Jacinda Ardern: Our Wellbeing Budget puts people at its centre

Opinion 29/01/2019
Photo credit: World Economic Forum. Taken by: Sandra Blaser.

By Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

OPINION: This past week I attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

This year’s Forum was a great opportunity to meet with other world leaders, to talk about some of the things that matter most to us – how we can best tackle climate change, address mental health, and build better trading relationships.

It was also a chance to promote our upcoming Wellbeing Budget – which will be among the first of its kind in the world.

Doing things differently

Each year, one of the key jobs of Government is to set out its annual budget.

How we structure the Budget – what we choose to invest in, where we choose to save – says a lot about what we stand for.

It lays out our priorities for the year ahead, and it lets people know where we hope to be in 12 months’ time, and long into the future.

We don’t think you can measure the success of a country through dollars and cents alone.

With this Budget, we’re widening our focus.

Alongside GDP, we will measure ourselves against five key priorities that will make real improvements to the lives of New Zealanders. We’ve used evidence to identify the five areas we can make the greatest difference.

We will measure how well we grow innovation and social and economic opportunities in the digital age, and also how well we transition businesses, regions, and iwi to the sustainable and low-emissions economy we need to tackle climate change.  

As New Zealanders, we’ve never been the types to let our size get in the way of what we want to achieve.

We will also measure how we do in lifting the incomes, skills and opportunities available to our Māori and Pacific people, and how well we are supporting the mental wellbeing of all New Zealanders, with a special focus on under 24-year-olds.

Finally, we will measure how well we’re doing in reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, including addressing family violence.

Like the Government, our Wellbeing Budget puts people at its centre.

It requires us to set targets, report on our progress, and create strategies to ensure we’re looking after the wellbeing of our people – because what gets measured, gets done.

We will continue to measure economic growth, balance our books responsibly, run a healthy surplus, and spend well within our means - but by widening our focus, we will build an economy that is more productive, sustainable, and inclusive.

It’s a more compassionate approach – and it’s simply the right thing to do.

Trade and growth

I also used my time in Europe to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May in London to discuss our trade relationship. The mutual recognition agreement we signed means whatever happens with Brexit, our businesses will have continuity between the EU and UK.

Similarly, the EU trade agreement discussed in Brussels, a brief stop on my way home from Davos, will mean a stronger trade relationship between New Zealand and the EU, and will open up a whole lot of great opportunities for Kiwi businesses, exporters, and innovators.

Back home

My week in Europe – first London, then Switzerland, then Brussels – left me craving the warmth of our Kiwi summer, and perhaps more than a little jetlagged!

However, most of all, I feel really privileged to have had so many opportunities to promote New Zealand on the world stage.

We’re a small country, but an amazing one – and we more than hold our own next to the big players. As New Zealanders, we’ve never been the types to let our size get in the way of what we want to achieve.

With our Wellbeing Budget 2019, we are demonstrating a truly different way of doing things.

We are showing the world what putting people at the heart of Government looks like, and we’re presenting a different way to measure success.

Most importantly, we’re standing up for what we believe in.

Now that’s definitely something to be proud of.