New Zealand plans to be the first in the world to measure its success against how it does socially, culturally and environmentally
During her first major public address of the year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her Labour-led Government wanted to go further than the child poverty measures it had announced this week
By the 2019 Budget, it would introduce a tool and framework to include the wellbeing of New Zealanders a measure of our economic success.
"We want New Zealand to be the first place in the world where our budget is not presented simply under the umbrella of pure economic measures, and often inadequate ones at that, but one that demonstrates the overall wellbeing of our country and its people.
Until now, the country's economic progress had been measured solely by tracking GDP, Ardern said
However, organisations like the OECD and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had been urging countries to take a different view of what constituted a successful economy, beyond a strong balance sheet and a strong economy – as important as that may be
Ardern said she and Finance Minister Grant Robertson wanted to be the first to respond to that call
Treasury was currently working to establish a "living standards framework"
By 2019, New Zealand would hopefully be the first country to assess bids for budget spending against new measures that determined not just how our spending will impact on GDP, but also on natural, social, human, and possibly cultural capital too, she said
"It will no longer be good enough to say a policy is successful because it increases GDP if, at the same time, it also degrades the physical environment, or drives down wages or fractures a community.
Robertson said it was important to make sure the indicators were robust, and made a meaningful difference
The "wellbeing Budget", as Robertson called it, was about how the Government improved people's sense of security and the quality of the environment
CHILD POVERTY TARGET
On Wednesday, she announced the measures she planned to write into law, which would create a framework for this government, and future governments, to measure child poverty
The three 10-year targets are
- Reduce the proportion of children in low income households (before housing costs) from roughly 15 per cent of all children to 5 percent. This reduces the number by more than half from 160,000 to 60,000
- Reduce the proportion of children in low income households (after housing costs) from roughly 20 per cent to 10 per cent. This is a reduction of 90,000 children from 210,000 now to 120,000
- Reduce the proportion of children in material hardship from between 13 and 15 per cent now to 7 per cent*. This reduces the number of children in this group from 150,000 to 80,000
The four primary measures of poverty and hardship in the bill, announced on Wednesday, are low income before housing costs, low income after housing costs (50 per cent median, fixed line), material hardship (using the EU's standard threshold which going without things such as healthy food, warm clothes, or delaying going to the doctor) and a persistence measure (for low income, material hardship or both)
Ardern said the target of reducing the proportion of children in low income households (before housing costs) to 5 percent was a big challenge
New Zealand got down to 7 per cent in the 1990s, but you would be hard-pressed to find many in the OECD to get down to 5 per cent and maintain that level, she sai
"No one internationally will accuse us of being unambitious.
When asked how those targets would be achieved, she acknowledged a lot of the reduction would come through the Families Package, which was announced at the end of last year
At the time the Government said the package would lift 88,000 children out of poverty by 2021. These numbers have been called into question by a coding error, that meant Treasuries modelling, and projections, relating to the Families Package were affected. The updated numbers will be available later this month
Ardern said the "highly targeted" Families Package would do a lot to make a "massive dent" in poverty, but it wasn't the only measure
"We'll be stretching ourselves into other areas as well.
The speech came on the same night a Newshub/Reid Research pollshowed Labour up 5.4 per cent since their election result to 42.3 per cent. National steady at 44.5 per cent, up 0.1 per cent on their election result
This is the closest this poll has had the parties since 2007.
Ardern said the results was encouraging but the Government could not rest on its laurels.