Robertson talks about the Well-being Budget – and hints we should brace for the long haul

Finance  Minister   Grant  Robertson  exuded  confidence  in  Parliament on Tuesday  that  his budget  this week  will  tackle “NZ’s  long-term challenges”.

He emphasised “long-term” in  answering  a  patsy question  from  a   Labour back-bencher.  He mentioned “ big difference in this year’s Budget“, which is is that “we have integrated evidence and a range of indicators of well-being at every stage of the budget process”.

Hence the Well-being Budget will enable the government “to track New Zealanders’ success on all of the things that they value”.

Robertson  reckons   for  nine years   NZ’s  long-term challenges — among them, taking mental health seriously, improving child well-being, supporting Māori and Pasifika aspirations, building a productive nation, and transforming the economy — have been  ignored.

So  how were  the priorities to meet  these  challenges  selected?

Ministers  applied  a  “well-being analysis”  which involved looking at the evidence to assess where  there are the greatest opportunities to make a difference to New Zealanders’ long-term well-being.

To inform this analysis, we’ve drawn on demographic and other data from the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework dashboard, as well as other evidence and advice from science advisers and other sector experts”.

Data from the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework  indicates  that, in any 12-month period, about one in five New Zealanders will have a diagnosable mental illness, with three-quarters of lifetime cases starting by the age of 25.

Another example he cited is that, according to the General Social Survey, the material standards of living for Pacific people is around half that of the general population and is a third lower for Māori.

Robertson  says  these represent some of the biggest long-term challenges and opportunities  NZ  faces.

Given the  frequency with which the  Finance  Minister emphasised  “long-term”  in his answer,  it may be he is forewarning  us that the  targets  set  for a lift in   well-being   will be just as  hard  to  reach  as  the targets  set for  KiwiBuild.

For the  fact is  no  matter  how  much  new money  is allocated,  the   skills  and   resources   required  to  alleviate  issues  like mental  ill-health,  child  poverty  and  domestic  abuse  are  in  short  supply,  both in the bureaucracy  and the  wider community.

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