The ‘no frills’ 2023 New Zealand Budget held few thrills for seniors amid a cost-of-living crisis.
Dubbed ‘The Wellbeing Budget’, it has a strong focus on the young, through childcare and transport subsidies, as well as investment in education initiatives. There’s also a chunky allocation to the cyclone recovery and developing long-term resilient infrastructure. Hard to argue these aren’t worthy recipients of budget dollars.
However, while there was much chatter about a 20% rebate for the highly-niche video game development sector, older kiwis weren’t mentioned at all. Some might suggest that the Winter Energy Payment and 7.2% bump in NZ Super last month are boon enough for seniors from the public coffers.
Is it enough?
Yet, that’s merely adjusting for inflation. And when food prices are rising by 12.5% a year, it’s barely even that. In 2020, UN expert on older people Rosa Kornfeld-Matte found many senior New Zealanders didn’t have enough money to cover life’s basics. She said the pension should always cover “the minimum of existence,” which NZ Super did not. It seems unlikely we’ve made any progress since then.
The message from the latest budget hasn’t budged. Anyone who wants a dignified, comfortable retirement must be prepared to fend for themselves.
Some positives to focus on
That’s not to say retirees won’t benefit from some of the government’s additional spending plans. Scrapping the $5 prescription co-payment is great news for a cohort that tend to be heavily reliant on medical services. In a similar vein, we all benefit if further investment in the health sector makes measurable improvements in staff numbers and waitlists.
Looking to the future
Finance Minister Grant Robertson indicated that most New Zealanders needed inflation to come down. No argument there. And he insisted that the 2023 Wellbeing Budget would do that. On this, the jury’s still out.
Meanwhile, when it comes to new government spending, it seems retirees can’t have their bread and butter and eat it too.
Ralph Stewart is the Founder and Managing Director of the Lifetime Asset Management, managers of the Lifetime Retirement Income Fund.