Grant Robertson: I've got plenty of nothing for all you lovely beneficiaries!
The so-called 'well being' budget will do next to nothing to enhance the well being of beneficiaries and the poor.

I WROTE a couple of posts or so ago that any hopes that the Labour-led government would be transformational had just about been extinguished. 

Budget 2019 grinds the last of the fading embers into charcoal. The few still rubbing two sticks together in a desperate and forlorn attempt to spark the great transformative project back into life are either uncritical hardcore Labour supporters or Green MP's whose parliamentary careers, already hanging by a shoestring, rely on Labour staying in power.

Despite all the hype about doing things differently this Budget is grimly predictable; it throws a bit of money there, tinkers with something over there but it is sorely lacking anything that could be regarded as transformational. I don't see any glimpse of a new world in this Budget. That would require tipping up the neoliberal applecart and this Government isn't going to do that. Ever.

Even when it throws money at mental health - something the Green's have been crowing about - it fails to give any consideration to the fact that our present economic and social framework just might have something to do with making people sick. So it adopts the usual 'army of ambulances at the bottom of the cliff' approach beloved of all New Zealand government's in the error of neoliberalism.

There is direct causal link between poverty and such social malaises as mental ill-health and domestic violence but this Government has chosen not to lighten the economic burden on the shoulders of beneficiaries and the poor by increasing core benefits. That Green MP Marama Davidson should actually claim it is a triumph  that benefits will be linked to wage increases only goes to demonstrate her own poverty of vision. Without an increase in core benefits - which Davidson and the Green's didn't support - any increases in the future will be minimal and will do nothing to alleviate the widespread economic distress.

Ricardo Menendez March, the Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator, has commented:

“The indexing of benefit levels to the average wage is a tokenistic move by Government that does not address the calls by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group for an urgent increase of core benefit levels of up to 47%. The projected increase in beneficiaries’ incomes as a result of the indexing changes will only result in an additional $27-$47 a week by 2023, which is far less than what the WEAG recommended. The net change of incomes as a result of indexing benefits to the average wage is small increase when the costs of living continue to increase, and the housing crisis shows little signs of easing for those on low-income."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern committed  hereslef to having no homeless this winter. Will this Budget help to achieve that? No, especially since this Budget fails to make any commitment to any substantial increase in state housing, either.

The smiling woman on the cover of Budget 2019 was an appropriate, if unintended, choice. She's Vicky Freeman who emigrated to Australia because she could no longer afford to live in New Zealand. She was paying $500 a week in rent for her and her daughter, and she was earning less than that.

At least she had the financial resources to choose to leave. The increasing number people living on the streets, in cars, in motels and in camping grounds don't have that choice.  Budget 2019 offers them no way out of their dire economic circumstances.


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