January. She pledged that her country would be one where "success is measured not only by the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] but by better lives lived by its people," and the new budget is aimed to do just that.

The groundbreaking new budget that was unveiled in May is based on the idea that policies that improve the quality of people's lives are more important than focusing on short-term economic measures. New Zealand singled out five priorities for 2019, according to a WEF press release, that include: "aiding the transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy, supporting a thriving nation in the digital age, lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities, reducing child poverty, and supporting mental health for all New Zealanders."

There is $1.25 billion in funding for mental health services, $656 million to combat child poverty, and $210 million on measures to tackle domestic violence.

Mental health is receiving a massive infusion of money. “Mental health is no longer on the periphery of our health system. It is front and center of all of our wellbeing,” said finance minister Grant Robertson when he announced the budget to parliament

Prime Minister Arden said that the issue of mental health was very personal for her. “Almost all of us have lost friends or family members. Ensuring that New Zealanders can now just show up to their GP or health center and get expert mental health support is a critical first step."

New Zealand's economy is strong, and according to predictions by the International Monetary fund, it is expected to grow 2.5 percent in 2019. That's why the country's budget does not have to focus on GPD.

“Success is making New Zealand both a great place to make a living, and a great place to make a life,” Robertson said. 

“The main reason why most governments are so interested in GDP is because that’s where the resources available for improving people’s lives come from,” professor Paul Hansen, head of the Economics Department at the University of Otago told the Huffington Press. "But New Zealand is helping rethink the long-held assumption that GDP growth delivers improvements in human well-being."

Other countries have put well-being or happiness measures above GDP including Bhutan, UAE, and, to a smaller degree, the United Kingdom, but nothing comes anywhere near what New Zealand is doing. Putting the health and happiness of the 4.8 million people who live in the country first is an example that the rest of the world can follow.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.