The most progressive country in the world

Credit: Luke

The Huffington Post  wrote about New Zealand, praising Jacinda Ardern and calling us ‘the most progressive country in the world’. The trouble is, they say it as if it is a good thing. quote.

When 6-year-old Eddie Writes decided the world needed a little more kindness, he did the only thing he thought would work ― he wrote to his city’s mayor and asked for help putting on an annual “Kindness Day.”

On Nov. 16, New Zealand’s capital city will be holding its first Manaaki Day (manaaki being the Maori word for kindness), taking Eddie’s ideas of how to encourage and celebrate charitable acts ― “We can buy toys for children that don’t have any,” for example ― to improve the social well-being of citizens. end quote.

This seems to be where we are at now. Policy is written by 6-year-olds… and paid for by the long-suffering taxpayers or, in this case, Wellington ratepayers. quote.

The mayor’s support for the new holiday is part of a new wave of progressive, child-centred politics sweeping New Zealand, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, herself a new parent.

Ardern was met with thunderous applause at the United Nations last month for her speech calling for kindness and cooperation from world leaders. end quote.

Jacinda World Tour 2018.
Photoshopped image credit Technomage

Thunderous applause from an empty room? That must be of the ‘canned laughter’ variety. quote

Ardern pledged New Zealand would be “a kind and equitable nation where children thrive, and success is measured not only by the nation’s GDP but by better lives lived by its people.” end quote.

That would be with inadequate housing, sky high rents, record fuel prices and many families unable to pay for basic supplies, would it Jacinda? Because that is where we are at right now. quote.

Ardern’s call for a different kind of economy was viewed by many commentators as a direct rebuke to the more prominent trend of right-wing, populist strongmen in the U.S. and Europe. end quote.

That would be the USA where the economy is booming, unemployment is at the lowest ever among blacks and Hispanics and people are back to work after years on welfare? Yep. Terrible policies. We can do better than that. quote.

New Zealand is a leader when it comes to paid leave. Under the Ardern government, 22 weeks paid parental leave has been introduced, and that will rise to 26 weeks by 2020.

Families with babies born after July 1 this year now receive the equivalent of about $40 a week in the child’s first year.

The policy is close to Ardern’s heart. She is only the second world leader in history to give birth while in office, and took six weeks’ leave when daughter Neve Te Aroha was born.

In another world first, a new law requires victims of domestic violence be given up to 10 days paid leave from work, separate from annual leave and sick leave entitlements, to help them get away from abusive partners, relocate and protect their children. end quote.

None of these are policies that make the country richer and more able to pay for its social policies. These have all been introduced in the face of a failing economy and increasing unemployment. quote.

Housing became a big issue in last year’s elections, and Ardern blamed speculation from overseas buyers. The government responded with a law that took effect Monday banning foreign buyers from purchasing existing properties. The government has also launched a new scheme known as “KiwiBuild” that will see the government build 100,000 entry-level homes over the next decade that will be sold at a capped price. end quote.

It sounds good when you put it like that but we all know that Kiwibuild is a complete farce that only relatively affluent families can afford. Families with an income of $180,000 per year should not be getting subsidised housing in any shape or form. quote.

The New Zealand government is also keen to make a mark on climate change. Among the latest environmental policies are a ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration, and plans to generate 100 percent of energy from renewables as part of an aim to be carbon-neutral by 2050. end quote.

To do that, we have trashed a profitable industry and aim to lower emissions to a point that will make no difference to global carbon output. But, on the positive side, the damage to the economy will be enormous. quote.

These policies all fit into a government commitment to inject well-being and environmental principles into policies, and to report on progress, “to show a more rounded measure of success”. end quote.

To me, one of the best measures of well being is having proper housing. There is no wellbeing to be found in living on the street. quote.

“The move to measure something other than GDP is a significant signal for a government to make,” she continues. “It is recognition the scales have tipped too far. The benefits that wealth have brought are eroding many things that matter more.” end quote.

Nothing matters more than GDP in an economy. Without it, the country cannot afford to do all the other things it would like to do. Wealth does not erode things that matter. Wealth creates them. quote.

New Zealand is not without its share of social and environmental challenges. It has the worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the world, and more than 40,000 children are admitted to hospitals each year with health problems stemming from damp and moldy homes. end quote.

Concentrating on growing the economy would give the government money to actually help to solve some of these things. That is how you improve wellbeing. Not by sprinkling fairy dust around. quote.

New Zealand’s next push will be for the compulsory teaching of the Maori language in schools led by the NZ Greens Party, which is part of Ardern’s coalition government. “There’s nothing more indicative of a progressive society than one that truly treasures its indigenous language,” says NZ Greens co-leader Marama Davidson. end quote.

Now that I see all these things written down like this, I truly despair. Instead of pushing for compulsory Maori language teaching, the government should be concentrating on RMA reform, getting more houses built, improving roads, developing industries and getting people back to work.

‘Progressive’ seems to mean talking about doing things that never get done. This is nothing more than a lot of hot air. In the meantime, homelessness continues to rise, families cannot afford food, fewer rental properties are available thanks to government policy, and we seem to be embarking on a programme that rewards the idle and punishes people who work hard and want to do well.

If this is what ‘progressive’ looks like, then I don’t want a bar of it.  But I never wanted a bar of this shambolic government anyway.

 


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

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