Appears on New Zealand Hub page

By WEAll Aotearoa Country Lead Gareth Hughes

Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s fourth Wellbeing Budget continued the focus on wellbeing and responded to social and environmental failings – but did it address them?

A transformation is still needed to go from Wellbeing Budgets to a Wellbeing Economy – one that delivers wellbeing by default, not one where it needs to be added on.

After two years of Covid dominating Government spending decisions, Grant Robertson pitched the 2022 Budget as “less of a crisis budget” and a return to the wellbeing framework. What the country saw this week was very much a Wellbeing Budget but one that responded to failing rather than addressing them.

Since the first Wellbeing Budget in 2019 the Labour-led Government has approached the annual process to put together the national books differently from their predecessors. A wellbeing analysis was applied across all spending, and government departments were asked to leave silos and work together on joint proposals.

With a message of kindness and a focus on child poverty this approach received international plaudits in a world hungry for inspiring, positive news.

The 2022 Budget continued this focus, with Treasury’s updated Living Standards Framework providing the behind the scenes structure. Robertson’s focus in this Budget was health, cost of living issues – especially for the ‘squeezed middle’ – and climate change. Big ticket items were a record amount spent on a buckling health system, a temporary $350 payment for around two million New Zealanders and $2.9 billion of Emissions Trading Scheme revenue recycled on climate projects.

In Parliament National moved the inevitable amendment to oppose the Budget and labelled it the ‘Backwards Budget’, instead pushing for tax cuts. New Zealand is already in the bottom half of the OECD for tax as a percentage of GDP and a tax cut, especially one targeted at higher earners, would simply increase inequality while placing further pressure on public services.

This Budget contained many good measures, including rectifying a historic child support injustice.

However it continued the incremental, slow approach to change that won’t substantially alter persistent poverty, wealth inequality or the biodiversity and climate crises.

While National’s Christopher Luxon railed against so-called wasteful spending, this Budget was no radical dagger aimed at the heart of Neoliberal economics.

The parliamentary debate is always full of hyperbole but I believe a reasonable and constructive critique of the Budget is that it focused on failure demand.

This is the concept where the Government pays costs which are responding to the damage created by the current economic system. Current settings aren’t delivering a socially-secure, high-wage, low-carbon economy so vast sums are spent addressing symptoms and avoiding causes.

Take the biggest new line of spending – health. More than $11 billion was allocated over the forecast period – a huge sum – spent to patch holes and pay debt from historic underinvestment. Fixing damage.

In the climate space, nearly $340m will be spent looking for agricultural fixes to address the failure that farmers don’t pay the cost of their emissions.

The temporary $350 cost-of-living payment for individuals earning under $70k (except beneficiaries) offers short-term relief but doesn’t solve the systemic problem that Kiwis work some of the longest hours for some of the lowest wages and pay some of the highest costs of living in the developed world.

Half price public transport for Community Service Card holders and higher low-income dental grants help – but only respond to the failure that New Zealanders are not guaranteed liveable incomes above the poverty line.

Spending on motels for emergency shelter, the human and health and costs of diseases from unsafe housing, purchasing international carbon credits to avoid reducing emissions at home are all other examples of costly remedial measures from avoidable damage.

Economically New Zealand is doing reasonably well compared to similar countries in these volatile times. The growth rate is high coming out of Covid, government debt is comparatively small and the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 1986. With money to spend, the Government has been able to respond to some areas of failure demand but not all, by any means. A rental crisis, a housing crisis, an inequality crisis, a poverty crisis, a biodiversity crisis, and a climate crisis still stalk Aotearoa.

Wellbeing Budgets have been a welcome innovation but the next step surely must be addressing the root causes of social and environmental failure and building a Wellbeing Economy. A Wellbeing Economy is structured so that the economy serves people and planet, rather than being geared to maximise profit only through economic growth at the expense of the planet. It is designed to deliver quality of life with dignity, purpose, fairness and participation whilst caring for nature.

We need to do more than respond to costly avoidable damages arising from our current system. In 2017 Jacinda Ardern in her first speech as Prime Minister said: “This will be a Government of transformation”. With one Budget left before the next election I hope the Government will deliver on this aspiration.

This was originally published on Newsroom

Written by Gareth Hughes, WEAll Aotearoa New Zealand Country Lead

Many years ago I had the rare privilege to visit Kiribati, the low-lying Pacific nation on the frontlines of climate change. Climate change isn’t academic there – it’s a lived part of daily existence. Even then in 2010, they were building seawalls to try and keep the rapidly-rising seas from washing into their fields. Heartbreakingly these flimsy walls were built from garbage and sticks and would be no match for the power of the waves. 

This week New Zealand outlined the country’s plan to reduce emissions consistent with the Zero Carbon Act. Would a New Zealander travelling to Kiribati today be able to report New Zealand was doing all it could to urgently reduce emissions? Is it enough?

It comes in the fifth year of Ardern’s premiership, fourteen years after the Emissions Trading Scheme was created and 32 years after New Zealand’s first climate targets were announced. Since 1990 New Zealand’s emissions have increased by a full quarter – primarily as a result of ‘cars, cows and coal’. Successive governments have preferred agricultural exemptions, ineffective price signals and technological wishful thinking over more proactive policies. Inadequate targets, pine tress and creative accounting have all been used to mask our long-standing lack of deep and decisive action.

On Monday Climate Minister James Shaw released the Government’s first Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) – a laundry list of policies to meet the first emissions budget. The plan sets out $2.9 billion in spending from the Emissions Trading Scheme, the biggest single item being a $569m cash-for-clunkers scheme to encourage cleaner vehicles. There’s $350m for walking and cycling, $650m to help industry invest in low-carbon processes and $339m for agricultural research and a new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions. Farming still gets a free-ride outside of the ETS and many people have pointed out the irony it is receiving about a third of the total funding without contributing anything towards it. 

Despite being a weighty 343 pages, the plan lacks detail and ambition and many of its pages are padded outlining existing projects and case studies. Far too many actions are listed as to ‘investigate’, ‘explore’, ‘trial,’ or ‘consider’ and twelve separate new strategies are proposed. Substantially grappling with the 50% of our emissions that come from agriculture or making difficult decisions like reducing the national dairy herd have been ‘kicked down the road’ to another day along with congestion charging and bans on internal combustion vehicle imports. People hoping for a permanent extension of public transport discounts, free public transport or electric bike incentives would have been disappointed.

With billions of ETS revenue to spend there are many worthwhile projects in the plan. Home insulation, more electric car chargers, a new Climate Information Centre and organic kerbside waste collection are all good projects. One particularly promising area the plan outlines is a Māori climate strategy and action plan that ‘prioritises mātauranga Māori’. Funding will be made available for tangata Māori initiatives and I would love to see solar panels adorning the roofs of marae and whanau and hapu producing their own power. I imagine an Emissions Reduction Plan developed in a true Tiriti partnership would be stronger.

I wanted to see a huge regenerative agriculture fund and a €25bn package like in the Netherlands to radical reduce livestock numbers. I wished for more to help our most vulnerable New Zealanders cope with climate change amongst the other structural challenges they face. I hoped the ERP would have sent a clearer signal New Zealand coal burning might end before my children have kids and oil drilling might stop before they have grandkids. There are plenty more climate policies to push politicians of all stripes on.

After decades of inaction, the ERP is a milestone and a step-forward but a small step. Would this plan truly demonstrate to a citizen on a small-island state like Kiribati that New Zealand is treating climate change like an emergency and doing all it can to reduce its high per-person emissions? Probably not. It does show a direction of travel and after decades of inaction, perhaps those selling this aspect of the ERP are right to celebrate this. We need a level of political ambition as high as the existential threat of climate change.

The ERP is a modest step in the right direction but still leaves many of the most intractable, difficult choices ahead. We should celebrate positive steps but we shouldn’t forget Bill McKibben’s warning ‘winning slowly is the same as losing.’

While this isn’t the bold, transformative plan to fundamentally redesign our economy to live within planetary boundaries it should be – it can be a foundation to build on. The climate movement has made massive strides and is now securing serious money and policy programs but the scale of action is not yet matching the scale of the climate emergency.

In the end, a bold, transformative plan is unlikely to come handed down from those in power – it will come from people coming together. People who want to turn roadway into cycleway like on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, travel between our towns and cities on a national network of fast intercity rail and ride on modern free public transport need to redouble their efforts. Those campaigning to end coal burning for milk dehydration and a ban on coal exports need to ramp it up. Those calling for social justice and drawing attention to the fact 15 companies are responsible for three-quarters of New Zealand’s emissions need to constantly remind our politicians about this. We need to work together, build bridges and form alliances across society to create a transformative climate movement. This is just the start.

This was originally published on The Spinoff.

Kia ora ngā mihi nui kia koutou katoa. I whānau mai au i te taha o te awa o Tairawhiti. I raro i te maru o te maunga o Kaiti. He uri ahau no Wales, no Scotland. Kei te noho au kei Ōtepoti. Ko Gareth Hughes toku ingoa. Tena koutou katoa.

I’m Gareth Hughes, the new Country Lead for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand and I wanted to introduce myself. Above is a little about where I have come from in Te Reo Māori, the first language in New Zealand. I’ve spent my entire adult life campaigning for progressive causes as a campaigner at Greenpeace, as a Green MP and an activist. I describe my background as banging on the outside doors of Parliament as an activist then banging-on from the inside. I’ve taken part in non-violent direct action, like once infamously being arrested dressed as Ronald McDonald, passed laws and led campaigns that helped end offshore oil exploration and shark finning in New Zealand. I’ve always felt a passion and a calling for social justice and to protect our planet and I’ve tried to pull all the levers to achieve it.

After working on the symptoms for so long I am excited to now focus on the source of so many of the problems we face. I believe the most important mission facing us is working together to build an economy that works for people and the planet.

In 2020 I ended a decade-long career as a Member of Parliament. I am proud of what I achieved there but I was also frustrated how often the focus was on the short term, policy tinkering or debating what type of ambulance should be at the bottom of the cliff. Things like climate change, homelessness, poverty and inequality were seen as if they were bugs in the system when in fact they were consequences of a system that needs to change fast. My final speech in Parliament was a challenge to all political parties for transformational change – this is what I’ll be focused on in this new role. As such, I have stepped away from political party membership so I can advocate effectively to all parties.

In my valedictory speech I ended on a note of optimism for the future. “Fortunately for us in Aotearoa, we have an alternative value system focused on collective wellbeing, long-term thinking, and a strong connection to nature in mātauranga Māori. I believe if we truly became a Te Tiriti o Waitangi – respecting nation, we could escape the fatal embrace of short-term, individualistic, environmentally damaging thinking that has dominated our politics.” 

In my office I used to have a poster of the first whole image of the Earth taken from space hung on my wall. It was a reminder we need to operate within planetary boundaries which is so beautifully communicated in the Doughnut Economy. In the last year I have been researching and writing a biography of the late Jeanette Fitzsimons who was one of the pioneers of challenging infinite growth on a finite planet and GDP as a measure of success in New Zealand. This deep-dive into her work and the wider thinking that has occurred by many people over multiple decades has further inspired me to focus on a wellbeing economy. These are well-established ideas and the move towards them is now urgent.

I’m also a Dad to two kids, Arlo 14 and Zoe 11 and partner to my wife Meghan. We live in paradise, next to the sea in a small village on the Otago Peninsula in the southern part of New Zealand’s South Island. I love travel but I want to see the world in a low-carbon way so in the last five years I’ve become passionate about sailing. Most weekends you’ll find me on my yacht Avanti.

I am proud to join the New Zealand Hub in this new phase, as it becomes an established organisation with full-time staff, and to continue to expand on the more recent work of our WEAll volunteers in New Zealand. I have a busy work plan and I’m looking forward to rolling that out and working with WEAll partners, citizens and all political parties. 

By: Lisa Hough-Stewart

In March 2021, WEAll published our Policy Design Guide. This Guide was co-created with over 70 WEAll members, and aims to support visionary policy makers to build more just and sustainable economies for people and the planet. 

It was never intended to simply be a guidance document,  rather to transform policymaking and bring to life better outcomes for our societies.  Almost as soon as it was published, we were seeking collaborators and funding to pilot the Guide in real life settings.

The WEAll hubs and their partners in California, Canada, New Zealand and Scotland are working with community partners and local or city governments to bring the Wellbeing Economy Policy Design process to life. WEAll has also teamed up with ZOE Institute for Future-Fit Economies to collaborate on the process and evolve their groundbreaking policy portal to share learnings and successes from the pilots.

These pilot projects (which you can read more about below) are setting out to do something new. They are attempting to transform not just policy results but the process of policy making and decision making itself–to become more inclusive and democratic. They are, in the spirit of the Guide, working in radically participatory ways so that the policy design processes are not only based on the co-created visions of communities but aim to meaningfully engage those communities at every stage of the process – from deliberation to implementation.

The Guide offers a roadmap for this process, as well as many tools and case studies, which are a starting point for the pilots. However, as they evolve in the process, they are also charting new ground, and much remains unknown. WEAll is keen to learn as much as possible from their experiences, working with the hub teams to share learnings and stories that might help other communities and policymakers setting out on a similar journey. We will also develop a new version of the Guide to incorporate their experiences. 

About the pilots

California

  • WEAll California is carrying out its pilot in the city of Pomona, where the mayor is committed to championing new economic approaches.
  • Jeremy Fackenthal, Managing Director of the Institute for Ecological Civilisation and co-founder of WEAll California explains: “We’re working with local organisations in the city of Pomona to help shape a long term framework and vision for a wellbeing economy, an economy that that works for all people and for the planet, that provides fair and equitable resources and opportunities for flourishing in a holistic set of ways.” 

Canada

  • The Well-being Economies Alliance for Canada and Sovereign Indigenous Nations (WEAll Can) in Canada is focusing on the City of Toronto for its pilot, building on the foundations of “Doughnut Economics” workshops with city officials in 2021.
  • Tara Campbell, Wellbeing Economies Specialist at David Suzuki Foundation which hosts WEAll Canada, explains: “We are working directly with city officials, elected officials and city staff to socialise these ideas about wellbeing economies and generate interest. The other part of the work is building up a community oriented coalition or network that is interested in exploring these ideas, to develop wellbeing visions for the city of Toronto, to evaluate what’s already been happening, and imagine policy initiatives that could take place.”

Aotearoa/New Zealand

  • WEAll Aotearoa/New Zealand is aiming to work with community partners in three different regions.
  • Paul Dalziel, Professor of Economics at AERU, Lincoln University and co-founder of WEAll Aotearoa/New Zealand, explains: “We are talking with community groups, who are not formally part of local government themselves, but are collaborating with their local council to promote a vision around participation of people and creating economic opportunities and general wellbeing for themselves, their families, and their communities beyond what the people can achieve just on their own.”

Scotland

  • WEAll Scotland is working with Perth and Kinross Council to deliver “Love Letham”: a project which aims to bring the long term visions to life of children and young people for a flourishing future in their community of Letham.
  • Sarah Stocks, Director of Northern Star which is working as an associate of WEAll Scotland to deliver this project,  explains: “We are working with local people and decision makers together, to first understand what wellbeing means to those people, particularly children and young people in Letham, and then to try and meaningfully affect change in the way that policies are made.”

The story so far

The pilots are still in their early stages, with most of them set to deliver their first community engagement activities in January 2022.

The story that emerges from their experiences so far is one of the importance of relationships and trust as the foundation for a Wellbeing Economy policy design process.

All four pilots have found enthusiasm and willingness to collaborate amongst community partners and policy makers, and they’ve also found that the investment of time and energy required in developing these crucial relationships is considerable. Tara from WEAll Can suggested that the Guide needs a “phase 0” focused on the importance of stakeholder mapping and relationship building, which is something we’ll definitely consider!

The pilot teams reflect on the importance of relationship building and trust

Jeremy, WEAll California: “ The connections that we’ve made have been a real highlight for me. Being able to use those connections toward something that will hopefully make a lot of impact for people in the city of Pomona. So for instance, talking with Sarah McKinley [Democracy Collaborative] and picking her brain about both the positives and the pitfalls of worker owned cooperatives. Also, connections in Pomona, particularly with Latino and Latina Roundtable. Having them as a partner, and a partner who has the same vision for wellbeing and is willing to even adopt some of our language and help use it to shape the way that they talk about the economy has been really a lot of fun.”

Yannick, WEAll Can: “One of the elements of that relationship building is also inviting people not to be speaking primarily from their professional role. In the case of Toronto, the commonality of everybody is that there are residents of a big city, of Toronto. So how do you also create the space where when the elected official comes in, they’re not automatically seen as the policymaker, and that they have to respond only from their professional role as an elected official?”

Justin, WEAll Aotearoa/New Zealand: “Relationships are critical for our Māori partners. Our Indigenous partners, they wouldn’t call it networking, they would call it relationships. So that’s a really important element we’re trying to work on. Two of our three proposed partners are based on existing relationships, for example we have a hub member working with a potential partner which presents a natural collaboration.”

Sarah, WEAll Scotland: “There was quite a lot of time at the beginning, with colleagues in Perth and Kinross Council, basically trying to understand where Perth and Kinross were at. When I look back I remember it being a lot of discussions about wording, how to come up with a description of the project that would work for Perth and Kinross council as well as work for WEAll. But it was really about understanding each other’s position and where we were coming from and what we all were interested in and what we could learn from this process. 

“When we’ve gone out into the community in Letham, sometimes it wasn’t the first people that we spoke to who were actually the people that we needed to engage. But it was necessary to speak to them in order to determine who was. So it’s like a snowball effect, where you speak to someone, and then ask them to tell you who else they think you need to speak to.”

Are you interested in finding out more about the pilot projects, or using the Policy Design Guide to inform your own work? Get in touch with me at lisa@weall.org

Image: Sarah Stocks, Love Letham stall engaging with community members at Letham Christmas Market

New Zealand made headlines after announcing its first Wellbeing Budget in 2019. The country continues to lead the way in delivering wellbeing budgets, setting spending priorities to meet wellbeing goals.

Some economists continue to press for the traditional practice of developing strategies to promote economic growth. Justin Connolly is a founding member of the Aotearoa New Zealand hub of WEAll. He has responded to that criticism in a powerful article for the Newsroom

The article recognises that delivering a wellbeing economy will be hard work and will take time to deliver. This does not mean, however, we should return to the old ways. Instead, systems science can help us to deal with the complex issues of transforming to a wellbeing economy.

The article expands on this, drawing on The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge. Senge has long championed a systems approach for dealing with complex problems. This approach is currently experiencing a resurgence across business and civic society.

WEAll and other global movements are also developing new insights on how to design policies to support a wellbeing economy. A good example is WEAll’s Wellbeing Economy Policy Design Guide.

Thus, New Zealand’s wellbeing budgets are part of this global movement towards wellbeing economies. They respond to the multi-faceted, inter-generational task of challenging how our economies fail to deliver wellbeing. Both for the planet and for us who live on it, now and in the future.

Justin concludes that wellbeing budgets in New Zealand will necessarily continue to evolve. So will how we measure and manage our current and future prosperity. We all are invited to engage in the discussion and help shape those future systems, recognising that this is a long-term game.

The full article can be accessed here.

New Zealand is aiming to adopt a wellbeing economy approach in its economic policy. The Government, for example, presented the world’s first Wellbeing Budget to Parliament on 30 May 2019.

Against that background, Paul Dalziel and Caroline Saunders prepared a Research Briefing in September 2020. It summarises lessons learned in the initial New Zealand experience with the wellbeing economy approach. The authors are the Deputy Director and Director of the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University, New Zealand.

You can access the Research Briefing from the Lincoln University archive here.

By Hannah Ormston, Ben Thurman and Jen Wallace from the Carnegie UK Trust

In 2019, New Zealand made headlines around the world when their government signalled a genuine commitment to improving New Zealanders collective wellbeing through their annual budget. Applauded for being “transformational” and a “world first”, the NZ Treasury outlined their ambitions to measure progress beyond economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product. These indicators failed to capture the complexity of individual lives and, as NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “do not guarantee improvement to living standards” or “take into account who benefits and who is left out”.

Yet, as New Zealand announces its spending priorities for the next year, some have expressed disappointment, criticising the government’s lack of progress as well as a diminishing focus on wellbeing for which the NZ budget has become so well known.  But are these claims missing the point: that in New Zealand the concept of wellbeing has shifted from something novel, to an approach that’s now embedded within the day- to-day decision making of government?

What makes a ‘wellbeing’ budget?

In his pre-budget speech, Finance Minister Grant Robertson outlined the three main goals for this term of government: continuing to keep New Zealand safe from Covid-19, accelerating recovery, and taking on the generational challenges with the economy and society: in particular focusing on housing affordability, climate change, and children’s wellbeing. These are undoubtedly wellbeing goals. 

Sitting within a wider financial strategy, the ‘wellbeing’ specific component of the NZ budget consists of an allocated sum of money set aside to focus on prevention and improving collective wellbeing outcomes; policies and projects that better meet the needs of generations today, whilst also considering the long-term impact on generations to come. Spending from this ‘wellbeing pot’ is informed by a range of data that’s collected in a purpose built framework: the Living Standards Framework. It includes 12 areas of life that the government believe are critical for wellbeing, such as health; housing; social connections; and cultural identity.

Each year, the NZ Treasury uses the data in the Living Standards Framework to understand the issues that pose the biggest threat to wellbeing and inform decisions about where they should spend these funds. A wellbeing government understands that social, environmental, economic and democratic wellbeing have equal importance, and responds flexibly, by directing spending to the most urgent issues. In 2019, they chose to focus on improving mental health, child poverty, and family violence, while in 2020, their focus pivoted to the rapidly changing impact of COVID-19, and its immediate impact on people and communities. 

This year, the NZ government’s continued commitment to a wellbeing approach can be seen through the recent amendment to their Public Finance Act.  The Act now makes provision for the Minister of Finance to set wellbeing objectives to guide budget decisions. For the 2021 budget, the NZ Treasury has decided to focus its attention on the following objectives:

1. Securing a Just Transition to shift to a lower emission economy;

2. Enhancing productivity and enabling New Zealanders to benefit from the future of work;

3. Improving social and economic outcomes within Maori and pacific incomes, skills and opportunities;

4.  Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing; and

5.  Supporting physical and mental wellbeing for all, including keeping COVID-19 out of communities.

When assessing new policy and project proposals, their contribution to each of the above priorities is considered alongside their value for money, which is based on an assessment of their contribution to the wellbeing domains in the Living Standards Framework.

The priorities outlined in the 2021 recovery and wellbeing budget far from suggest a ‘move away’ from wellbeing. Rather, they show that their approach is holistic, and balances the health, wealth, and wellbeing of current and future generations in equal measure. It demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of individual and collective lives, and that recovery from COVID-19 and collective wellbeing are not mutually exclusive.

What are the lessons from the NZ approach?

But what can other countries learn from New Zealand’s approach, and what are the opportunities to build on, wherever you are? New Zealand is one of several Wellbeing Economy Governments who have a shared understanding – and ambition – to build sustainable wellbeing economies which include Scotland and Wales. The National Performance Framework in Scotland, and the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 each place a strong emphasis on prevention, intervention, integration and localism, similar to the NZ model. 

And while 20 May marks the next wellbeing budget announcement in New Zealand, in the UK, exciting new legislation, which shares the ambition to embed wellbeing in policymaking for current and future generations, will receive its first reading in the new parliamentary session in the House of Lords. At the Carnegie UK Trust, we work to improve the wellbeing of people in the UK and Ireland, recently publishing ‘Gross Domestic Wellbeing’ as an alternative measure of social progress in England: so we’re clear that ensuring we all have what we need to live well now, and in the future, should be the ambition of any government. This could be an important moment as the UK takes its first steps towards doing just that. 

References: 

Wallace, Ormston, Thurman et. al 2020. Gross Domestic Wellbeing: an alternative measure of social progress. 

Photo by Gigin Krishnan on Unsplash

Kia ora!  I’m Suzy Morrissey, one of the founders of the Aoteraroa New Zealand WEAll hub, and I recently gave ‘evidence’ to a special meeting of the UK All Party Parliamentary Committee (APPG) on the Green New Deal and the APPG on Limits to Growth.

The Green New Deal APPG was established to provide a cross-party platform for the development of a transformative Green New Deal for the UK and the Limits to Growth APPG is a platform for cross-party collaboration on shared and lasting prosperity in a world of environmental, social and economic limits.  The APPG members are MPs and Peers and the session was chaired by Caroline Lucas MP and Clive Lewis MP. 

I was invited to present ‘evidence’ for the consideration of the members of the APPGs ahead of the UK budget announcement, along with Lord Adair Turner (Institute for New Economic Thinking), Miatta Fahnbulleh (New Economics Foundation), and Robert Palmer (Tax Justice UK).  The virtual session was also open to the public and over 100 people participated in the session.

In my evidence, I explained the limitations of using GDP to measure wellbeing, outlining how it ignores important elements and rewards negative behaviors.  For example, unpaid work is not included in the calculation of GDP, but the sales of weapons are.  Further, no adjustment is made for activities that negatively impact the planet, such as pollution or non-recyclable waste.

I also shared an example of an alternative approach from Aoteraroa New Zealand.  The ‘Living Standards Framework’ measures wellbeing, using a stocks and flows based economic model, and a dashboard of elements.  It draws on the OECD’s Better Life Index, with domains of current wellbeing (such as income, health, housing), and four capitals (natural, social, human, and financial and physical).  The Living Standards Framework was devised by the NZ Treasury, to improve the quality of its advice, and provide a focus on inter-generational equity. 

Shortly after the Labour-led coalition Government came into power at the end of 2017, they announced their intention to use the Living Standards Framework as a base for the world’s first ‘Wellbeing Budget’ in 2019, as well as to inform the 2018 Budget.

I worked at the NZ Treasury as Principal Advisor in the Office of the Chief Economic Advisor and was the policy and engagement lead for the Living Standards Framework.  I shared my experience of determining the current wellbeing domains and capitals and finding suitable indicators to measure them .  For example, although much of the Living Standards Framework draws from the OECD Better Life Model, we decided to include a new domain of current wellbeing called ‘cultural identity’ to measure features unique to Aotearoa (such as use of Te Reo Māori, the language of our first people).  We also included ‘time use’ because it is so important, especially for gender analysis, even though it had been ten years since a national time use survey had been conducted by Stats NZ.  Data gaps need to be highlighted so that they can be addressed.

I also discussed how the Living Standards Framework was applied by government to identify priority areas for the budget and to assess potential policies for funding.  An initial assessment of wellbeing was undertaken using the measures and then ‘bids’ for funding from the national budget were assessed against the domains and capitals they were intended to improve. 

I was delighted to be able to share Aoteraroa New Zealand’s world-leading work in bringing wellbeing economics to public policy.

Now my focus is back on building the Aoteraroa New Zealand WEAll hub and sharing the wonderful WEAll resources for policy makers and businesses on how to create a wellbeing economy.  Contact myself, Paul, or Justin (emails on the Hub page here) if you would like to get involved.

You can watch the full APPG session below or on YouTube here:


Dr Girol Karacaoglu BA MBA Bogazici, PhD Hawaii 
Professor of Policy Practice, Victoria University of Wellington

The former Chief Economist of The Treasury in New Zealand has written a book examining the processes by which wellbeing-focused public policy objectives can be established, prioritised, funded, implemented, managed, and evaluated.

Professor Girol Karacaoglu is Head of the School of Government at Victoria University of Wellington and was previously New Zealand’s Chief Economist of The Treasury. Before then, he was the Chief Executive of PSIS (then Co-operative Bank of New Zealand) for nine years. His new book asks:

HOW WOULD WE DESIGN, IMPLEMENT AND EVALUATE PUBLIC POLICY IF IT WERE BASED ON OUR LOVE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS?

For the philosopher Water Kaufman, ‘I love you’ means:

I want you to live the life that you want to live.
I will be as happy as you if you do; and as unhappy as you if you don’t.

Professor Karacaoglu said that ‘wellbeing is about the ability of individuals and communities to live the lives they value – now and in the future. This is their human right. It would be extremely unjust to prevent the enjoyment of lives centred on chosen values. Preventing such injustice across generations should be the focus of a public policy that has intergenerational wellbeing as its objective.’

‘Half of the net revenue from sales of this book will be donated to The Nest Collective, which gives baby and children’s essentials to families in need’, he said.

Tuwhiri publisher Ramsey Margolis said that ‘while humanity may well come to grips with the current pandemic in the foreseeable future, ballooning inequalities and injustice threaten to shred the fabric of our societies, and the climate emergency menaces all life forms on the planet.

‘In the face of these enduring humanity-induced catastrophes, we owe a special duty of care to future generations to overcome them, and to leave our successors with a safer, fairer world in which they may thrive. We need to express our care for coming generations in many ways, from changing own personal lifestyles, to choosing political representatives who advance cogent, long-sighted policies in aid of a better world.”

Find out more and order the book via the publisher Tuwhiri

New Zealand has been making headlines this week after announcing its new Wellbeing Budget.

The government of New Zealand says it is “is committed to putting people’s wellbeing and the environment at the heart of its policies, including reporting against a wider set of wellbeing indicators in future Budgets.”

The official website of the New Zealand Government goes on to state:

“The Budget provides an annual opportunity to review New Zealand’s performance across some high-level indicators, place the Government’s programme within the context of the economic and fiscal outlook, set out the Government’s strategy for the future and draw links to specific actions that have been, or will be, taken.

Budget 2019: The Wellbeing Budget, will broaden the Budget’s focus beyond economic and fiscal policy by using the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework to inform the Government’s investment priorities and funding decisions. The Government will measure and report against a broader set of indicators to show a more rounded measure of success, as a country and as a Government. This will be supported by Budget processes that facilitate evidence-based decisions and deliver the Government’s objectives in a cost-effective way. The Wellbeing Budget represents an important step towards embedding wellbeing in New Zealand’s public policy.”

Find out more about the budget on the website here.

Read The Guardian article about the new budget here.

New Zealand is one of the founding members of the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative, alongside Scotland and Iceland.