Th FT of 21st January had an item by the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ‘New Zealand hopes to lead the world with wellness-based policies’, which was perhaps, ostensibly pretty pedestrian-based stuff. But it has notable insight.
Ours was the first country where all women won the right to vote back in 1893. In 1938, we were one of the first to introduce a cradle-to-grave social welfare system that endures in some form to this day.
This tendency to push boundaries also means we are sometimes the first to learn valuable lessons. Starting in 1984, New Zealand went further and faster than nearly any country in embracing the prevailing neo-liberal economic experiment.
She goes on:
Within 20 years, my nation lost its status as one of the most equal countries in the OECD. While incomes at the top doubled and gross domestic product grew steadily, incomes at the bottom stagnated and child poverty more than doubled. Some citizens were richer in cash, but the country was poorer in many other ways.
I was a child back then, but the consequences of this shift are etched into my memory and my politics. Kids in the small rural town I was living in at the time weren’t born into a decade of hope and opportunity, but one of inequality where users had to pay for basic services.
This experience wasn’t limited to New Zealand. It happened in many countries. Around the world, there is now increasing frustration over economies that see disproportionate benefits go to one group and leave others behind. They are not only perpetuating unfairness but also hampering their overall growth potential and, increasingly, posing a threat to our democracies.
We have seen politicians and governments of all stripes respond to such disparities by rejecting the institutions and global systems that are believed to have produced it. I see how we reached this point, but I reject the idea that the only alternative is isolationism and the abandonment of global institutions.
….In May, my government will present the world’s first “wellbeing budget”. This is not a concept we came up with ourselves. The OECD and the IMF have, for a while now, urged countries to look beyond a strong balance sheet and a strong economy to redefine success. We must focus specifically on living standards and human, social and natural capital when we set targets and track progress. In our next budget, we will set five priorities each deliberately focused on long-term intergenerational change.
As an example, one priority will be to support the mental wellbeing of all New Zealanders, with a special focus on under 24-year-olds. From a purely economic perspective, there are clear benefits to supporting positive mental wellbeing, including enhanced productivity. From a kindness perspective, the modern age places huge stresses on young people, which affects their ability to live full, meaningful lives. Confronting this will make us a better country.
We in New Zealand hope to, once again, punch above our weight by forging a new economic system based on this powerful concept — one that is successful, but one that is also kind.
This is some article…
Do read, if you can, the full version here.
I can only dream that we too had a Prime Minister capable even of imagining similar objectives.