Budget 2013, says the Minister of Finance, confirms that we are on the right track. The forecasts, he says, are of economic growth, more jobs, rising wages, and a return to surplus. New Zealanders, he says, can look to the future with well earned confidence and optimism. So let us look at it.
The claimed priorities are secure employment and rising incomes, economic growth, and fiscal rectitude. These are the ingredients for National’s self image that it portrays to the public. These are the goals that it wishes to be judged on when election time comes next year.
So how does this contrast with Green budgetary priorities? What would be different if the Greens were introducing the 2013 Budget into the House? Do the Greens share or reject those National goals and priorities? The answer is yes, we share the same underlying goals for New Zealand, and no, we do not entirely share the same priorities.
A steady state economy will usher in a future that is dynamic, congenial, prosperous, and ecologically and socially rich. We shall have less stuff and richer lives.
The reason is that fundamentally we perceive a different reality, and because of a different perception, the path to the same goals is fundamentally different.
National’s perception of the world is this. The world is a tough place. The main thing that matters to a brave little trading nation is the global economy. This has taken a hit in recent times, the biggest in nearly a century, but it will prove to be just a blip. Economic growth has slowed but will recover. We, that is, National, do not believe for a second that the setback gives due cause to reconsider our economic theories or lose confidence in our ability to govern our way through. We see the global population continuing to soar with greater pressure on global resources and that unwelcome irritant called climate change. We have no real time for that because we have responsibility to meet a 50 percent increase in food demand and a golden opportunity to increase our export income as we go. No change of course is required. Steady as she goes through the squalls and the occasional storm. That way we shall give our children a brighter future. Our Budget is part of that.
The Green perception of the world is this. The world is a tough place. The main thing that matters to any country, large or small, is global sustainability. The global economy has taken a hit in recent times, the biggest in nearly a century. This will prove to be the beginning of a series of major global crises—financial, economic, and ecological. We believe that this requires a fundamental rethink of our value systems, our political doctrines, and our economic theories. We see the global population continuing to soar, with greater pressure on global resources and the unprecedented challenge of climate change. We must plan our stewardship of the planet in the Anthropocene, steering the global economy within the nine planetary boundaries. We must have regard to our ecological footprint. We must change course. If we do not, we condemn our children to a catastrophic future, not a brighter one. A Green Budget will be a transformational budget, not a steady-as-she-goes budget.
Enough of the steady-as-she-goes approach. Enough of this Government’s self-preening about sound macroeconomic management when, in reality, it is stumbling blindly along.
So what values do we need? The values of enough. The challenge of a post-growth economy beckons us, where the quality of life is based on a more caring and economically insightful sharing of resources on a finite planet.
This applies to sharing between nations as well as within nations. Humanity now exceeds the limits to growth. Our global ecological footprint began to exceed our bioproductive capacity in 1981. Today, our ecological overshoot is 50 recent.
As Jeanette Fitzsimons put it recently, two futures stand in stark contrast: the failed growth economy and a steady state economy. A steady state economy will usher in a future that is dynamic, congenial, prosperous, and ecologically and socially rich. We shall have less stuff and richer lives. But this requires fundamental change to our economic goals, our tax and monetary systems, the use of capital, and change to our values and even our image of ourselves as humans. That is what a Green Budget would address.
05/29/2013 – 00:00