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Budget: A Foundation Of Hope On Which All Can Flourish

Caritas, the Catholic justice and peace agency, welcomed the government’s Budget today, saying it provides a foundation of hope on which we can build a fairer society in which all can flourish.

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team of 5 million New Zealanders has done an incredible job of protecting the sick, the elderly and those most vulnerable to the virus. Now we need innovative investment to help us all create a fairer society in which no one is left out, and all can thrive,” said Caritas Director Julianne Hickey.

In addition to the obvious health threat, the pandemic has also presented us with a tremendous opportunity to put right some long-neglected injustices. This reset can be an opportunity to heal the afflictions of poverty, intergenerational unemployment, homelessness and environmental degradation.

Pope Francis has set a challenge for us in the current context: not to perpetuate a globalisation of indifference, but to build a civilisation of love. In the new post-COVID world we need to establish “the necessary antibodies of justice, charity and solidarity.” These things are necessary for a “civilization of hope,” confounding “anxiety and fear, sadness and fatigue.”[1]

The budget seeks to “Rebuild Together” and to create jobs. Meaningful work affirms human dignity and offers New Zealanders a sense of security and hope. We welcome initiatives that are good for the environment and for creating meaningful work opportunities.

“Everyone should be able to find meaningful work and have access to the basics of life to meet their needs. That change needs to happen. There is no time like the present to take bold actions based on what is right and just,” says Julianne Hickey.

Strengthening the Māori economy and ensuring that existing inequalities are overcome must be a high priority for government, civil society, and the private sector. Caritas’ tangata whenua partners seek encouragement for local employment and support for iwi-led initiatives. Putting resources back into hands of the iwi can provide employment for their people through their kaitiakitanga, or stewardship, by helping to provide food, build healthy ecosystems, and maintain eco-tourism ventures.

The global challenge of climate change remains to the fore. The new economy must be a low carbon economy and investment decisions to generate jobs should reflect that. For those carbon-intensive industries which need to make substantial changes, there should be a fair transition involving education, upskilling and retraining of staff, as well as support for new flexible ways of working which may involve working more often from home.

An increase in local production and employment should not become a retreat into a selfish isolationism. New Zealand needs to continue to be a good neighbour to those in our region who may need extra help. We welcome New Zealand’s continuing commitment to overseas aid, especially to our neighbours in the Pacific, and call for ongoing transparency in the allocation of those commitments.

Now is the time for bold and decisive investment to build our future. In the Budget we find a foundation of hope; now we must ensure that all New Zealanders are able to contribute to and benefit from the opportunities that will arise from the more cohesive, resilient society that we rebuild together.

[1] Pope Francis (April 2020) "Pope Francis' plan for rising again," Vatican News

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