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$5m For COVID-19 Participation Awards Is Pure Indulgence

Budget 2022’s multi-million dollar spend on “service recognition” awards exemplifies the growing fiscal indulgence of the public sector, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

The Budget’s Summary of Initiatives reveals the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet plans to spend $5,076,000 on the “COVID-19 Service Recognition” project.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “We often protest 'tokenistic' Government initiatives, but this time it’s literal. A select group of individuals deemed by the bureaucracy to have made a special contribution to the COVID-19 response will be given an expensive pat on the back by the Prime Minister’s department.”

“The Prime Minister has said that the awards will take the form of lapel pins. So how is this costing $5 million? That’s enough to buy a lapel pin for every single New Zealander. Of course, the most likely scenario is that the spending goes not to the pins themselves, but the bureaucratic administration of the awards, and the associated events and ceremonies.”

“The first group up for awards is apparently MIQ workers. But we already have a way of recognising the efforts of public sector workers: we pay them competitive salaries. As far as we can tell, no MIQ staff are asking for a glorified participation award.”

“The whole exercise sounds indulgent and demeaning to the efforts of all taxpayers who made sacrifices for the sake of the Government’s COVID response.”

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