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New Zealand pursues the wellness of its citizens with the Wellbeing Budget

We do not often hear about New Zealand and when it happens, it is usually to celebrate the sporting feats of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team that has given prestige to the Oceanic nation, or to display some of the wonderful natural landscapes that framed the fantasy Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Haka, the Maori dance performed by the players before each match, and the desperate runs towards the goal of the late Johan Lomu are among the most cliché images of New Zealand.

However, in the last few months, New Zealand has gained international awareness thanks to its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her political initiatives, which have cast an interesting light towards national and global wellbeing.

Thirty-nine years old, leader of the Labour Party, Jacinda is the enfant prodige of New Zealand’s politics. Elected to parliament for the first time in 2008, at the age of 28, she immediately burst into action, becoming, nine years later, party secretary and subsequently prime minister at the head of a progressive government, which had been missing in New Zealand for nine years.

The breathtaking landscapes of New Zealand
The young woman from Hamilton has not been content, however, to embody the sole role of an institutional reformist. She wants to use her innovative drive to lead New Zealand towards new horizons, departing from traditional political action and questioning those practices taken for granted.

In this light, among the new features, she presented the Wellbeing Budget, a pool of resources that can be used to ensure better standards of living to New Zealand’s citizens. According to Ardern and her team, the "wellbeing" of a country is not only measured by an arid gross domestic product growth digit and a positive trade balance, but also by assessing the wellbeing of those who live, work and pay taxes in New Zealand.

Taking care not only of the economy, but also of the citizens' well-being
Hence, the idea of providing a budget that can be used by the various ministries to New Zealand citizen’s lifestyle quality. A budget created to combat the main problems of New Zealand: from universal wellness-care to the fight against social inequalities, up to concrete actions to combat climate change, an issue that undermines the very concept of well-being.

A revolutionary step that the New Zealand government has been working on since the first day it took office, and of which Ardern became an ambassador during the last World Economic Forum in Davos. In front of the great leaders of the Earth, the Prime Minister reiterated that the Wellbeing Budget is the first step to change the way of assessing the wellbeing of the nation, to go beyond mere economic statistics which, when considered individually, give only an incomplete picture of the country.

New proposals from the World Economic Forum 2019
New Zealand, as recalled by Ardern in her speech in Davos, has a GDP growth of about 3% and an unemployment rate of 3.9%: these optimistic data however, are only one side of the coin.

We must pursue the social welfare of our nation - it has declared Ardern - not only the economic one.

The 5 points of the Wellbeing Budget

However, how does the New Zealand Wellbeing Budget actually work? In practice, the resources budgeted by the Ministry of Treasury can be used by the various ministries to achieve the goal of "producing" welfare in New Zealand. For 2019, Treasury studies have highlighted the five strategic areas that define the concept of "well-being", and on which to intervene.

  1. 1. The first point concerns the conversion towards the green economy and the strategic drive to create new business opportunities linked to such transition, which can then have a positive impact on the whole population of New Zealand, from the various regions to the Iwi communities that aggregate native New Zealanders.
The transition to a more sustainable and greener economy
  1. 2. The second macro-area covers the field of technological innovation and related socio-economic opportunities. Thanks to the Wellbeing Budget, measures will be adopted that will aim to make a technological leap forward for New Zealand, an advancement that, according to government forecasts, can also result in an improvement in the lives of citizens.
  2. 3. The third priority of this special budget is to improve the living conditions of the Maori and Pacific populations through measures aimed at raising family incomes, investing in training and creating new job and social inclusion opportunities.
Societal inclusion also for the natives
  1. 4. The reduction of child poverty is another point on the Wellbeing Budget, with particular attention to cases of family violence stemming from socioeconomic hardships.
  2. 5. Finally, the Wellbeing Budget aims to be an important resource to give way to policies that target the under 24s and especially their socioeconomic well-being.
Wellness must not be excluded for the younger sections of the population
A complex and very ambitious project that aims to mark a change in the list of the country’s priorities, but above all to open the way for a new way of understanding development, freeing it from the absolute dependence on economic indicators.

The government chaired by Ardern has set the goal of looking at the development of New Zealand through different lenses over the next few years. It will have to consider human capital (the set of knowledge, skills, abilities and emotions acquired during the life of an individual and aimed at achieving social and economic objectives, either individual or collective), social capital (human relations), natural capital (the environment) and financial capital (linked to the economy more closely understood).

The protection of human capital depends above all on the well-being of each individual
In short, the Wellness die has been cast and now only time can tell whether the choice of the youngest Prime Minister in the world is right and can turn New Zealand into a truly Wellness nation.

Certainly, Jacinda Ardern has shown a great deal of courage at a time when it seems difficult to think beyond the cold numbers of a budget. In New Zealand, in fact, the proposal of the Labour government has shaken the political debate, leading opposition parties to take sides against the Wellbeing Budget. In their opinion, this measure is unlikely to have a real impact on everyday life and is in clear contrast against the needs of the citizens.

Sustainable growth to change the course of the country and export a successful model
The political history of New Zealand and perhaps the birth of a new way of understanding wellbeing, which can also be exported to the rest of the world, will depend on the outcome of this contrast of visions.

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