NZ Wellbeing Budget 2020 (14 May, 2020)

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RT HON JACINDA ARDERN Prime Minister of New Zealand

Wellbeing Budget 2020: Rebuilding Together has been prepared and delivered under circumstances that were unimaginable just months ago. The usual Budget preparation and negotiation process was put aside when COVID-19 arrived in New Zealand and we began again.  We began again knowing that we had to lead New Zealand’s people and economy through this crisis. We began again knowing that the global economy was suffering and that New Zealand would be affected in ways beyond our control.

We began again knowing that we had to meet the immediate needs of New Zealanders while also underpinning an ongoing economic recovery.  We began again knowing that we had the chance to reset some things and embrace any opportunity, albeit uninvited and unwelcome, offered to us by the disruption to business-as-usual that COVID-19 caused. And that is what Budget 2020 delivers. 

It ensures that our schools and hospitals will receive ongoing investment so they can provide for our families and whānau. That our vital infrastructure projects will continue in a way that reduces our carbon footprint.

That we continue to invest in mental health to support our people. On our health response, we went hard and early to fight COVID-19 and that success has opened up economic opportunities. Now, it’s time to get the economy moving again both domestically and internationally to make the most of the head start New Zealand has with its recovery.

This Budget shows how we are positioning New Zealand for an economic recovery that will make New Zealand the best place it can be to live, study and work.  All of this work has been done through a wellbeing lens that considers the needs of New Zealand’s people and environment alongside our economy.

That process, started in the 2019 Wellbeing Budget, is non-negotiable. It encapsulates our approach to every decision we make and every action we take, be it on an everyday basis or, like this, in times of crisis.

Our focus on the things we know matter – our people, our jobs, our education, our health, our environment – has not dimmed, it has grown. The process for the Budget may have changed, but these things are now more important than ever.  So now we begin our rebuild, together.

HON GRANT ROBERTSON Minister of Finance

Wellbeing Budget 2020: Rebuilding Together is being presented in unprecedented and uncertain times. It represents an important moment in our response to, and recovery from, the COVID-19 pandemic. While the full impact on New Zealand’s society and economy from COVID-19 will only become clear over the coming months, this Budget takes important steps to face a 1-in-100 year health and economic challenge. We are continuing the focus on New Zealanders’ wellbeing as reflected in Budget 2019.

Our first Wellbeing Budget embedded wellbeing into the way we work, made meaningful progress towards breaking down agency silos and balanced the needs of present generations, while also addressing New Zealand’s long-term challenges. However, achieving genuine and enduring change will take time, which is why the Government has committed to taking a wellbeing approach to Budget 2020 and beyond. 

New Zealand’s ability to respond strongly to COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of investing in, and maintaining, core government services that support all New Zealanders’ lives and wellbeing. Accordingly, the Budget 2020 package focuses on support for public services and key infrastructure. This builds on the record investment made in the past two years, rebuilding services after a decade of underfunding. It remains critical we maintain the vital public services New Zealand needs to overcome COVID-19.  This investment will complement and support our targeted COVID-19 response, recovery and rebuilding measures.

The $50 billion COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF), established through the Budget, will be used to continue our support for households and businesses and begin the work to help support our society and economy to rebuild.  New Zealand’s fiscal position was strong going into the COVID-19 pandemic.

We delivered on our fiscal strategy to reduce net core Crown debt below 20 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and achieved $13 billion of operating surpluses in our first two years in office. This strong fiscal position means we are well placed to make important investments to cushion the blow of COVID-19 on the economy and on the wellbeing of New Zealanders. 

Running operating deficits and allowing net core Crown debt to increase is a necessary and responsible move as we fight the virus, reduce the impact on businesses and workers, and position ourselves for the recovery.  The Coalition Government remains committed to the principles of responsible fiscal management, including in our COVID-19 response and recovery.  We said at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that we would do everything we could to protect our people and our economy, and we are doing that. But we could not have done it without the support and buy-in of New Zealanders. Budget 2020 represents a continuation of our focus on New Zealand’s wellbeing, and I am proud to present it.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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