WelCom May 2023
The Wellington Archdiocese Commission for Ecology, Justice and Peace has been taking a close interest in the government’s forthcoming Budget, to be delivered on 18 May.
For a number of years, the Commission has made a submission on the preparatory Budget Policy Statement, and did so earlier this year. Rapid increases in the cost of living – especially in food, but also in rent and in other prices – have meant real hardship for many people. The Commission’s submission emphasised that dealing with the cost-of-living crisis must not be at the expense of the most vulnerable in our country.
Catholic Social Teaching includes the common good and the universal destination of goods. If the world and its resources are created for all people, then, to quote the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, ‘each person must have access to the level of well-being necessary for their full development’ [para: 127]. These principles, further, are, ‘an invitation to develop an economic vision inspired by moral values that permit people not to lose sight of the origin or purpose of these goods, so as to bring about a world of fairness and solidarity, in which the creation of wealth can take on a positive function’.
Some economic commentators in recent months have suggested that a significant increase in unemployment is a necessary consequence of reducing inflation. The Commission disagrees with this, noting that the Church also emphasises the importance and the dignity of work. Unemployment, moreover, disproportionately affects Māori and Pacific peoples, further entrenching disadvantage. The Commission was pleased that the Budget Policy Statement recognises the importance of work, but was concerned that an increase in unemployment seemed to be acceptable. The Commission was also concerned that progress in reducing child poverty was expected to stall.
In short, the Commission’s view is that government has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring everyone has enough money to meet their basic needs, and enjoys adequate housing. In the current inflationary environment this is not easy, but the principles of solidarity and social justice demand nothing less, even if those with higher incomes and greater wealth are asked to contribute to this goal. Just as, to quote St Mark’s gospel [2:27], the sabbath was made for people and not people for the sabbath, so economic structures and policy must serve human needs. We should not have to accept that ‘the economy’ requires poverty, unemployment, or poor housing.
Jim McAloon is chair of the Wellington Archdiocese EJP Commission and is a professor of History at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington.
The Archdiocese of Wellington Ecology, Justice and Peace Commission (EJP) is an advisory group to Cardinal John Dew. The Commission’s members meet bi-monthly to contribute to and participate in work for justice and peace inspired and informed by Catholic social teaching. The group responds to a range of social issues and supports engagement with voters and decision makers.