Saturday, June 22, 2024

Budget 2023 delivers billions for health, education, transport

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From July 1, Kiwis won’t need to pay $5 to collect prescription medication. Times file photo Wayne Martin

The Labour Government is scrapping the $5 prescription medication fee and introducing free public transport for children as part of Budget 2023.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson delivered the Budget, which has a particular focus on parents and young families, in Parliament on May 18.

He announced $1.8 billion is being invested in early childhood education (ECE).

The “flagship” of the package is a move to expand the 20 hours of ECE support to two-year-old children.

“Based on average costs in 2023, families who were not previously receiving childcare subsidies would save an estimated $133.20 per week if their child attends ECE for at least 20 hours a week,” Robertson said.

“Alongside this, we are providing further support for pay parity for ECE teachers, giving a 5.3 per cent funding increase for ECE providers, and providing a sustainability grant for Playcentre Aotearoa.”

Robertson said the Government is on track to return to surplus within the forecast period and net debt will peak at 22 per cent of gross domestic product.

Inflation is forecast to return to about to three per cent by the end of 2024 and unemployment is at 3.4 per cent.

Robertson said prescription costs are a barrier stopping Kiwis from receiving the healthcare they need.

More than 130,000 people didn’t collect their prescriptions in the 2021-2022 financial year due to cost.

To alleviate that, the Government is removing the $5 prescription co-payment for all Kiwis from July 1.

Almost $100m has gone toward winter health initiatives, $118m to reduce waiting lists, and $20m to improve health equity for Maori and Pacific peoples.

The Government is extending the Healthy School Lunch programme, Robertson said.

“Rising inflation on household incomes puts pressure on food security for families … and we know learning is affected if children are hungry.

“Through Budget 2023, $325 million is being invested to continue this programme until the end of 2024.

“For families with two children, it is estimated the scheme saves, on average, $60 per week.”

The Government is investing $327m to make public transport free for children aged five to 12 years old, people under 25, and users of Total Mobility services.

To help people heat their home, the Government is funding the extension and expansion of the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme.

Budget 2023 also contains $4.9b for education, $864m for the Ministry for Disabled People, $200m to increase the supply of Maori housing, $34m over two years for the Te Matatini cultural festival, and $18m to promote the Matariki public holiday.

More than $1b is being invested to support the recovery of areas affected by recent extreme weather events and for regional resilience.

Funding is also being provided to deliver 3000 new public homes by June 2025.
National Party leader and Botany MP Christopher Luxon said Robertson promised a “bread-and-butter Budget”, but what he’s delivered is a “spending spree creating a massive increase in deficits and debt climbing for years to come”.

“The deficit has blown out to $7.6 billion, a whopping $7.1b increase. The return to surplus has been delayed.

“Operating spending has blown out to $137b this year, up $61b since Labour entered office, and debt has blown out to $95b by 2026.

“A National Government will fix the economy, end wasteful spending, and deliver meaningful tax relief for hard-working Kiwis.”

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