Ardern explains ‘well-being’ approach to budget, sort of

The Government is promoting it’s next budget (due in May) as a world first ‘well-being’ focussed budget. They may be putting more focus on aspects of well-being, but it’s only the label and the emphasis that is different.

The last National government had a different label – social investment. Their emphasis may have been different but they were trying to address a similar approach to spending decisions.

Jacinda Ardern was asked about her wellbeing approach on Newshub Nation.


The government’s about to deliver the world’s first well-being budget. Okay, so there seems to be concerns from economists that this budget might not be so much based on data. One of the examples that’s come up recently is the Treasury’s cost-benefit analysis, where it puts a figure, a specific value on things like contact with a neighbour or feeling lonely. I mean, how do you put a value on those things that you can’t count?

Incredibly difficult, granted.

Yeah.

Actually, what some of the Treasury have used actually were — some of the modelling, as I understand, was actually developed under the last government, when they were doing social investment. These are all pieces of information that we use in a budget process. But it is not the thing that determines precisely what we then prioritise. It’s an input. It gives us extra information. Because you’re right — some of it— it’s quite hard to build evidence base in some of these areas, and yet we know the economic impact of, actually, some of the social issues we’re trying to address. Now let me give you an example. Internationally, a big discussion around the economic impact of mental health and well-being — we know that there are groups of our society who are experiencing more social disconnection, less contact with the outside world, greater levels of loneliness. Now, that might seem fluffy, but there actually is an economic impact for that downstream. How do we make sure we prioritise investing in the areas that help us from a social perspective, but also, ultimately, economically too.

But some of the, sort of, criteria seem a bit out of whack, as it were. Like, you’ve got minus-$17,000 for loneliness, and that seems to be a greater figure than avoiding a heart attack and all these kinds of things.

And, unfortunately, the Opposition have completely misused the tool that Treasury has created by comparing cost benefit and outputs incorrectly.

Okay.

Treasury have debunked the way that that’s been dealt with, but the primary point I’d like to make is these are just different pieces of data and evidence we can use. Ultimately, though, we are still the ones making the decision over what changes these things at an intergenerational level.

So tell somebody. I mean, it sounds lovely and a bit woolly. So tell someone. It’s a tangible difference about having a well-being budget. What’s a concrete example?

Let me give you an example. So health, for instance. In the past, we’d just tell you how much we’d spent in the health budget. It doesn’t really tell you anything about the well-being or the health of New Zealanders. So then you’ve seen governments over time would instead tell you how many operations we’re purchasing. But, actually, again, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re investing in a way that saves us money in the long term. What we’re trying to do is factor in, for instance, the fact that children that grow up in poverty are more likely to have health problems as adults just by virtue of that trajectory, and they have the equivalent of what looks like post-traumatic stress. So, actually, if we want to save health dollars here, it makes sense for us to invest in the health and well-being of kids.

Hasn’t that been the motivation of government ministers? Shouldn’t that be the motivation — you know the general well-being of the population from day dot?

It should be, but—

So why do you need the marketing stuff over the top? That should be your primary motivation.

It’s not the way policy is developed or spending decisions are traditionally made. Unfortunately, when you’re a minister — and this has happened through successive governments over decades, and it’s an international problem that was being debated at Davos, for instance —individual ministers, of course, make budget bids in their own area, and so that means that, you know, the Minister of Education might not be thinking about, you know, mental health and well-being issues even though he actually has a role to play in that area. The Minister of Health isn’t necessarily— has the responsibility to deal with what happens with child trauma and child poverty, and yet he picks up the pieces. It’s about trying to get everyone to work together to resolve what are long-term challenges. So, actually, this isn’t about ideology; it’s not about left and right; this is just, I think, a good methodology to use in the future.

22 Comments

  1. David

     /  March 3, 2019

    She has absolutely no clue, its quite alarming.

    • lurcher1948

       /  March 3, 2019

      Explan that comment,David our PM can do no good in your eye

      • David

         /  March 3, 2019

        She is literally doing what English and Key were doing except she doesnt want to measure outcomes she only wants to measure inputs.
        We have seen this with the dumping of health targets which is real people waiting longer for cancer treatment, not getting a stent in a timely fashion, living with dodgy hips longer and every DHB is now in deficit.
        We no longer have National Standards so have no clue on which kids are failing until they get to NCEA but we will be celebrating further investment in education albeit all of it going to teachers salaries. Inputs measured not results measured.
        I think the woman is lovely but not bright enough to run the show and too distracted with the baby to get herself up to speed. She should be deputy PM or something.

        • Duker

           /  March 3, 2019

          English never had a clue about ‘social investment ‘ policy and used to babble about stuff ‘the data’ could never do- but because hes a man he is never called up on explaining it wrong.

          The data was -“The IDI is an excellent data tool, and is used to inform the latter two components of social investment. The IDI was built by Statistics New Zealand to join up multiple, separate government databases. The type of data in the IDI is administrative; tax, justice, health, and social development data is collected by agencies, as we, the people, interact with them. ..”

          In reality it could NOT Identify individuals, as being from Stats they dont collect data like that eg census results are anonimised, same goes for the data from WINZ etc.

          https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2018/02/18/89430/why-bill-englishs-big-idea-didnt-work
          http://morganfoundation.org.nz/no-one-understand-social-investment-not-even-bill-english/ ( link broken try web cache)

          “Again this idea of ‘zeroing in’, or reaching into individual families and providing “wrap around services” pops up, and yet again the IDI cannot be used to do so. What can be used is the same system we have been using for years (not in any way unique to social investment) – caseworkers, police, social workers, etc. identify families ‘at risk’ from their work, and interventions or wrap around services to overcome their ‘situation’ are delivered to them.”

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  March 3, 2019

            I think you mis-identify the issue. As I understood it the social investment strategy was to identify where money should be invested now to reap savings later. That doesn’t require identification of individuals.

            • Duker

               /  March 3, 2019

              Bill did claim the individuals could be targeted..that was my point

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  March 3, 2019

              Rubbish. Using statistics to set investment policy decisions that result in individuals who fit the policy criteria being targeted does not require the statistics or the policy makers to identify individuals.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  March 3, 2019

              Downticked by morons. Excellent.

            • Gezza

               /  March 3, 2019

              The idea was that research has shown those who are most at risk of poor life outcomes and a whole of government approach would be used to direct (where necessary, multiple) resources to state and other agencies to assist those identified as presenting a range of known poor outcome factors (illiteracy, mental health issues, victims of family violence, criminal or juvenile offenders etc), including sometimes to whole families, would likely result in sustained improved outcomes for those individuals and their families. As opposed to simply pouring more money into bureaucracies for across the board disbursements, with inherent wastage.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 3, 2019

          Or something is about right. This fluffette is away with the fairies.

          NB: if anyone’s thinking of joining Neighbourly, be aware that it’s connected with the Mental Health Foundation who will send personal and intrusive emails to your email address !!!

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  March 3, 2019

            I mean addressed to you by name. I found this very inappropriate and intrusive. The content was also very pushy and presumptuous. It could well have seemed to people that it was targeted. I was extremely annoyed to find that email addresses were being shared !!!

    • Blazer

       /  March 3, 2019

      no cause for alarm at all.

      No clue basket contains…May,Trump,Morrison,Trudeau …apparently.

  2. Finbaar Rustle

     /  March 3, 2019

    The right wing default setting is any one who is not National has no clue.
    Until National is returned to power the right wing see it as their duty
    to condemn everything Labour does.
    Similarly the right wing in the USA believed that everything Obama did was wrong.
    No analysis, no evidence no facts just condemn until they regain power.
    Because the right believe only they should ever rule.
    No one else has a clue you see.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  March 3, 2019

      Are you defending Ardern’s meaningless blather?

    • Pink David

       /  March 3, 2019

      “Similarly the right wing in the USA believed that everything Obama did was wrong.”

      That’s a brave claim given the evidence shows that every bill signed by Obama had at least one Republican vote, with only one exception.

      “No analysis, no evidence no facts ”

      Kind of like every single post you make.

      • Duker

         /  March 3, 2019

        3 congressmen voting with Dems doesn’t really count. Many other votes were ‘voice’ votes ..the Ayes have it….where a count wasn’t made

  3. Kitty Catkin

     /  March 3, 2019

    A budget once had the shade of meaning of a lot of talk or gossip (“I opened my budget.”) This one seems to have reverted to that.

  4. artcroft

     /  March 3, 2019

    I honestly couldn’t tell you what she was meaning or intending. As Labour have always said “If you have nothing to say, get Jacinda to say it”.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  March 3, 2019

      It’s a worry that the PM is a clueless waffler but it’s more of a worry that the rest of the Cabinet are worse.

  5. Gezza

     /  March 3, 2019

    That explanation above in that post from Jacinda, as an explanation of how they will put together and cost a well-being budget, is sheer bloody waffle. It is essentially meaningless and amounts to: “I don’t have a clue – here are lots of somehow-related words & phrases meantime, floods of which hopefully will just keep mashing your brain up working out what in God’s name it actually means until this interview is over; and I just hope Grant or someone can come up with some semi-relevant figures somehow, eventually”.

  6. adamsmith1922

     /  March 3, 2019

    She was aided by the shoddy questioning by the interviewer