Harsh economic reality has forced Finance Minister Bill English to take some stern measures, which, if effectively implemented, will prevent New Zealand becoming a member of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain and sometimes Ireland) countries with poor credit rating.
A number of proposals in the Budget would affect the Education sector. Some of these have been criticised in the media and in public and private discussions.
Following is a brief account of the changes:
750 additional places in Private Training Establishments: This positive development will encourage efficient PTEs to grow further. It is also designed to increase the skill pool in the country.
An increase of 2% in funding for degree and postgraduate qualifications: This reflects the Government’s efforts to encourage more New Zealanders to seek higher qualifications.
An extra $10 million for a new Crown entity to replace Education New Zealand: This will give a flying start to boost Export Education.
$17.5 million for Refugee and Migrant Language Courses: This is continuing the Government’s commitment to support refugee and migrant communities to integrate into the society and contribute towards economic progress.
An increase of $40 million over four years to raise the education profile overseas: New Zealand is fast becoming a preferred destination for international students. This increase will ensure that the ‘New Zealand Brand’ becomes a permanent inviting icon for all aspiring international students.
Changes to Student Loan eligibility: Loans to people above 55 years of age and to Part-time students will be restricted to tuition fees for one year. The Government is also tightening the loan recovery process to bring down the high proportion of loans currently being written off.
Some feel that the budget is insensitive towards the needs of the aging sections of the society (especially the Y Generation), who may not feel inclined to up skill or retrain themselves. This may reduce their productivity and increase dependence on family or welfare support.
However, this argument is not supported by facts. A small percentage of our seniors take advantage of the facility.
Manish Tanna is an academic and National Party supporter based in Auckland.