Hastings Area Social and Environmental Justice Group is concerned about government proposals to raise GST to pay for tax cuts.
In the May budget this year the government is ‘carefully considering’ raising GST from 12.5 percent to 15 percent. It is calculated that this increase will provide an extra $2 billion to finance income tax cuts.
According to a Dominion Post poll New Zealanders are split down the middle on this issue. Many would argue that, if increasing GST results in paying less income tax, this has to be a good thing. But those who earn the least are likely to be the most adversely affected.
Often opinions on any contentious issue in life are initially based on how it may affect the individual. This is a standard human response. Only then do people sometimes look beyond themselves to how it may affect others. This doesn’t make the response right or wrong. However, as followers of Christ we are called to look beyond ourselves and consider the Common Good as opposed to how it affects us as individuals. This however, is not always easy to do.
The Catholic Social teaching on economic justice calls on people to make a ‘preferential option for the poor and vulnerable’.
Catholic tradition instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. The good of society as a whole demands it. It is important that we look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor (Caritas, Social Justice Series, No. 13).
‘The scriptures tell us we will be judged by our response to ‘the least of these’. The way society responds to the needs of the poor through its public policies is the litmus test of how just or unjust a society is and how just or unjust is its government’ ( NZ Church leaders, Social Justice Statement, 1993).
Our current government says it will provide additional support for beneficiaries and superannuitants to compensate them if GST is raised. However, will this ‘additional support’ be adequate to meet the basic needs of this section of the population? Do we trust our politicians to follow through with these promises?
Many would ask – why not exclude GST from food and essential items? This would go a long way towards supporting those on lower incomes. So… is this our concern as a Catholic community or do we leave it to the politicians whom we have duly elected to make these decisions?
Cardinal Tom Williams has argued that, when political policies are limited to economic growth, maximising profit and consumption and disregarding the social, cultural and spiritual needs of the whole person, the church must say so.
Is this statement relevant to the proposed GST increase?
The rise in GST is just one contentious social issue that the community faces and, even within families, there will be a range of different opinions. Can we then be open to the challenge of discussing, debating and reflecting on these issues as church community – we could also move from a passive stance to take action on these issues?
If this triggers any reaction or interest from you to pursue discussion and reflection on the issue, please contact your parish social justice group or people in your area who are interested or email firstname.lastname@example.org