“We need to address the societal wellbeing of our nation, not just the economic wellbeing” Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand
The 2019 Wellbeing Budget is hailed by many as a landmark of its time for its undeterred focus on the social sector.  The intent for this budget, which is set to be handed down May 30 2019, is to go beyond GDP per capita and debt to GDP ratios to analyse the wider effects on people’s wellbeing and the state of the environment in an intergenerational way. Although New Zealand have GDP growth rates that many countries would envy, for many New Zealanders it has been thought this GDP growth (and previous years budgets) have not translated into higher living standards or better opportunities.
New Zealand is the first western country to design and implement its entire budget around wellbeing initiatives and also instruct its ministries to propose policies to enhance wellbeing for the country. This year's Budget winner's are set to be education, health and environmental industries. The top five priorities of the budget are outlined as follows:
1. Creating opportunities for productive businesses, regions, iwi and others to transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy
2. Supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation, social and economic opportunities
3. Lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities
4. Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, including addressing family violence
5. Supporting mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders, with a special focus on under 24-year-olds
The wellbeing approach
The nation enjoys being the third freest economy in the world, and as such, ranks first globally for ease of doing business. The Wellbeing Budget will broaden the focus beyond economic and fiscal policy by using the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework to inform the governments’ investment priorities and funding decisions  on complicated issues including climate change, inequality and child poverty. Through effective planning and decision making to combat these issues, it will enable the best choices for current and future generations beyond economic growth and successfully embed wellbeing into the public policy.
While it has been rumoured government agencies have been siloed when seeking budget funding, the Ardern government have introduced a new framework to combat this rumour and encourage a collaborative funding process. This process involves ministers submitting joint proposals with their colleagues for funding requests and enables social issues such as Domestic Violence to receive dedicated and well-rounded funding.
Interestingly, since the Wellbeing Budget was first announced 13 December 2018, there have been 600+ mentions across broadcast and print. Unsurprisingly, Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson has been leading the conversations with 43 per cent alongside Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern with her share of voice being 29 per cent. The wellbeing budget is surely getting a lot of airtime with 34 per cent of all mentions being across broadcast channels.
At the heart of the Wellbeing Budget is the Living Standards Framework (LSF) – a new dashboard of indicators to be used to advise successive governments’ how their policy choices affect New Zealanders over time and by using this framework, it will effectively embed wellbeing in New Zealand's public policy. In addition, the Ardern government is being guided by other indicators, including the new Child Poverty Reduction Act which obliges the Minister of Finance to report at each budget how the country is tracking on a set of child wellbeing and poverty measures. The current Minister of Finance Grant Robertson will be the first finance minister to do so.
Historically, GDP was never intended as a measure of societal progress and it’s only quite recently that alternative measures of societal progress have been developed and a global “beyond GDP” has emerged.
Internationally, this has led to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the OECD Better Life Index and the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Having these goals allow countries to track their progress towards aspirational goals including good health, superior education and wellbeing.
For a country that is socially progressive, it has taken a long time for the NZ political system to discuss wellbeing and the roles of values. Other taxpayers’ interests such as tourism, housing, immigration and education are also high on the list and the government has a great opportunity to reframe its budgets around the anticipated effect of the policies they’ve announced.
So, is the wellbeing budget a new way to measure the success as a country or is it just the introduction of another ‘first’ to keep the momentum going as a forward-thinking country?
If you would like to learn more about how you can stay across the wellbeing budget or any other topic, get in touch with us today