Wellbeing poised to become new orthodoxy of fiscal policy

Dr Rajen Prasad

The Indian Newslink Lecture held on July 29, 2019 at Pullman Hotel Auckland marked the beginning of a new series by the publication.

Indian Newslink has a long history of producing the premier newspaper covering news of interest to the Indian community.

In addition, each year, they mount three significant events that bring together movers and shakers in the Indian community and those who have a real interest in that community, for an evening of good conversations, an enlightening address, a good meal and fellowship.

In acknowledging these contributions, we salute the Paper’s Principal Jacob Mannothra and its Editor, the ubiquitous Venkat Raman.

Experts and practitioners

In its Lecture series to date, Indian Newslink has enabled an examination of good governance by a diverse range of informed practitioners in the hope that the principles of Good Governance would become better understood and its implications harvested in the operation of our major institutions and businesses.

In the next series perhaps, there is a greater appetite for more contestation of political ideas and alternate policy prescriptions.

In his Lecture, Finance Minister Grant Robertson acknowledged Good Governance as a hallmark of good government and accepted that by and large New Zealand does well on many of the key indicators.

Anyone following the government’s commentary since the beginning of the year would have expected the Minister to talk about the Well-being Budget, the Living Standards Framework and explain how they reflect his views on Good Governance.

He did not disappoint.

Reflections with a difference

Paul Goldsmith, the Opposition Spokesperson on Finance provided his Reflections.

While not disagreeing with the importance of well-being he raised a number of cautions on costs, possible uncertainties it could create and the importance of being able to deliver.  No doubt these are matters would also be in the frame of the Minister’s thinking.

Mr Robertson rightly concluded that New Zealand has a Good Governance structure and its systems are reasonably robust. This has endured and New Zealand does well in the opinion of the major international bodies that comment on corruption perception, ease of doing business, rule of law and trust.

Cynics and Politics

However, the Minister lamented, as Prime Minister (Jacinda Ardern) did in her recent Melbourne speech on ‘Why Does Good Government Matter?’, the unhealthy cynicism about politicians and politics.

They both believe that there are significant gaps between what people are told about how good things are and their actual lived experiences.

They both worry that if this feeds cynicism and discontent amongst sizable swathes of the population it imperils our democracy and we run the risk of people disengaging.

These concerns drove the Minister’s focus on well-being as he has conceived it.

Questions and Challenges

How can it be that the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and others ask that despite a healthy GDP growth we have a significant number of citizens experiencing homelessness, rising child poverty, increasing pollution, worrying suicide rates, and generally a sense that the benefits of growth was not adequately addressing what people held dear?

Similar questions can be asked in other areas of policy and provision like the areas of family violence and our child welfare system.

The well-being outlook as articulated in the last budget contains the promise of a paradigm shift which will only endure if it continues to be developed.

With such a comprehensive Living Standards Framework in place the hope is that we can make a real difference to the lived experience of our citizens.

It is feasible that the wellbeing outlook will become the new orthodoxy for all future budgets and public policy just as Professor Marilyn Waring’s work on women’s unpaid work not being factored into the national accounts led to the new orthodoxy of feminist economics.

A well-being approach is certainly an idea whose time has come.

Dr Rajen Prasad, Former Member of Parliament, delivered the Concluding Remarks at the Ninth Annual Indian Newslink Lecture held on Monday, July 29, 2019 at Pullman Hotel Auckland. Please read related stories on Page One, under Homelink and Businesslink and our Leader under Viewlink in this issue.

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Photo Caption:

Dr Rajen Prasad with Deputy Commissioner of Police Wallace Haumaha and Prem Prasad

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