Judith Collins is employing some creative maths in this press release. She says there is a total of $750 million owed in benefit debt. But fails to mention that the majority - 56% - is non-current ie the person owing the debt is no longer a beneficiary. Then she says the following;
"In March 2002 there were 343,000 working-age beneficiaries and total benefit debt stood at $537million. Now there are about 250,000 beneficiaries and the debt is $750 million, about $3000 for very working-age beneficiary."
Dividing the total debt between current beneficiaries is then, meaningless, except if you want the public to gasp. Divide current debt by current beneficiaries and the sum is closer to $1,300. And then factor in that much of this debt is legitimate recoverable assistance (also conveniently overlooked by the National Spokesperson).
Ms Collins headline is "Benefit debt recovery unchanged despite spending". In fact, per current beneficiary, it has improved.
It would almost certainly be more difficult to recover debt from people no longer receiving a benefit (which can be subjected to automatic deductions.) Growing non-current debt may be an aspect of reduced beneficiary numbers that has to be lived with. Or should we get all the ex-beneficiaries back on welfare in order that we can deduct their debts from guaranteed weekly payments?
The elephant in the auction room
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