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Action Plan has platitudes, not substance

In a recent speech, Prime Minister John Key announced a set of five-year targets for the public sector to aim for as part of the ‘Better Public Services Programme.’

He said that the targets were not a ‘Wish List,’ but a ‘To-do-List.’

In almost the same breath, he said that they were also ‘very aspirational,’ with some of them ‘extremely difficult to achieve.’

Such are the contradictions of political rhetoric but are these targets sound policy?

The Government should be applauded for articulating a vision for a better New Zealand, but social outcome targets may fall short of the mark in realising the objectives.

Looking closely at one of the targets is instructive.

The long-term welfare dependence target aims to reduce “the number of people on a working-age benefit for more than 12 months by more than 20,000 (or 30%) from 78,000 to 55,000.”

Questions around measurability and accountability aside, that goal looks fine.

The problem is, however, that we have heard similar goals expressed before.

The challenges

Implementation (how the government actually intends to achieve these targets) is of utmost importance, and we still do not know what that will look like.

While the ‘Welfare Working Group’ presented 43 recommendations from its extensive research, the Government has managed only to present ‘overarching strategies’ in its programme, stating, “We will invest our resources smarter to get the best results” and “We will improve the model of service delivery.”

Well-intentioned maybe, these bureaucratic platitudes lack substance and tell us nothing of how these targets will be met.

In the words of T S Eliot, “Between the idea and the reality falls the shadow.”

There are rays of hope however, if you are sympathetic to the Government’s vision. A streamlined ‘Jobseeker Category’ and a stronger work focus have begun.

The Government has also promised a ‘more detailed action plan,’ and hence, it would be good to suspend judgment for now.

Let us hope, for the sake of those whose lives these targets are seeking to improve, that the Ministry’s plan will transform an aspirational Wish List to an ‘Actionable to-do List.’

After all, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

Source: Maxim Institute

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