Jacinda Ardern’s 2019 pre-budget speech

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave a pre-budget speech to Business New Zealand yesterday. Excerpts:


Not surprisingly, I want to talk to you today about next week’s Wellbeing Budget, why we are doing it, what it means and what it will achieve. I’ll also run through some of the pre-Budget announcements we have made to illustrate what the new approach means in action.

As I said when I entered Parliament, I developed a passion for social justice over many years, but in part from living through that and seeing people lose their jobs and seeing families struggle.

For this Coalition Government, a key plank of delivering that change is our Wellbeing Budget. Let me talk a little about our rationale for taking on quite a different approach, and one the OECD is watching quite closely.

…what we are trying to do with the Wellbeing Budget.

It has five priorities, which were developed using the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework, evidence from sector-based experts and the Government’s Science Advisors, and through collaboration among public sector agencies and Ministers.

These priorities, which yes include our economy, but go beyond that too, are the areas where the evidence shows we have the greatest opportunities to make a difference to New Zealanders’ wellbeing.

These are:

  • Creating opportunities for productive businesses, regions, iwi and others to transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy;
  • Supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation, social and economic opportunities;
  • Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, including addressing family violence;
  • Supporting mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders, with a special focus on under 24-year-olds; and
  • Lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities.

The second step was to then look at Budget bids under each of these priorities, through a different lens.

We asked three big questions:

  • is the Budget bid intergenerational? Will it make a difference now and for the lives of our children, grandchildren and beyond?
  • does it move us beyond the narrow measures of success to take a wider set of factors into consideration?
  • and, finally, is it a whole of Government approach? After all, for too long policies and initiatives have operated in isolation, sometimes with overlapping work and other times resulting in gaps in policies.

First, homelessness.

Instead of looking solely at public housing places, we have acknowledged that chronic homelessness is often a result of multiple complex and often compounding issues.

Rather than take part in a merry dance on what issue comes first, we should instead, house first.

And that’s exactly what a well-researched and evidenced-based model called Housing First does. It houses those who are in cars or on our streets and then wraps social support around them – whatever is required – to make it stick.

Budget 2019 does that by making the largest Government investment in chronic homelessness ever, and rolling out Housing First into more centres, and funding more places.

Family and sexual violence

Every year about one million New Zealanders are affected by family and sexual violence, including almost 300,000 children.

Violence is expensive, in more than one way. It, for instance, can do as much harm to a child who witnesses it, as it does to a child who is directly harmed. And that then plays out in their behaviour, and their relationships. And so it continues.

We all know we need to put in place a crisis response, but we just haven’t invested much before in breaking cycles, working with children for instance, or addressing the mental health impact of family and sexual violence. A wellbeing approach demands that we do.

And so on Sunday we announced a $320 million investment in this area. And because of our new coordinated approach, it’s an investment that will sit across eight portfolios and deliver more support services to more New Zealanders, major campaigns aimed at stopping violence occurring and major changes to court processes to reduce the trauma victims’ experience.

Budget Responsibility Rules

Finance Minister Grant Robertson…confirmed we will meet all of the Budget Responsibility Rules as we did last year as well. For anyone who needs or wants a reminder, these were a set of self-imposed rules to demonstrate our commitment to sound economic management covering our debt-to-GDP ratio, core Crown spending and Budget surpluses.

The reaction to his news that following the expiry of the Budget Responsibility Rules in 2022 we would be moving from a net debt target (of 20%) to a net debt range (of 15-25%) received positive and negative attention – usually a sign we have the balance right.

Global Economy

Fortunately we are well positioned to face instability and uncertainty. Although growth rates are set to be lower than we have seen in recent years, the IMF projections for New Zealand are that we will still grow at around 2.5% in 2019 and 2.9% in 2020. We are still tracking ahead of most of our major trading partners. The average growth for advanced economies in the same period is projected to be 1.8% and 1.7% respectively.

We are projected to grow faster than the US, the UK, Japan, Canada, the Eurozone and Australia. Just this week the OECD released its latest outlook which also shows us growing faster than our peers, while last week the Reserve Bank of Australia further lowered its 2019 growth forecast for the Australian economy.

We continue to have historically low unemployment and stable, low inflation. This is supported by Budget surpluses and low public debt due to our Government’s responsible fiscal management.

This all supports this Government’s economic plan which includes:

  • Focussing on increasing trade and broadening our trading base to protect our exporters and economy through the introduction of the CPTPP, pursuing an EU FTA and we recently, of course, signed our Enhanced Partnership with Singapore.
  • We are reforming skills and trade training to address long-term labour shortages and productivity gaps in the New Zealand economy, to make sure we are prepared for ongoing automation and the future of work – I’d like to acknowledge the work Kirk and Richard Wagstaff are doing alongside the Finance Minister on the Future of Work Tripartite Forum. So far a focus on the future of work has meant greater investment in apprenticeships and partnership with business like the skills pledge launch by my Business Advisory Council under the leadership of Christopher Luxon.
  • We are addressing our long-term infrastructure challenges – and that doesn’t just mean billions in investment, but establishing long-term planning through the Infrastructure Commission.
  • We are transitioning to a sustainable carbon-neutral economy. Our focus is not only having a long-term plan through the Zero Carbon Act, but also investing in R&D as the economic transition occurs.
  • And, of course, investing in wellbeing because this is inextricably linked to our economic success too. You will see more on that in the Budget on May 30.

These economic initiatives are, in turn, part of the Government’s approach of finding pragmatic solutions to New Zealand’s long-term challenges.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately though, it’s fair to say we are taking nothing for granted. Our relatively solid position does not mean we should simply ride out the conditions around us. Nor do the existing parameters successive governments inherit mean we should use traditional frameworks to make decisions or measure success.

Systemic change does however take time.

My hope is though that this year, by meeting both the Budget Responsibility Rules and with the new Wellbeing Budget, you’ll see us doing exactly what is needed – setting a strong foundation for both our country and our people.

Full speech at Scoop.

Leave a comment

6 Comments

  1. adamsmith1922

     /  25th May 2019

    Another vacuous speech from Ardern.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  25th May 2019

      Vacuous is an understatement. Spare me.

      The old test of reversing the policies to see if they mean anything is a good one.

      Who would set out to REMOVE opportunities ?

      NOT support thriving ?

      INCREASE child poverty and REDUCE wellbeing ?

      UNDERMINE mental health ?

      LOWER incomes, skills and opportunities ?

      Reply
  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  25th May 2019

    Nothing for the socially isolated; let the buggers die.

    Reply
  3. She'llBeRight!

     /  26th May 2019

    Here’s one simple way to lift poverty at negligible cost for government. #GovernmentBudget2019
    https://wp.me/p51f0Y-3z

    Reply
  1. Jacinda Ardern’s 2019 pre-budget speech — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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