New Zealand’s Latest Budget Places Personal Well-Being Over Economic Pressures

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.Governor-General of New Zealand/CC BY 4.0

New Zealand's latest budget will put people over economy, focusing on the well-being of its citizens rather than GDP.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced last week that the overall well-being of citizens will replace traditional economic indicators of the country’s success in her latest budget proposal, according to the New Scientist.

Shifting the focus away from gross domestic product (GDP), Ardern’s budget instead prioritizes the address of “mental health problems, suicide and child poverty,” with nearly “NZ$2 billion...earmarked for mental health services, following yet another year of the country having the highest teen and young adult suicide rates in Western countries.”

Programs aimed at reducing child poverty would receive more than NZ $1 billion, and another NZ$200 million would be directed toward offering “long-term shelter for people who are homeless, with no strings attached,” the New Scientist reported.

While other countries have also focused on well-being — including the Kingdom of Bhutan, France, and for a short time, the UK — New Zealand appears to be the first to center its budget around the overall well-being of its citizens.

One of the greatest challenges will be tracking the budget’s achievements to determine its success, according to Arthur Grimes of the Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust, New Zealand.

Grimes said the approximately 60 indicators proposed represent “a really scattergun approach” to gauging success, but he also said the government could use self-reported questionnaires to assess the effectiveness of specific programs.

But regardless of the issues yet to be worked through, Ardern views the move as a positive shift in the way government thinks about its people, saying during her budget announcement, “Today we have laid the foundation for not just one well-being budget, but a different approach for government decision-making altogether.”

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