Wednesday, March 05, 2014

English - more social spending is not the answer

Labour was trying to score a hit against Bill English yesterday in Parliament, over the matter of a significant data error involving Treasury and Statistics NZ. The PM's response to the latest Salvation Army State of the Nation report was raised. Here's the comeback:

Hon Kate Wilkinson: What issues affecting households with low disposable incomes were inherited by this Government in 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We inherited rising social spending and declining social outcomes. Shortly before the change of Government in 2008 the Salvation Army produced the same report as the one it produced earlier this year. Its findings were that more children appeared to be at risk of harm, more youths were engaged in crime, violent crime was up, more people were in jail, and Child, Youth and Family referrals were rising. The Salvation Army said at the time that it was disappointed that despite significant increases in Government spending the social problems were getting worse. So we listened to its advice. We have not increased spending, and a number of these social problems are now improving.

Indeed. Regarding the Salvation Army's most recent offering

 The report acknowledges creditable progress in some areas of social wellbeing...The Salvation Army gives the thumbs up to an improvement in Maori participation in early childhood education, a drop in infant mortality, reducing teenage pregnancy rates, a reduction in overall criminal offending, a drop in unemployment and a reduction in the per capita spend on gambling.

 Whereas the 2008 Report said:

The social outcomes which we as New Zealanders have achieved over the past five years are somewhat mixed and in some areas quite disappointing.More of  our children appear to be at risk of harm, more of  our young people are engaged in petty crime, there is more violent crime and more people in our jails. None of these trends can be seen as progress. While more New Zealanders are working than ever before and many New Zealanders have benefited from the recent housing market boom, our incomes have risen only modestly, we are chronically indebted and home ownership rates have fallen. This is mixed progress at best.
What is perhaps most disappointing about these results is that as a country we have invested hugely in the core areas of social spending over the past five years. Ten years ago, the New Zealand Government spent $23 billion on social welfare, health and education. Five years ago, this figure had risen to $28 billion. During this financial year the Government is budgeting to spend over $39 billion on these areas, of which $11 billion is to be spent in health and $10 billion in education.Of the $18 billion being spent in social welfare $7.3 billion is to fund New Zealand superannuation while$3.7 billion is for means–tested benefits such as the unemployment benefit, DPB and sickness and invalid benefits.

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